Trent Richardson Keeps Tide Rolling

The minute that Alabama fans heard that Heisman Trophy winner and standout running back Mark Ingram would be undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery right before the start of the 2010 season, questions arose over the Crimson Tide’s ability to repeat as national champions. In the SEC East, there is no such thing as an easy win with the likes of LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss breathing down the necks of the Tide. Sophomore running back Trent Richardson quickly stepped in to fill the shoes of Ingram, arguably the best running back to ever come through Tuscaloosa. However, the scary thing is that Richardson’s freakish ability to run over and past defenders raises enough eyebrows to entertain the notion that Ingram was only marginally the best running back on last season’s championship squad. Despite being the third-string running back for that great Alabama team, Richardson ran for 751 yards and 8 touchdowns on 145 carries.

In case you haven’t gotten the picture yet, Trent Richardson isn’t your average college sophomore. “The Freak” power cleans 365 lbs., squats 650 lbs. and bench presses 460 lbs. Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran recalls Richardson’s first max-out lifting day with the Tide.

“We were doing power cleans,” said Cochran, “and most of the time I don’t let the freshmen go up that high. He does 365 and I’m like – he picked it up like it

was a toothpick.”

Aside from his innate strength, Richardson possesses a rare combination of speed and skill that very few running backs possess. The Escambia High School graduate has been said to be as good if not better than Escambia alum and Hall-of-Fame running back, Emmitt Smith. Richardson’s hunger to be better than all of his competition can be traced back to his humble roots in an impoverished neighborhood in Pensacola, Florida, where he knew that by keeping his nose clean he would eventually repay his mother for all the hard times she endured while raising him. As a high school student headed to Alabama on a full scholarship, the only thing that Richardson was concerned with was helping his high school teammates earn scholarships as well by winning a Florida 5A State Championship. His selflessness and ambition have made him a favorite of Coach Nick Saban who loves the sophomore’s work ethic and drive. As a result of Saban’s confidence in Richardson, the temporary loss of Ingram isn’t as concerning as the Tide tries to secure its second consecutive national championship.

In the first true challenge of the season, Alabama faced Penn State. Richardson ran over and through the Nittany Lions for 144 yards and a touchdown en route to a 24-3 victory. As the season progresses, Ingram will ease his way back into his starting role to propel the Crimson Tide to a successful campaign in the SEC, but Richardson will still be vital to Alabama’s success. The tandem of Ingram and Richardson has already been compared to some of the best college running back tandems of all-time including Felix Jones and Darren McFadden (Arkansas – 2007), Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee (Miami – 2001), Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams (Auburn – 2003) and Ricky Williams and Priest Holmes (Texas – 2004). The two running backs will have to shoulder the load for an Alabama team that lost the majority of its exceptional defense to the NFL Draft. It really shouldn’t be a problem as long as Richardson adheres to his pre-season goal, as he told ESPN: “I’m never going to be taken down by the first person, that’s my goal, that’s my mindset.

Richardson is going to have to be adamant about that claim of his if Alabama hopes to successfully handle a ridiculously hard schedule this season. The Tide are facing six top-25 teams this season with notable games against #10 Florida, #12 Arkansas and #13 South Carolina. The hopes of the Alabama faithful will come down to November 6 when the Tide takes on #15 LSU in Baton Rouge in a game that should decide the winner of the SEC East. The LSU game should be a very exciting game considering Nick Saban’s background as former head coach of the Tigers and the fact that Richardson was extremely close to signing with them rather than Alabama.

Clearly, it will take time for Richardson to earn a starting role once Ingram is back and it probably won’t happen until Ingram is playing for some NFL team next season. All the while, the gracious and hardworking Pensacola native will patiently wait for Saban to call his number, as the one-two punch will definitely catch defenses off guard. Richardson’s tenacity, focus and vision are imperative if the underclassman is to will the Crimson Tide to the upper echelons of college football history by winning back-to-back national championships.