In the shadow of Glenn Coffee, Mark Ingram Jr. performed very well in 2008, but not well enough to foreshadow his ability to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2009. The two running backs had distinct roles with few exceptions. Mark Ingram came checked in on shorter yardage situations and deep in the red zone, and Glen Coffee was in the game for most other situations.
When it comes to Trent Richardson and Ingram last year, you would be hard pressed to describe his role as "in the shadow." The backs were almost interchangeable in every situation.
Statistically speaking, Richardson was in his shadow, but the tale of the tape flat out says Richardson performed in games and situations when Ingram didn't.
Richardson's performance as a freshman already has some College Football fans speculating on wither or not Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was even the best RB on the team. He averaged more yards per carry than Ingram against top defenses, and displayed a laundry list of ways he can evade, run through, or flat out knock out would-be tacklers.
Auburn was able to sell out to the run against Alabama and force Mark Ingram into a substandard performance. Auburn RB Ben Tate boasted that he would post the best performance in that game, however he too was bested by Richardson on the day.
Several media sources advise fans to prepare for the best, most balanced offensive attack that Alabama has ever seen for the 2010 season.
For Richardson's case, Alabama QB Greg McElroy's last season will be 2010, and Standout WR Julio Jones, barring it being to his benefit for his senior year due to a poor performance, will probably not be available for the 2011 season either. The structure of the offense could change dramatically. If the new QB in 2011 is unable to produce a comparable offensive balance as the Tide enjoyed in 2009, it's likely that Richardson could see an increased load.
Ingram has steadily evaded discussing wether or not he will enter the draft as a Junior, however if he posts the kinds of numbers that he did in the 2009 season, there would really be no reason to stick around and risk injury before an NFL contract.
It is not likely that Alabama Coach Nick Saban would start Richardson over Ingram, as Saban has shown a favoritism towards his upper-classmen. However, if Ingram was a senior and Richardson was a junior, by virtue of their performance thus far I think Ingram knows that he would split carries more evenly with Ingram should he stay for his senior year.
Depending on how good Eddie Lacy turns out to be, Richardson could wind up with the same type of numbers that Ingram put up this year. If he does, I think he will be a finalist for the Heisman.
Richardson is the only player that we will carry forward into 2011 who you allows you to look at his position and say "We're set." At this point, all we can do is speculate, but I never remember an incoming sophomore RB at Alabama that I was more excited about than Richardson.
Trent, keep on truckin'. Truckin' over defenders that is.