HOOVER, Ala. -- Eddie Lacy missed the entirety of spring practice due to an injury, but don't expect that to slow his ascension to No. 1 on the running backs depth chart. Alabama coach Nick Saban said Lacy's recovery from offseason surgery has gone well, and the coach expects him to be ready when fall camp begins in August.
Saban added that Lacy and the rest of the formerly injured players would be "cleared for practice if we started practice today."
Lacy's absence during spring practice had a positive effect, though. It left room for fellow running backs Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and freshman T.J. Yeldon to make their case for extended playing time in backup roles. Given that Alabama has used two running backs since Saban arrived, the competition for the lead backup has been heated.
"We have a couple running backs that will probably create some competition," Saban said. "But we've always played more than one running back. I mean, we've never been just a one back. We had Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson sharing time as players. Hopefully we'll be able to find somebody as productive as those two guys have been to share that role again sometime in the future."
Barrett Jones knows a thing or two about blocking for great backs. The fifth-year senior was part of the line that helped Ingram to the school's first Heisman Trophy and pushed the pile for Richardson's third-place finish for college football's most outstanding player. In Lacy, Jones sees another in the line of great Alabama running backs.
"Eddie Lacy is going to become that marque back," Jones said. "He was banged up last year and didn't get a chance to show what he can do. He's unique, a hard worker, and I've enjoyed playing with him."
But it's not just Lacy that gets Jones excited.
"The whole position is like having a stable," Jones said. "I think the second spot is up for grabs right now and I think we'll play a lot of guys early in competition for that spot. But there won't be a lot of drop off, I can tell you that."
Senior tight end Michael Williams said he's confident in Lacy's ability to bounce back from surgery, and observed that the competition from Fowler and Yeldon might be speeding up the process.
"Seeing T.J. play like that in the spring game and Jalston being the monster that he is, it has to be something to know you have to get back and play at your best just to get your spot back," Williams said.
"Eddie is back doing everything that everybody else is doing. The spin move is back."
Jones moves to center
Jones is dealing with his own transition. Last season's Outland Trophy winner moved this offseason from left tackle to center. That means different blocking assignments and more responsibility calling out plays for the senior who's started everywhere on the line in his career but center.
But Jones isn't taking the change too roughly. He's leaned on former UA center William Vlachos and spent extra time working at calling out protections. In answering question after question about the move to center at media days, Jones took the time to poke fun at his old friend.
“[Vlachos] told me I have big shoes to fill, but the way I see it he couldn’t worn more than a 10-and-a-half," Jones joked. "They’re not that big."
Williams spent much of last season lined up alongside Jones at tackle. In practice, he's marveled at Jones' versatility and his ability to help the line as a whole.
"Barrett has evolved from guard to tackle to center," Williams noted. "There's no telling where he'll go from that."
Saban pokes fun at the Head Ball Coach
It started innocently enough. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel offhandedly noted that Saban was older than him when explaining the impact Saban has had on his career, extending back to the time Saban gave him an opportunity at Toledo.
"First of all, he's older than me," Pinkel said Monday. "I want to make that very clear."
On Thursday, Saban got to fire back, and somehow landed his sights on South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier in the process.
"[Pinkel] did a great job at Toledo," Saban began before changing directions. "I did recommend him for the job when I left there because I thought he would do a fantastic job, and he did a wonderful job there. I know he was up here bragging about the fact that he's younger than me. But, you know, there are other coaches in this league, like Steve Spurrier, that are older than me that I look up to, that are my mentors that I really want to try to be like.
"In fact, I was even going to consider wearing a visor on the sidelines this year. I was afraid I'd throw it."
Avoiding a repeat
It has been the common theme for Alabama since spring practice opened, and it's no different now, a few months later, in Hoover.
"Having success in a football program can have two effects," Saban said in his opening remarks. "You can demand more success or you can get a little complacent and be relaxed about what you have accomplished, really think more about what you did rather than what you're going to do.
"It's human nature to relax."
Added senior defensive end Damion Square: "We saw what can happen, the things that should've been stopped. … We just have to make sure that we do the good things and look out for everybody else and that's why we're going to be better prepared this year.
Saban isn't pointing fingers at just his team, though. He has won three championships and continues to focus on the preparation and process it takes to win year in and year out.
"We've obviously learned a lot at Alabama over the last five years," Saban said. "The most important thing we've learned is you've got to stay on top of the little things. Things don't happen by accident. You don't win a play by accident. You don't win a game by accident. You don't win a division by accident. You have to make it happen, and you have to make it happen by what you do every day.
"Your commitment, everything in the organization, to the principles and values of the organization, and the standard that you have set for that organization, become primary in the development of team chemistry. If everybody doesn't buy into those principles and values, everybody doesn't buy into the standard, there's no way you can have the type of team chemistry to be successful, especially at an elite, high level. High achievers don't like mediocre people, mediocre people don't like high achievers. So everybody has to buy into the same principles and values."