Alabama football lost last year's Heisman Trophy finalist running back Trent Richardon, but new feature-back Eddie Lacy will be in New York following college football's regular season. Lacy will be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy with a strong season in 2012.
Lacy has been extremely productive over the last two seasons, despite limited opportunities rushing behind Trent Richardson. As a sophomore, Lacy ran the ball just 95 times, but gained 674 yards and scored seven touchdowns on the ground. The most impressive statistic from Lacy's sophomore year was his astounding average of 7.1 yards per carry.
To put that number in perspective, Trent Richardson averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Of running backs that averaged more than 6.25 carries a game, Lacy was 11th in the nation in yards per carry. Of the top 10, Lacy most likely faced the toughest defenses, playing in the SEC.
Lacy has a great opportunity as Alabama's feature back, as the Crimson Tide are made to run the football. They ran the ball 508 times while throwing the ball 357 times. Last season they rushed for 2788 yards, while throwing for 2797 yards. This time they are going to run the football and run it well.
Alabama has to make up for the 283 carries and 24 total touchdowns that Trent Richardson had last season. With experience and proven production, Lacy should get a large number of those carries next season.
Alabama has had so much success running the football because of their monstrous offensive line. Largely considered the best in the nation, Alabama's offensive line has four returning starters from last year's unit: Chance Warmack (6'3", 320 lbs), Barrett Jones (6'5", 302 lbs), Anthony Steen (6'3", 303 lbs), D.J. Fluker (6'6", 335 lbs). In addition to having experience, the unit has plenty of size to push around defenders.
Running behind that offensive line, Lacy should see plenty of holes and opportunities for big gains. Nick Saban's run-heavy play-calling will also help Lacy get to New York.
While Alabama isn't the favorite to win the National Championship again this year, they should be a very good team with at most two losses. The better the team does, the better chance Lacy will have at being named a Heisman finalist.
Lacy does lack the speed and athleticism that Trent Richardson had at Alabama, but with his proven production, the number of carries he will get, and the offensive line he's running behind, Lacy will put up huge numbers.