Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon is expected to take over the No.1 running back spot for the Crimson Tide this fall after an impressive 1,000 yard freshman campaign.
Yeldon was a great addition to the Tide backfield last fall and helped complete the one-two punch for the offense. This year he will be called on to be the feature back, but there are a few things that he needs to improve on before he becomes the next great tailback out of Tuscaloosa.
Make More Plays in the Passing Game
T.J. Yeldon was one of the premier running backs out of high school in 2012 because his game was as complete as they come. He was a powerful runner, but he also took over games as a receiver in high school.
His freshman year with the Tide didn’t produce a lot of receiving yards, but when looking at a former stud Tide running back, first year stats aren’t an indication of future success.
Trent Richardson was one of the best receiving backs in recent Alabama history. Here is a look at his receiving stats through three seasons:
Notice his freshman year had moderate success, but his sophomore and junior years were very impressive with over 20 receptions coming in each season.
This is a look at Yeldon’s numbers from a year ago:
If Yeldon wants to become the next Heisman contender to come from Tuscaloosa, he has to diversify his game in 2013 and produce more receiving yards for the Crimson Tide.
Run With a Lower Pad Level
As powerful of a runner as Yeldon seems to be, he runs entirely too high into traffic. On a number of occasions last year he would hit a crowd and stand straight up.
Yeldon has to lower his pad level at the point of contact in the future.
Here is a look at Yeldon against Michigan. He is making initial contact with the defender standing straight up.
In this shot he is running in traffic against Michigan displaying the same high style.
Later in the season Yeldon continued to progress in a number of areas, but even in the late-season contest against Texas A&M, Yeldon still was showing problems with lowering his shoulder in traffic.
This play resulted in a fumble because of his lack of ball protection.
This is a trend that has to end for Yeldon if he expects to be one of the best in the country next fall.
Focus On Pass Protection
Alabama coaches don’t talk to the media often, but when they do, we all listen. Alabama’s running backs coach Burton Burns was asked about Yeldon and a number of topics were covered, but one of the most interesting responses was to a question surrounding Yeldon’s pass-catching skills.
When asked if Yeldon had good hands, Burns responded with (via al.com) “Obviously, those guys work really hard on it; not only the routes, but the protections. One thing that's more important than anything else is pass protection.”
That leads to the final point of pass protection.
Yeldon was effective last fall for the most part in pass protection. Here is a look at Yeldon against Western Kentucky holding off a blitzing secondary player last fall.
You will notice this play results in a sack, but Yeldon holds his player until McCarron is almost down. This was a good play by Yeldon.
In the second look, you see Yeldon setting a lane and running his defender outside of the box around the quarterback. This is a solid block for the running back, and again shows proficiency.
This final look is what you don’t want to do.
As you see in the first screenshot, Eddie Lacy completely whiffs on the blocking assist.
The final picture shows the end result of bad pass blocking by the backfield.
The Tide have to be excited to have this caliber of player returning to the fold, but the work never finishes. Yeldon has proven that he has the talent to become an elite back for the Tide, and given time to make these fixes he will be a Heisman contender in no time.