Alabama Crimson Tide: Eddie Lacy

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The recruiting classes have all been spectacular since Nick Saban took over at Alabama in 2007. Simply put, there hasn’t been a better program in college football at gathering, signing and developing blue-chip recruits over the past decade or so.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
AP Photo/Greg TrottFormer Alabama tailback Trent Richardson was ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2009.
But all we’ve done the past few days has led us to answer this difficult question: Which class was the best and most impactful of Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa? The 2008 class started it all with guys like Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, and the 2011 class had upward of nine future NFL players with potential first-round picks Cyrus Kouandjio and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. And all that goes without mentioning the three consecutive No. 1-ranked classes from 2012-14 that are still in the process of maturing.

So determining the best class, in that context, was not easy. Our Nos. 2 and 3 classes both had arguments for the top spot. But ultimately the decision was simple: The Class of 2009 was too talented and too deep to keep from coming out No. 1 on our list. Too many current and future professional players dotted the 30-man signing class to ignore.

There was not only the drama of Trent Richardson’s announcement (Saban was uncharacteristically “elated, ecstatic, happy and really pleased," when he signed), but there was also the risk of taking just one quarterback in the class. Obviously, that maneuver paid off as AJ McCarron became arguably the most decorated quarterback in SEC history.

“We thought AJ McCarron was an outstanding prospect in our state,” Saban told reporters way back on Feb. 4, 2009. “Once he committed to us, we felt like someone had to be at least as good as him or better if we were going to take another player at that position. I think that is just kind of how it worked out.”

As it turned out there wasn’t anyone better. And it's just one reason why the 2009 class should go down as the most impactful of Saban’s tenure at Alabama.

The stars: McCarron has the chance to go down as the best quarterback in Alabama history, surpassing Goliath's like Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler and Jay Barker. With two championships as a starter and a slew of passing records to his name, he’s clearly the headliner of the class. But he’s not alone, not by a long shot. Richardson was the No. 1 running back in the country and became the first back taken in the 2012 NFL Draft, going third overall. The second running back Alabama took -- the lesser known Eddie Lacy -- would get drafted a year later and become the Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Green Bay Packers in 2013. On the other side of the ball, Dre Kirkpatrick lived up to the hype as the No. 1 cornerback in the country, going in the first round of the draft to the Cincinnati Bengals. And Chance Warmack surpassed all expectations when he rose from a midlevel college prospect to the top offensive guard in the country to a first round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2013.

[+] EnlargeDre Kirkpatrick
AP Photo/David KohlAlabama signed three prospects ranked in the top 12 of the Class of 2009, including cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (No. 4).
The contributors: Anthony Steen was much more than a contributor, but considering how he came to Alabama as the No. 39 defensive tackle in the country it’s a wonder he developed into a three-year starter at guard and a hopeful NFL draft pick. His career was arguably more fruitful and definitely more consistent than that of D.J. Fluker, who went from being the No. 1 offensive tackle in the 2009 class to a first round pick of the San Diego Charger’s in 2013. Along with Steen, signees like Nico Johnson, Ed Stinson, Quinton Dial and Kevin Norwood carved out nice careers at Alabama with the type of accomplishments that would land them on the radar of NFL executives.

The letdowns: Compared to other top classes, there were very few letdowns to come from 2009’s crop of signees. Really, all of Alabama’s top five prospects panned out. Had Johnson not had C.J. Mosley behind him, his career might have been looked upon with more favor, and still he was a solid SEC linebacker who would get drafted in the fourth round by the Kansas City Chiefs. But there were some misses as Kendall Kelly never really caught on, Tana Patrick never became more than a sub off the bench, and Petey Smith never stuck around, transferring to a community college in 2011. The biggest whiff of all had to be Darrington Sentimore, though, and not because he was a heralded prospect like the others. The No. 20-ranked defensive tackle wound up transferring to a junior college and then on to Tennessee where he developed into one of the more disruptive defensive linemen in the SEC.

