Alabama Football: Why Saban Won't Feature a One-Back System With Richardson

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IMarch 31, 2011

A two back system worked before and it will again.
A two back system worked before and it will again.

University of Alabama's Trent Richardson is on every sportswriter in America's short list of best college running backs and it's a reputation he has not only earned, but will also prove yet again this year.

So why won't Alabama coach Nick Saban feature him in a one man show and give him say 35 or 40 carries a game like Spurrier does with Marcus Lattimore?

Saban has been asked this before, when Mark Ingram was on route to win the Heisman Trophy, and his answer left no doubt that Richardson would not be a solo show any more than Ingram was. "That's not how we do things. We believe in giving both backs opportunities and it is something that's better for them and for us as a team," Saban said.

He's never been a believer in "getting in a rhythm" as you hear some coaches say, or the belief that the the more you run the ball the stronger you get as the game goes on.

"Running backs don't get better as the game goes on, but defenses that are getting tired can make it look that way." Saban said about the latter.

Saban believes in the theory of fresh legs and players playing at their optimum level, not playing tired.

"Good things don't happen to players that are tired. That's usually when injuries occur, that's when they make mistakes, fumble, drop passes or miss blocks. We condition our players to make the other guy's ass just quit that he facing. That's how we do things here at Alabama," Saban continued.

So it doesn't sound like featuring Richardson in a one-man show is even a point worth discussing with Nick Saban. There's really only one position that Saban doesn't believe in liberal substituting with, and that's quarterback, but that's another story for another day.

Alabama believes everyone should have a time to "step up" when they get their opportunity. I was talking to Mark Ingram prior to a game two years ago that demonstrated that. I forget the exact game, but Richardson was nicked up, Ingram was suffering from the flu and could barely talk and Roy Upchurch was going to get the start for that game.

Ingram told me that both he and Richardson were thrilled that Roy would finally get the chance to show his potential. He said the running back corp was very tight and all pulled for one another and he trusted that the team wouldn't suffer a thing having Roy take his place.

But early in the game, Upchurch got hurt, Terry Grant proved ineffective as he just didn't have the physical strength to bust that team's line and the coaches started looking for an answer. The answer was a very sick Ingram.

He came off the bench, would run three plays and then come back to the bench for oxygen and liquids. He told me later after the game, "I wasn't hurting, I just couldn't breath and I just didn't have any energy."

But he had enough for spurts here and there and ended up having a typical Ingram day.

Richardson told me last year, "Sometimes when Mark is in and I'm on the sidelines, I can see things that I miss when I'm in the game concentrating on my job there and I can exploit it later. And all the running backs do this and we give advice to one another. This is really a great group to be around."

This year, the expected running mate is Eddie Lacy, who actually averaged more yards per carry than either Ingram or Richardson last year. If he falters, the Tide has a finally healed up senior in Demetrius Goode, and a couple of exciting freshmen in Dee Hart and Corey Grant.

Hart is following Richardson around like a puppy dog and Richardson relishes his role as "the veteran star" in working with Hart and all the other players.

"When I came to Alabama, I didn't really know what to expect." Richardson told me. "I thought there may be some friction between the running backs with everyone trying to earn their time, but it was nothing like that. Roy Upchurch and Terry Grant took me under their wing, Mark (Ingram) and I became like brothers and it was all like family. That kind of shocked me."

"Now it's my turn to continue that tradition, to mentor the young players, to make them feel part of something special and to help the team first and myself second," Richardson concluded.

This sure doesn't sound like a young man who is only interested in the running game being the Trent Richardson Show.

And why should he? He saw his best friend win a Heisman Trophy while working in a platoon system and he knows he could do the same thing.

And with all the benefits that come from a platoon system and a nurturing "family" system, why would Saban want to mess with that?