Demetrius Hart's torn ACL came as a shock to the capstone. The five-star prospect was a sure fire for the #3 back and the new man in the return game. Now, however, Nick Saban has made it clear that Hart is out for the year.
More likely than not he will be a bit sluggish when he comes back. This is particularly bad for Dee as he's a smaller "scat" back who relies on quickness more than bulldozing up the gut. He can't afford to be sluggish.
Injuries occur all the time in football, especially among running backs. These injuries negatively impact future goals, which include not just championship goals but something possibly more important: recruiting goals.
As a five-star prospect and the #1 all purpose back, Hart has already proven he has the potential to make it to the next level. He just needs the right coaching and the right opportunity. In 2012 he will be a redshirt freshman (via medical redshirt).
Also in 2012, Barry Sanders, Jr. will be a true freshman. Though Barry, Jr. had Alabama in his top two, the injury to Dee Hart has made Oklahoma State the de facto choice for Sanders, though Stanford and Florida State are dark horse choices.
Not only would they be in the same class (it would be silly to redshirt Barry, barring injury) but they are quite similar physically. Sanders has a slight edge on height (sources varying between 1 and 2 inches), but as far as weight and play style goes, they are near identical, as neither of them are bruisers.
Alabama fans may be completely sold on the one-two punch Ingram and Richardson showed, but to have two elite running backs in the same class is silly. Not silly for the team; it would be great for the team. It would be silly for the backs.
Slice it this way or that way or any other way you like, but every star player wants to eventually be "The Guy". Even if it's only one year, they all want that chance. Even Trent Richardson wanted to eventually be "The Guy".
Splitting carries right down the middle with another player your whole career is just not very enticing to a young running back, especially one the caliber of Barry Sanders, Jr. Can you blame him? It's even possible Sanders may consider the negative impact having him at the capstone could have on Hart's college career as well.
Oklahoma State is where Barry's father went, and it's where he won a Heisman Trophy. The Cowboys have been his local college team for his entire life. It also just so happens that OSU is a legitimate contender for a title as well.
First off, OSU is currently in an automatic, yet crumbling, qualifying conference. There, with the absence of Nebraska and the falling of Texas, OSU has a much easier path to going undefeated. Will they make it to the BCS Championship? Most likely not with in-state rival Oklahoma in the mix, but they do have a shot.
They have a shot due to their core playmakers, Brandon Weeden, a spectacular senior quarterback and future NFL draftee, and his favorite target Justin Blackmon. Blackmon finished 2010 with over 1700 yards receiving and a spot as a Heisman finalist in New York.
OSU has good players, good coaches, and a very long favorable history with the Sanders family.
With Dee Hart's injury, Alabama has likely lost more than just one player for a season. Chances are they have now missed out on the career services of someone who is poised to be the next "greatest college running back".