Alabama Crimson Tide Football: Why Jalston Fowler's Injury Is a Terrible Blow.

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IISeptember 10, 2012

September 8, 2012; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide running back Jalston Fowler (45) gets helped off the field by trainers during the fourth quarter against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Bryant Denny Stadium. The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 35-0.  Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE
John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

Alabama has likely lost their do-it-all running back Jalston Fowler for the season as he prepares to undergo knee surgery, but this news is much worse than Nick Saban would ever let on.

With impending surgery (via Fowler's season is over before it ever really began. It's bittersweet news because Fowler will be eligible for a medical redshirt. Better to happen now than in Week 6 when he would lose his entire year of eligibility.

Fowler's value to the team skyrocketed against the Michigan Wolverines, after he spent the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons as an afterthought. I even had him pegged as one of the Tide's most overrated players—which he was, at least as a runner.

However, if Fowler's skill set were to be properly utilized, he could become an incredible asset.

Back in November 2011 I suggested that it was time for Nick Saban and the Tide's offensive coaches to use Fowler as a fullback to get him on the field at the same time as 'Bama's talented running backs.

I guess I nailed that one because in Week 1 Fowler was lining up as a fullback in the effective-yet-antiquated I-formation (in addition to toting the rock himself in single-back sets).

The fact that Fowler is likely out for the season creates a serious problem for the Tide.

First off, they undoubtedly spent great amounts of time and energy getting the I-formation down as the offense had never really used it under Nick Saban, other than a few instances when it lined up All-American nose tackle Terrence Cody as a fullback in goal-line situations.

The time and energy spent this year integrating the I-formation was because of one player: Jalston Fowler. This team seems to have no others runners who possess his combination of ability, size and experience to be an effective fullback, one who can both run and block.

Saban said, "We're going to miss him. It's going to take a number of people to replace him on the various roles he played on our team."

That's a horrible understatement as no one has the jack-of-all-trades abililties that Fowler has. With this injury, the Tide likely won't be running the I-formation much (if at all) for the rest of the season.

Something else will piggyback onto this situation: Fowler's injury will hurt 'Bama's play-action passing.

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron showed some incredible poise when he masterfully executed the play-action pass multiple times in the game against Michigan. And he ran the play-action pass from the I-formation, which included a touchdown pass to tight end Michael Williams. The amount of misdirection created was incredible and made for an easy pitch and catch.

The third bit of bad news involving Fowler's injury regards his ability to run.

He is not the most gifted of runners. He doesn't have a lot of slick moves, but at 6'1" and 242 pounds, he is a downhill bruiser who can get tough yardage.

I never believed he could be a reliable, consistent running back in single-back sets. However, I always believed he could do damage running the ball from the fullback position. At fullback, he provided an incredible change of pace and created an extra element for opponents to prepare for against Alabama's already-potent offense.

The Tide will roll with or without Fowler but the loss of his abilities could prove to be just as bad as losing any one of the starters on the offense, with the exception of A.J. McCarron, of course.

Number 15 is on the way, and it is a terrible shame that Fowler may not be on the field to help make it happen.