Freshman RB Yeldon has breakout day

September, 2, 2012
9/02/12
11:13
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The dough hasn't risen, but the recipe appears promising.

[+] EnlargeT J Yeldon
Tim Heitman/US PresswireT.J. Yeldon is the first Alabama freshman running back to have a 100-yard performance in his Tide debut.
A baker's dozen worth of freshmen appeared in the University of Alabama's romp of No. 8 Michigan on Saturday night. Thirteen freshmen -- seven of whom have enrolled since February -- contributed to the 41-14 thrashing of the Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Dee Hart ran for 24 yards on nine carries, Dillon Lee intercepted a pass and Reggie Ragland made a standout tackle on special teams.

But the most impressive of the fresh-faced rookies was running back T.J. Yeldon. The true freshman from Daphne, Ala., ran for 111 yards and a touchdown as ostensibly the Crimson Tide's top running back with starter Eddie Lacy's out with an injured ankle.

Lacy had just three carries before coach Nick Saban called on his fleet-footed freshman in the first quarter. Yeldon took his first career carry 14 yards. Two carries later, he moved the chains for another Alabama first down.

More than 90,000 fans witnessed the 6-foot-2, 216-pound tailback's coming out party.

Yeldon flashed the big-play ability that earned him the honor of Alabama's top running back in the 2012 class and four-star status in the ESPN 150. The state's Mr. Football recipient certainly arrived with acclaim and expectations, but what the crimson faithful experienced in his first collegiate game surpassed even the most optimistic predictions.

The likes of Shaun Alexander, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson have all carried the ball as freshmen, and many more before them. But none had reached 100 yards in their debuts before Yeldon.

"T.J. did a good job," Saban said after the game in his typical style of understatement. Freshmen are seen and not heard on the Alabama campus and prohibited from talking to the media. "I would give you a lot more if you wouldn't say you couldn't talk to him."

While Saban wasn't itching to discuss his newest weapon on offense, not everyone stayed mum.

Players and fans caught a glimpse of Yeldon's future at the Crimson Tide's annual spring game. He ran for 91 yards and a touchdown against Alabama's No. 2 defense in his first meet-and-greet on April 16.

Four months later, with the lights on and the film rolling, Yeldon stole the show, averaging 10.1 yards per carry. He even caught one pass for 26 yards, setting up a field goal.

"Everybody on the team knew what he was capable of," Alabama guard Chance Warmack said. "He proved that in the spring game, and he was ready to let it loose today. I'm happy for him."

Said fellow running back/fullback Jalston Fowler: "That was a great performance. He did everything right. He did what he's supposed to do."

Senior center Barrett Jones took it a step further, calling on the Crimson Tide's rich history of tailbacks. Ingram ran for 728 yards his freshman year. Richardson went for 751. Yeldon hasn't reached those numbers yet, but surpassing 100 yards in Week 1 is a good start.

"We're used to freshmen running backs around here having an impact," Jones said. "That's exactly what I expected from him. Certainly, I think he may be the next great one in a long line of running backs."

Alex Scarborough | email

Alabama/SEC reporter

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