The results: All told, 13 of Alabama’s 30 signees in 2009 are playing in the NFL currently or have futures in the league in 2014. As far as percentages go, that’s a success rate even the most accomplished programs can be proud of. Churning out NFL prospects is one thing, though. Taking five-stars and sending them to the league isn’t unheard of. No, the most impressive thing was the depth of the class as a whole. Not only did blue-chip prospects like Kirkpatrick, McCarron and Richardson pan out, so did developmental recruits like Warmack, Steen, Norwood and Lacy. To have that range of success is almost unheard of. Saban and his staff really did it all with the 2009 class, not only signing the top talent in the country, but also doing the more difficult thing by developing many of them into accomplished players.
The SEC's successes reach far beyond the college football landscape. Sure, the seven consecutive BCS titles -- which came to an end this year thanks to a pretty darn good Florida State team -- are well-documented, but most of the studs in this league eventually make it to the big leagues, where they continue to strut their stuff.

[+] EnlargeCameron Newton
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesFormer Auburn QB Cam Newton is one of 24 former SEC players in the Pro Bowl.
The NFL has always had an affinity for SEC players, and this year's Pro Bowl rosters blare that loud and clear, as 24 players from the SEC were selected for the all-star game in Hawaii. The SEC was represented by at least one player at every position except kicker and punter.

This year, the Pro Bowl changed its selection format. Former NFL greats Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders drafted from a pool of Pro Bowl players who were selected earlier in the season. Team Rice and Team Sanders went back-and-forth with their picks, and four of the first 10 players in the first Pro Bowl draft were former SEC players, including former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers), who went No. 3 overall to Sanders.

Tennessee led the SEC with four selections. The game is Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

The 24 former SEC players selected to this year's Pro Bowl:

QB
RB
WR
TE
OL
DL
LB
CB
S
RS

Revisiting Texas A&M-Alabama, part I

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
1:40
PM ET
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M shocked the college football world when it went into Tuscaloosa, Ala., and upset the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide last November. It was a game for the ages, with the Aggies jumping out to a 20-0 lead, Alabama charging back to make it close and a nailbiter finish that included a turnover near the goal line.

With the Crimson Tide coming to Kyle Field for a rematch with the Aggies, anticipation has built throughout the offseason. The Tide are again No. 1, defending their BCS championship from a year ago and the Aggies still have their linchpin, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who made his most compelling case for the trophy that afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

As the heavily hyped clash approaches, let's look back at some of the keys to last year's game and how they might affect the rematch.

1. Credit to the Texas A&M defense

When dissecting Texas A&M's upset of Alabama last season, many cite the Aggies' offensive explosion en route to a 20-0 first-quarter lead as one of the most difficult things for Alabama to deal with. And while the Aggies used creative playcalling and personnel packages, their fast pace and precision execution to score three touchdowns on their first three drives, the Aggies' defensive effort had as much -- or more -- to do with their ability to take that kind of commanding lead.

A.J. McCarron
John David Mercer/US PresswireAJ McCarron threw his first interceptions of the season in Alabama's loss to Texas A&M last season.
The first play from scrimmage helped the Aggies set the tone as Alabama handed off to running back Eddie Lacy on an off-tackle play to the left side. Tight end Michael Williams motioned to that side of the formation to help open a hole for Lacy, but Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter eluded Williams and sliced into the gap between Williams and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and made a strong tackle to stop Lacy for no gain. Alabama went three-and-out on that drive and punted.

The Crimson Tide's next offensive drive started on a much better note for Alabama, with Lacy gaining 23 yards on his first two carries. But everything halted as the Aggies created a turnover when quarterback AJ McCarron tried to find Kenny Bell in the middle of the field. As a McCarron pass hit Bell in the chest, safety Howard Matthews delivered a hard, clean hit to Bell, who dropped the pass. Porter was there to intercept the pass, and that set up the A&M offense with great field position after a 16-yard return to the Alabama 41.

One of the key players throughout the day for the Aggies' defense was defensive tackle Spencer Nealy. A former defensive end who moved to defensive tackle at the start of the 2012 season despite lacking what would be considered "SEC size" for a tackle, Nealy played an integral role in the Aggies' run defense. Evidence of that was on display at the start of the Crimson Tide's third drive of the game.

