- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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During the summer, TideNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Alabama roster -- excluding the Tide's 2013 recruiting class -- in our Crimson Countdown series. Starting with No. 1 Dee Hart, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Brandon Ivory.
No. 4 T.J. Yeldon
Sophomore running back
Expectations for 2013: Where does Yeldon go from last season? A spot on the All-American team? A seat in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony? Honestly, after a freshman campaign in which he outperformed Eddie Lacy at times, it's hard to imagine what Yeldon will do next. One thing is certain, though. He'll be the unquestioned starter at running back this season and will carry the ball upwards of 15 times per game.
Best-case scenario: If he hasn't already peaked, it's hard to believe he isn't close to maximizing his full potential. But for Yeldon to truly cement himself in the conversation of great Alabama tailbacks, he must stay healthy. And with Alabama's penchant of sharing the football, he should avoid the wear and tear usually put upon featured backs. At the end of this season, don't be surprised if it's Yeldon in the Heisman conversation, not quarterback AJ McCarron. Only one running back has won the award since 2000, but that man was Mark Ingram.
Worst-case scenario: If it were even five years ago, Yeldon would be in line to get the ball 25 times a game this season. As it stands now, that won't happen. Alabama likes to rotate in at least three backs and save its featured back some tread on the tires, and that will be the major argument against Yeldon in a Heisman conversation. He simply won't have the reps of what Ron Dayne or Ricky Williams -- two of the last three tailbacks to win the award -- had in college.
Future impact: Barring injury, Alabama fans are looking at two more seasons of Yeldon carrying the football. Because of the short shelf life associated with running backs, don't expect him to stay any longer than that. As Saban said of Lacy's decision to turn pro early: "When you’re a running back in the NFL, it’s the shortest shelf-life of any position. So I kind of get it; I get where you’re at.’"
4dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough