T.J. Yeldon: Analyzing Alabama Crimson Tide Breakout Freshman RB

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 4, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 01:  T.J. Yeldon #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs the ball against Jordan Kovacs #32 of the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The offseason is a glorious time in which every aspect of college football is over-analyzed and every prospect gets touted as the next big thing.

For Alabama, the "next big thing" at running back this summer was true freshman T.J. Yeldon.

After enrolling early, Yeldon had a sizzling performance in Alabama's spring game with 88 rushing yards and 91 receiving yards. 

That sent the hype machine into overdrive.

Yeldon responded with flying colors in Alabama's 41-14 thrashing of Michigan in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday night.

The true freshman had 11 carries for 111 yards and one touchdown, and he added one catch for 26 yards. Yeldon is the first true freshman to rush for more than 100 yards in his debut with the Crimson Tide in the history of the program...and it's a rather storied history.

Yeldon showed on Saturday night why he was so highly regarded coming out of Daphne (Ala.) High School.

The 6'2", 216-pounder is big enough to be a bruiser when needed but has the speed, athleticism and vision to be a game-breaking running back on the edge and as a receiver out of the backfield.

It is only one game, but to do what Yeldon did on college football's biggest opening-weekend stage suggests that he's ready for the big time now, not later.

Eddie Lacy may be the No. 1 running back for the Crimson Tide right now, and Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart are also in the mix to get carries. But if you're taking bets on who will finish the season as the top rusher for the Tide, throwing your support behind Yeldon might be a good idea.

Pundits were touting Trent Richardson as the "next big thing" even as Mark Ingram was in the process of winning the Heisman Trophy.

With Richardson now gone, the 'Bama running back throne is open.

Judging from preseason Heisman watch lists, it was supposed to be Lacy ascending to running back royalty. 

It looks like Yeldon has something to say about that.