On the first play of the drive, Alabama handed off to T.J. Yeldon on the left side and the 6-foot-5, 277-pound Nealy, who lined up at nose tackle on that play and for much of the day, used his quickness to beat center Barrett Jones and tackled Yeldon for a loss of 4 yards. The Crimson Tide went three-and-out on that drive as well as the Aggies forced McCarron's hand with a safety blitz and Matthews got into the backfield untouched, forcing an incomplete pass. The defensive effort by the Aggies forced McCarron to start the game 1-of-5 passing for 5 yards.

And even though the Tide were able to gather their bearings and make a strong comeback with some big plays on offense, the Aggies still found ways to make plays on defense. Matthews plugged a gap on third-and-2 when Yeldon tried to cut back for first-down yardage, holding the Crimson Tide to a third-quarter field goal. Safety Steven Terrell stripped Yeldon in the fourth quarter on the play after a 50-yard pass from McCarron to Amari Cooper. And of course, cornerback Deshazor Everett picked off McCarron on the Tide's final offensive play with 1:36 remaining.

The drawback for Texas A&M in the rematch is that many of the above names are gone. Nealy, Porter, Terrell and other key players -- such as defensive end Damontre Moore and linebacker Jonathan Stewart -- have graduated. They've been replaced by younger, more inexperienced players who have taken their lumps in the first two games. The Aggies also haven't had their full complement of defensive players because several served suspensions in the first two games. Saturday will be the first opportunity for all of their key guys to play together this season.

Lacy is gone for the Tide, as are several offensive linemen. The Tide struggled in that area in their season-opening win against Virginia Tech. So there will be adjustments on both sides with the differences in personnel.

2. Finding the "Y"

Manziel went to receiver Ryan Swope, the "Y" receiver who lines up in the slot on the right side of the offensive formation, early and often against the Crimson Tide. Early in the game the passes were of the short, quick variety, hitch routes that gained incremental yardage, almost like running plays.

Ryan Swope
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRyan Swope, a senior last season, made 11 catches against Alabama.
As the game wore on, Manziel went downfield to Swope, who made some of the biggest catches of the season. One was in the middle of the field for 28 yards as he was nailed by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the third quarter. In the fourth, Manziel found Swope down the right sideline for 42 yards.

Swope graduated as well, but look for the guy who made the catch on the play after Swope's 42-yard reception -- Malcome Kennedy -- to be a factor. Kennedy caught a 24-yard touchdown pass on the next play and having experience in a game like that can only help him this Saturday. The question is, can Kennedy bring the kind of consistency that Swope did in catching 11 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown against Alabama?

And should he be healthy for the game, 6-foot-5 freshman receiver Ricky Seals-Jones could be a factor at that position as well. Seals-Jones missed the Sam Houston State game last Saturday with a knee injury.

3. McCarron can scramble, too

While Manziel is known for his scrambling, McCarron showed he has good mobility as well.

McCarron isn't nearly as fleet of foot, but he did show the ability to escape pressure and make quality throws. On two instances in the Crimson Tide's first scoring drive, he evaded the Aggies' pass rush and found Cooper for a first-down completion.

In the second half, McCarron scrambled and tried to find Cooper. He avoided an interception from Everett (who was ruled out of bounds on the catch), but nevertheless, scrambling is a tool McCarron can use if the Aggies dial up extra pressure Saturday.

4. Defending Manziel on the ground

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Dave MartinJohnny Manziel had great success running in the first half against Alabama, but the running lanes closed a bit in the second half.
In the first half last year, Manziel was electric with his feet. Then-offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury was comfortable in calling designed quarterback draws. They were successful as Manziel piled up 82 yards on nine first-half carries.

But the Tide did a much better job containing Manziel in the final two quarters. In the second half, he finished with 10 rushing yards on nine attempts.

This season, Manziel is making an effort to improve as a pocket passer without taking away his playmaking ability. The Aggies have a new offensive coordinator and playcaller (Clarence McKinney) and a new quarterbacks coach (Jake Spavital). It will be interesting to see how much running Manziel does Saturday and how Alabama handles it.

