Alabama Football: Future Bright for Tide's Stellar Backfield

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Alabama Football: Future Bright for Tide's Stellar Backfield
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The Alabama Crimson Tide put on one of the most impressive rushing attacks in recent memory last week against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game.

The Dawgs, believed to have a formidable defense, could do nothing as the Tide methodically beat them up and down the field by way of their two stud running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

When it was over, the duo had combined to run for 334 yards and three touchdowns on 45 carries.

Nick Saban has built quite an empire since taking over the Tide football program in 2007. With its pro-style offensive attack, Alabama likes to run the ball ad nauseum to try to wear down its opponents.

It usually works.

Statistically, the Tide offense is amazingly balanced when it comes to total yards. In the last two years combined, Alabama has had exactly 23 more yards on the ground than it has accumulated through the air.

But the success of the Alabama offense stems from its running attack.

In each of the six years that Saban has headed the Tide, the average yards gained per carry has grown. In 2007, Alabama averaged 3.96 yards per attempt. This season that average is 5.56 yards per carry.

The dynamic tandem of current NFL running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson never did that.

Alabama is averaging just under 225 yards per game on the ground and is gaining over 200 yards per game for the third time in the last four seasons.

Led by Lacy and Yeldon, Saban is building a ground attack that is likely to be even better next year. If he can pull it off, it will result in seven consecutive years of growth.

The bottom line is that this ground attack is not going anywhere any time soon and Saban is still stockpiling talent for the future.

Lacy and Yeldon are not the beginning of Alabama's dominant rushing attack. Nor are they the end.

Glen Coffee got the Tide rolling with 1383 yards in 2008. Heisman winner Mark Ingram trumped him with 1658 yards the next year. In 2011, current Cleveland Brown Trent Richardson ran for 1679 yards.

This season, Lacy has totalled 1182 yards and Yeldon is right behind him with 1000 of his own.

Keep in mind that Yeldon is only a freshman and has at least two more years in Tuscaloosa. Lacy, on the other hand, is a junior. There is speculation as to whether or not he will forgo his senior season to test his skills at the professional level so his return is in question.

If Lacy leaves, fear not for Saban's cupboard of ball-carriers overflows.

Many people have forgotten that junior Jalston Fowler was slated to be the backup to Lacy, not Yeldon. Fowler was lost for the season with an injury in the Western Kentucky game but is eligible for a medical redshirt and should return as a junior again next season.

Behind these three is freshman Dee Hart. Hart was rated as the top running back prospect in the nation by Rivals.com in 2011 but was lost to an injury this season against Ole Miss. He will return in 2013 as a sophomore.

Freshman Kenyan Drake started the season as the fifth man in line. Drake was the No. 13 running back nationally in 2012.

The incoming 2013 recruiting class includes some talented backs as well. Verbal commits Tyren Jones (13th) and Altee Tenpenny (fourth) are both ranked among the top 15 running backs nationally.

As good as they promise to be, Jones and Tenpenny may both take a back seat to Derrick Henry. The high school hero out of Yulee, Florida just set the national record for career rushing yards and tallied over 3700 yards and 50 touchdowns this season.

So, as stated, the Tide are loaded at running back for both the present and the future.

Of course we should not forget the efforts of Alabama's amazing offensive line. Surely Lacy and Yeldon would not let the fab five go unacknowledged.

The line will lose senior linemen Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack for sure after the current season and junior D.J. Fluker may consider leaving early as well.

Fortunately for Alabama, Saban has a warehouse of ready and willing linemen to fill those voids as well.

Alabama has won two of the last three BCS titles on the back of its ground game and is just four quarters away from another one.

With the talent on hand in Tuscaloosa right now there is no sign that the Tide will be anything but high for the next few years. Anyone who hopes to knock the Tide off their stoop better find a way to stop their myriad of Mack trucks.

Everyone knows Alabama wants to run it down their throat. It's not exactly a secret. Stopping the inevitable is a different story.

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