By the way, this is an article I wrote a few weeks ago, but I am putting it on Bleacher Report now.
Let's face it, it's no coincidence that the Alabama Crimson Tide had the nation's best player of the 2009 season where they dominated their way to a National Championship. So that makes the injury to star running back Mark Ingram that much more important for the rest of the team to fill in for him at a high level of play while he is out.
Mark Ingram is the engine that runs the Crimson Tide train. The defense was great last year, but if it wasn't for Ingram and the rest of the running game, Alabama would have had a much tougher time winning the National Championship.
Ingram recently had arthroscopic knee surgery and did not play in the season opener against San Jose State. The Tide obviously did not need him in their opener after trouncing San Jose State 48-3 and dominating every aspect of the game.
There is a good chance that Ingram will not play next week against 19th-ranked Penn State in Tuscaloosa. Ingram should be back in the third or fourth game of the season, where he will be in top form and ready to compete for another Heisman trophy.
Nick Saban has stated that he will not bring Ingram back until he is fully healthy because he does not want to put Ingram's NFL career in jeopardy.
Whenever Ingram comes back, he will be ready and he will be the center of the Alabama offense. He will share carries with Trent Richardson, but he will be able to rack up plenty of yards with the Tide's big offensive line and his talent working together.
While Alabama will be throwing the ball more now that Senior quarterback Greg McElroy is more experienced in his second season as the starting quarterback, Alabama will still rely on its unstoppable ground attack that helped them earn their first national title in the Nick Saban era.
Ingram's chances of winning the Heisman should in no way be affected because he missed the first couple of games, because it matters more how the players help their team out later in the season. The voters will look more at how Ingram fared against the strong SEC defenses and would hardly take into consideration Ingram running all over a bad team such as San Jose State.
Ingram will surely be back by the time Alabama gets into the conference part of their schedule, and that is when he needs to produce if he wants to repeat his Heisman season of 2009.
In 2009, Ingram had 1,658 yards on 271 carries with 17 touchdowns. He also had 334 receiving yards complemented with 3 touchdowns through the air. Ingram averaged 6.1 yards per carry last year while averaging 10.4 yards per catch.
If Ingram missed the first two games this year, he would get to play 12 games instead of the 14 that he played last year. If that were the case, he would only need a little more than 20 carries a game and he would be able to put up the same stats as last year.
If Ingram recorded the same stats as he did in the previous season, how could he not repeat as the Heisman winner?
Even if Ingram somehow takes a step backwards from what he did last year, sophomore running back Trent Richardson will be able to help fill the hole in the running game. Greg Mcelroy should be much more productive than last year and that will give many more chances for star wide receiver Julio Jones to have a big season.
Jones has never been a huge part of the offense because Alabama has not had a great quarterback during his time there and the passing game has always been in the running game's shadow.
With Mark Ingram missing the first couple of games, it will give a chance for Trent Richardson to get some experience and get Mcelroy a chance to get comfortable with his new receivers. This will give a chance for the passing game to improve and the younger running backs a chance to get more experience.
If Alabama's other skill players can get more experience and improve while Ingram is out, the Tide offense could be scary when Ingram comes back.
The Alabama defense only returns three starters, but they return six other key defensive players from last year. Nick Saban is a defensive specialist and has a quality player to fill in every open defensive position. Former 2009 top recruit Dre Kirkpatrick will start at one of the open cornerback positions while DeQuan Menzie, a former junior college player, will start at the other cornerback position.
Star defensive end Marcell Dareus must sit out two games for attending an agent's party and receiving improper benefits. Undra Billingsley will fill in for Dareus when he is sitting out for his suspension, which gives Billingsley some playing experience and a chance to improve.
The defense has a few high hopes because they have a few players leading the defense in star safeties Mark Barron, a first team all SEC player, and Robby Green. Both are returning starters from last year's National Championship team.
Dont'a Hightower, a 6'4", 260 pound linebacker, also returns as a starter to lead the Tide defense and will be a power force in the run defense. When Dareus returns from his suspension, he will be a force on the line and a strong key to the defense.
Bama's defense has nothing to worry about with their four leaders helping with the younger guys and motivating them to step up their level of play. Nick Saban did not go easy on these guys in spring camp and he will make sure he has the best players on the field. Saban will work them to make each player the best that he can be.
All of the guys filling in on the defense have plenty of raw talent and the returning players were fortunate enough to learn from the great defense of 2009.
Alabama should have no trouble with Penn State next week, regardless of whether Ingram plays or not because they have players that can fill in for him at a high level for a couple of games. When SEC play starts, Ingram and Dareus will be back and they will be at full strength for the Tide's tough games.
Nick Saban will have his boys ready to play by the time they face the juggernauts like Florida, Arkansas, and LSU. The way things are looking right now, Saban should have a lot of confidence in his team's chances to repeat as Iron Bowl Champs, SEC Champions, and National Champions.
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