5. Big plays in the Alabama passing game

Cooper, now a sophomore for the Tide, had a huge game in last year's matchup, catching six passes for 136 yards.

He had a catch of 50 yards and a 54-yard touchdown reception, both in the fourth quarter. The first came on an out-and-up, when he beat Everett one on one. The next one came when the Aggies sent Everett on a cornerback blitz and Cooper beat Matthews deep for a touchdown.
T.J. YeldonAP Photo/Chris O'MearaAlabama running back T.J. Yeldon is a man of few words and many yards.
"Produced the best season by a freshman running back in the history of Alabama football … the heir apparent to Eddie Lacy in a long line of elite running backs for the Crimson Tide … set Alabama freshman records for rushing yards (1,108) and equaled Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram's freshman record of 12 rushing touchdowns … named the Dixie Howell Memorial Most Valuable Player of the 2012 A-Day Game, after arriving on campus in January of 2012." -- 2013 Alabama Football Media Guide

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- His biography says more than he ever will. Quiet to the point of discomfort, T.J. Yeldon is a reluctant young superstar at the University of Alabama.

Reading about himself mentioned in historic tones might cause him to blush. Eddie Lacy wasn't the "heir apparent" to Trent Richardson in 2012. Instead, the media guide called him simply "the next player up." Mark Ingram ended up an Alabama legend, but he wasn't compared to school greats such as Shaun Alexander or Bobby Humphrey immediately after his first season. Rather, the 2009 prospectus said Ingram's skills were "simply too much to keep off the field."

Expectations are everywhere around Yeldon, who burst onto the scene last season by rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown in the nationally televised opener against Michigan. Those 11 carries in Cowboys Stadium were enough to set the first of many school records -- the first UA player to break the rushing century mark in his debut. From then on, everyone knew who No. 4 was in the Alabama backfield. He didn't talk to the media because of the school's policy regarding freshmen, but the way he ran with power and speed was enough to speak volumes about the player he'd become.

When the preseason All-SEC team was announced at SEC Media Days in July, Yeldon was the top vote-getter on offense. He beat out Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel by a whopping 102 votes even though his level of celebrity is dwarfed by that of the Heisman Trophy winner. In fact, Yeldon didn't even come to media days. The shy sophomore stayed behind in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and relished the anonymity that's soon to vanish. For now, he can get away with walking to class and going to the grocery store without being interrupted.

"Many people don't know my face yet," he said.

Pick up any poster or media guide and you'll see his face, though. Yeldon was able to hide behind Lacy a year ago, but that's not the case anymore. He couldn't duck reporters on Sunday, fidgeting and swaying side to side in his first time speaking with the local media since signing with the Tide more than a year ago. He kept his answers concise and to the point. When asked what he'd do when people did recognize him and want to speak, he said matter-of-factly that he'd "talk to them, I guess."

There's not much the Daphne, Ala., native wants to say. He admits he's not a people person. His high school coach, Glenn Vickery, called him a "man of who few words" who "doesn't open up and talk to many people."

"I don't like talking, for real, but I can't run from it, so I just get used to it," Yeldon said.

He might not enjoy the limelight on a personal level, but there's no doubt that changes when he puts on a helmet and shoulder pads. With Lacy now in training camp with the Green Bay Packers, it's Yeldon's turn as the Tide's featured tailback. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a backup in 2012. What will he do when he's asked to carry the ball 15-20 times a game?

"He's a great player," said Alabama utility back Jalston Fowler. "I'm looking for big things for him this year. With me in front of him, I'm going to try to help him improve his stock."

Yeldon said he spent the offseason honing the technical parts of his game, especially his ability to pick up the blocking scheme. And while he doesn't have any personal goals for the year, he knows there's a lot more he can accomplish with a season under his belt.

"Be more of a leader, help the younger guys, do what I have to do on the field to make myself and the team better and make us win games," he said. "Everyone can be better; just improve what you didn't improve on last year."

Rooming with Lacy before games helped Yeldon learn how to handle the spotlight, but don't expect him to change who he is. He's not going to suddenly incorporate a spin move into his repertoire on the field and he's not about to make any flashy moves away from the field, either.

"I just hang out with my friends, play video games, chit-chat, go out to eat," he said. "It's what I always do. Low key."
Editor's note: This week, GeauxTigerNation and TideNation will examine all aspects of the LSU-Alabama rivalry during the Nick Saban-Les Miles era. Today's stories focus on the past and future of the schools' recruiting battles.

The LSU-Alabama rivalry extends well beyond the football field. Since Nick Saban took over the Tide, he and Tigers coach Les Miles have clashed in some epic recruiting battles. Through that, both coaches have learned that you can’t get everybody on your wish list, regardless of ties or proximity.

Here’s a list of five prospects who got away from Alabama and five who got away from LSU in what has become one of the nation's top recruiting rivalries.

Five who got away from Alabama:

WR Chris Tolliver, 2008 (Rayville, La./Rayville): It was a classic Tide-Tigers battle for Tolliver, the nation's No. 11 wide receiver. He took official visits to Alabama and LSU in consecutive weeks right before he made his decision. Although he chose to stay in state, the Tide were able to steal his teammate and fellow wide receiver Kenny Bell the following year.

Video: Eddie Lacy, Home And Away

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
4:06
PM ET

Jeffri Chadiha profiles former Alabama star Eddie Lacy as he heads toward the NFL draft. Lacy's family was driven from home by Hurricane Katrina.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- They lined the sidelines three- and four-deep to watch pro day at the University of Alabama. Not scouts, not coaches, not general managers. The players, Alabama's underclassmen, showed up between classes to glimpse an event they hope will define the close of their careers in Tuscaloosa years from now.

[+] EnlargeJesse Williams
AP Photo/Butch DillAlabama nose guard Jesse Williams runs agility drills during pro day on Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama has had arguably the most success in all of college football at putting players in the NFL. Coach Nick Saban has produced 24 draft picks since 2009, 11 of which were in the first round. With guard Chance Warmack, cornerback Dee Milliner and running back Eddie Lacy all first-round possibilities in April, that number will rise.

A total of eight former Alabama players worked out in front of personnel from all 32 NFL teams on Wednesday. Jesse Williams, a 320-pound nose guard who ran an eye-opening 4.9 second 40-yard dash, visited with a member of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Milliner didn't participate in drills because of a shoulder injury but still found time to speak with a representative of the New York Jets. On and on the list went, players working toward a future in the pros.

Underclassmen like defensive end Ryan Anderson and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson watched the convention of former teammates and NFL personnel unfold from a set of bleachers on the far sideline of the indoor practice facility. Quarterback AJ McCarron was joined by rising sophomore receiver Amari Cooper and early enrollee tailback Derrick Henry on a row of stationary bikes, pedaling aimlessly on the turf as they soaked it all in.

After the pro day wrapped up, it would be their turn to change into shorts and cleats and work through similar drills as part of an annual program for underclassmen. The NFL personnel who wished to stay and watch were welcome, getting a head start on some of Alabama's top pro talent for 2014 and beyond.

"I remember doing the junior day like we're about to do after this," Williams said. The 6-foot-3 Austrailian came to Alabama by way of junior college in Arizona, and after two short years he's positioned himself as one of the top interior defensive linemen prospects in the country. "It's been a long way since then, winning national championships and then coming back to do this all again. It's been good and it will be a good experience to keep going."

(Read full post)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Much like the Crimson Tide's showing at the NFL combine last month, Wednesday's pro day on the University of Alabama campus will have a distinctly limited feel as many of its participants are still battling injuries sustained during the season.

The biggest setback to the event -- which will air live on ESPN3 at 10:30 a.m. CT -- came on Sunday night when ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Eddie Lacy will not participate in the workout because of a lingering hamstring injury. The running back, widely considered to be most valuable at his position in the draft, will instead wait for the soreness to subside and perform for scouts at a later date, according to the report.

Like many of his teammates, Lacy will have to watch the drills from afar. Center Barrett Jones said he will attend but will only participate in the bench press portion of the event. Cornerback Dee Milliner, who is the No. 2 player on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board and a likely top-five selection, won't work out either. He was scheduled to have surgery on a torn labrum today.

Nonetheless, the program must go on, even with some of its headliners sidelined. For those expected to participate, the chance to make a final positive impression on NFL personnel is at stake. A bad combine? A poor interview? So-so tape? All that could be put aside with a solid showing tomorrow. With the help of ESPN college football and NFL draft analyst Kevin Weidl, here are TideNation's top three players with the most to gain from Alabama's pro day:

(Read full post)

Editor's note: From now until the start of spring camp on March 16, TideNation will count down the 12 most intriguing players to watch on the Alabama football roster. Today we look at running back Kenyan Drake.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Barring injury or some catastrophic setback, T.J. Yeldon is a given for the University of Alabama. The rising sophomore became the first rookie in school history to rush for 1,000 yards this past season, an accomplishment that neither Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson nor Mark Ingram can claim despite their lofty placement in the pantheon of Crimson Tide running backs.

If there was any doubt who Alabama's next great running back would be when Lacy left, that question was answered definitively by every one of Yeldon's 1,239 total yards and 13 touchdowns. The former blue-chip prospect led the team in rushing for much of the season and finished with just 29 fewer carries than Lacy, who earned First Team All-SEC honors.

Now that Lacy is off to a career in the NFL, the question is no longer who the top dog will be at running back, but rather who his sidekick will become. The answer, as Lacy put it, isn't so simple.

"That's a tough one," he said. "I have no idea. … However they decide to do it, I'm pretty sure they'll be the same way T.J. and I were this year, if not better."

Said Alabama coach Nick Saban: "We have one guy coming back that rushed for a 1,000 yards. We have another guy that carried the ball a few times as a freshman, and two guys that got hurt that may or may not be able to come back and play that position very well."

While Kenyan Drake lacks the experience of a Jalston Fowler or Dee Hart, he might be best equipped to become Yeldon's backup. Both Fowler and Hart are health risks after major knee operations last season, as Saban pointed out, and while Drake carried the ball just 42 times as a true freshman, he hasn't shown many holes in his game. In fact, he might have been the most explosive tailback on the roster. At least his numbers indicate as much.

(Read full post)

With two days of testing down and two more to go, many of Alabama's 10 representatives at the NFL combine in Indianapolis have already been put through the ringer. The early results for some are in, but check back throughout the day for the latest.

[+] EnlargeEddie Lacy
AP Photo/Romeo GuzmanEddie Lacy won't partake in drills at the NFL combine, but will perform at Alabama's pro day.
RB Eddie Lacy
Combine results: N/A
The latest: For the next week or so until Alabama holds its pro day, NFL general managers and scouts will have to rely on game film when breaking down the top-rated running back in the draft. A small tear of the hamstring kept Lacy from participating in drills in Indianapolis, but he made the trip all the same to weigh in and take part in team interviews. ESPN's John Clayton believes there wasn't a first-round running back on the field Sunday, which could be good news for Lacy. A strong pro day -- tentatively set for March 13 -- could be the final push Lacy needs to separate himself from the rest of the class and solidify his first-round status.

OT D.J. Fluker
Combine results: 5.31 second 40-yard dash, 21 bench press reps
The latest: Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago says Fluker could be a target for the Bears with the 20th overall pick. That's how far the former Alabama right tackle has come since concerns about his weight and athleticism. Coming in at a trim 6-foot-4 and 339 pounds in Indianapolis helped nearly as much as his performance during on-field workouts. While it's still not clear whether he ends up at tackle or guard, teams are clearly interested.

(Read full post)

SEC sends several RBs to NFL combine

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
9:02
AM ET
Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis. Today: Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

LSU Tigers


Perhaps it says something about LSU's offense in 2012 that among a record 13 players invited to the NFL combine from the Tigers, only two are offensive skill players who are generally considered, at this point, marginal talents. Running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are the only skill players invited to Indianapolis, which is understandable when one considers LSU was 10th in the SEC in total offense. It's also a sign of youth. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, fullback J.C. Copeland, running back Jeremy Hill and all of LSU's primary threats at wide receiver will return in 2013.

(Read full post)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama has utilized more and more true freshmen each year, and it should be no different with the 2013 class. The Crimson Tide already have 21 commitments, including 10 ranked in the ESPN 150. It also doesn’t hurt that nine of them have already enrolled and will compete in spring practice.

Instant-impact recruits

RB Derrick Henry: With Eddie Lacy leaving a year early for the NFL, T.J. Yeldon expects to carry the load at running back next year for Alabama. But who will spell him? Both Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart are coming off major knee injuries, and Kenyan Drake will be just a sophomore. After the season Yeldon put together, don’t count out another true freshman making an impact in the backfield next year.

The Tide expect to sign at least three, possibly four ESPN 150 running backs, but the most physical and ready to play is Henry -- who broke the high school career rushing record. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound could see some time at H-back as well, but expect him to start out as a running back.

(Read full post)

Before we completely turn the page on the 2012 bowl season, we'll let you tell us who in the SEC had the best individual performance in the postseason.

So start casting those votes in our SportsNation poll, and we'll go over the results in the next few days.

Here are the five candidates:

Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama: He looked like a crimson-and-white bulldozer running over Notre Dame defenders on his way to 140 rushing yards in Alabama's 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship. His 20-yard touchdown romp three minutes into the game set the tone for what was an utter mismatch.

SportsNation

Which of these SEC bowl performances was the best?

  •  
    15%
  •  
    59%
  •  
    6%
  •  
    9%
  •  
    11%

Discuss (Total votes: 13,998)

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Johnny Football put on a post-Heisman Trophy show with a Cotton Bowl-record 516 yards of total offense in the Aggies' 41-13 demolition of Oklahoma. He accounted for four touchdowns and set an FBS bowl record with 229 rushing yards on 17 carries. Manziel joined Vince Young as the only two players in history to rush for more than 200 yards and pass for more than 200 yards in a bowl game.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: His start to the game was shaky, as Murray threw two interceptions in the first quarter. But he came roaring back to set Georgia bowl records with 427 passing yards and five touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 45-31 victory over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Murray was lights-out on third down and threw two of his touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to break a 31-31 tie.

AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: McCarron obviously likes the big stages. After winning Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors in last season's BCS National Championship, he followed up that performance with four touchdown passes against Notre Dame last week to lead the Tide to their second consecutive national title. He directed touchdown drives on each of Alabama's first three possessions and was 8-of-9 passing in those three drives.

Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina: In what turned out to be Sanders' farewell to the Gamecocks, he scored three touchdowns in their 33-28 win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. He had a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown and caught a pair of scoring passes. He also had a clutch fourth-down catch to keep South Carolina's game-winning drive alive and finished with nine receptions for 92 yards.

Forecasting the Tide: Running back 

January, 15, 2013
1/15/13
7:00
AM ET
Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday between now and national signing day, TideNation will review each position and look at who figures to start, who could rise up the depth chart and who might be on the way. Today we’ll look at the running backs.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Even Eddie Lacy is in the dark about who will carry the football for the University of Alabama next season. The junior running back who declared for the NFL draft last week said he's sure T.J. Yeldon will get plenty of carries, but who the No. 2 back is remains a question mark.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Offseason storylines: Running game 

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
8:30
AM ET
Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Who would have thought that after losing Trent Richardson the Alabama running game would become more dynamic in 2012? For that matter, who would have thought that when Mark Ingram left two years ago the production on the ground would actually improve? Losing back-to-back Heisman Trophy-caliber tailbacks has done nothing to slow down the Crimson Tide. Alabama has instead improved its number of rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns in each of the last three seasons despite watching some of the best running backs in the country move on to the NFL.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Yeldon
AP Photo/Romeo GuzmanT.J. Yeldon thrived as a freshman in Alabama coach Nick Saban's established two-back system.
"There’s a standard," UA running back Eddie Lacy said. "They left a high standard here. So coming into this season I didn’t want to shoot straight for their standard, I just decided that I would play the game that I know how to play and whatever the outcome may be, let it be what it is. It ended up pretty good and I’m pretty much up there with those guys."

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

College Football Minute
SMU chases Mack Brown, Marshall starts trying to get some publicity and three things to watch for this weekend. It's all ahead in the College Football Minute.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 10/25