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The Saban Top 100: No. 12 TrentRichardson

The Saban Top 100: No. 12 TrentRichardson

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The Saban Top 100: No. 12 Trent Richardson

BamaCentral is ranking the top 100 players of the Nick Saban era at Alabama over the course of the 2020 football season

12] Trent Richardson, RB

  • Won 2011 Doak Walker Award
  • 2011 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2011 Unanimous All-American
  • 2011 All-SEC
  • Third-overall pick in 2012 NFL Draft
  • Finished third for the 2011 Heisman Trophy
  • Set the Alabama single-season rushing record with 1,679 yards
  • Set an SEC record for rushing touchdown by a running back (21) and tied Shaun Alexander’s SEC record for total touchdowns in a season (24)
  • Team captain

There’s nothing quite like a Trent Richardson smile.

A good example was when the Alabama running back was meeting with reporters just before the season opener against Kent State, and couldn’t help himself after a couple of predictable questions.

“You ready to be the man?” he was asked from the rear of the encircled reporters.

Teeth.

Otherwise, when someone saw that much white around Richardson it’s either the flash from his running by, or the blinding stars due to being run over.

“I am prepared for that,” he Richardson slowly said after recomposing himself and drawing laughs, adding: “… but I’m going to take on that role, to be one of the team players who’s going to be the leaders of the pack. I know we have others here, Dont’a, Upshaw, Mark Barron, Barrett Jones, Vlachos. There are so many of us ready to step in and fill in that gap for what we need out there this year.”

Granted, the Crimson Tide did have numerous leaders on the 2011 team, yet this is what Richardson had waited two years for. After serving as the understudy to the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, and showing some spectacular glimpses of what may come, it was finally his chance to be Alabama’s primary offensive weapon.

That meant more carries, more flare passes out of the backfield, and lot more responsibility – which he didn’t have a problem with.

“He’s a great player,” center Williams Vlachos said. “He makes us look a lot better than we are. If there’s something there, he’s going to hit it. He’s got the ability to take it to the house every time. You all know that. He’s a great player. I mean, he’s really good. We’ve just got to do our job and he’ll do the rest.”

Considering that Alabama came into the season without a starting quarterback in place, no wide receiver having recorded a 100-yard performance and an offensive line that had yet to find its best five, it appeared that opponents were more focused and determined to try and stop Richardson than they did Ingram. Without a Julio Jones to worry about either, there was no doubt about who was the Crimson Tide’s biggest threat.

Yet he refused to consider that the offense may experience a dip, or letdown, in any way.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” he said. “I expect us to step it up. We know we’re not going to have Julio, or Mark Ingram, or James Carpenter, working as hard as they did last year. Seriously, we all have to step up our games. They all went in the draft. They did what they could for us, they showed us the road so we have to follow behind and do what we can.”

However, Alabama was coming off a year in which things didn’t quite click as hoped in the running game. Both Ingram and Richardson were limited by injuries, while the offensive line missed Mike Johnson’s presence and leadership up front.

While the Crimson Tide nearly matched its 5.1 average per carry from the 2009 national championship season, it went from 3,011 rushing yards (215.1 per game) to 2,378 (182.9), and for the first time since 2007 Alabama didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher.

“I think we got to establish our identify,” Vlachos said. “That’s always what we kind of shoot for identity-wise, a power-running team wins on the line of scrimmage and a QB that can make all the plays as well. I think we need to come out early and set the tone up front. That’ll help everybody else do their jobs and we’ll go from there.”

Richardson went from 751 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 145 carries as a freshman, to 700 yards on 112 attempts his second year — although combined with his receiving and kick-return yards was second in SEC all-purpose yards (1600, behind Randall Cobb’s 2,396).

In comparison, Ingram had 271 carries, the third most in Alabama history, when he set the Crimson Tide single-season rushing record with 1,658 yards. He averaged 19.4 carries per game, with a career high 28 against Ole Miss.

That’s the kind of load Richardson hoped to carry, and not just in a symbolic way. Senior nose tackle Josh Chapman, who was the team’s weight-room king along with defensive lineman Jesse Williams and Vlachos, knew that Richardson would have no trouble bench-pressing him, and the training staff had to hold back the running back due to fears that a mishap with the kinds of weights he used could have serious consequences.

“Trent’s a strong man, he could bench me and squat me,” said Chapman, who weighed 310 pounds. “Me and him go at it. When it comes time to squat, he comes and will squat with me.”

Teammates also had a better understanding than nearly anyone just how tough Richardson could be to stop on the field.

Some of the performances that helped lead to so much talk about a breakout season were the 220 all-purpose yards against Ole Miss in 2010, the 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Texas in the BCS National Championship Game, and the famous play against Arkansas in which he fought through five would-be tacklers and then outraced the secondary to the goal-line.

“It's like trying to throw a car in a pond,” linebacker Nico Johnson said about facing Richardson in practice. “I mean he's big. It's real difficult. I see why opponents struggle because he's so versatile. He can change from this and go from this type of back. I think I missed a tackle on him today. He's fast and quick and big. Got to get him down somehow.”

Consequently, he was an early Heisman Trophy favorite, on the watch lists for the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards, in addition to the Paul Hornung (most versatile) and Doak Walker (best running back) honors. Named to numerous All-American teams, Richardson was one of five players featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s college football preview issue, along with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones and Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick.

It’s the second time Richardson was on the magazine’s cover, calling both an “honor,” but otherwise he seemed to smile and take it in stride.

“I don’t see a big difference,” Coach Nick Saban said about Richardson’s approach in 2011. “Trent is who he is, and he’s always been a good leader, a hard worker and a guy that affects other people because of the kind of person that he is. Now that his circumstances have changed, and he can be the lead dog at running back, that doesn’t really create a new person. He’s always been a good player because of who he is.”

Now, the waiting was over, and if anything Richardson believed it only helped prepare him for the opportunity.

“(Mark) was a tremendous player, a great leader and he taught me a lot about the game,” Richardson said. “He taught me the ropes. Even with Julio, he taught me a lot.

“Always put effort in, always fight, never not finish.”

Read More

The Saban Top 100 will be revealed over the course of the 2020 football season, with the top players unveiled one a day as part of BamaCentral's 25 Days of Christmas celebration.

The series thus far:

Introduction

No. 13: Andre Smith 

No. 14: Quinnen Williams

No. 15: Dont'a Hightower

No. 16: Jerry Jeudy

No. 17: Jalen Hurts

No. 18: Reuben Foster

No. 19: Chance Warmack

No. 20: Mark Barron

No. 21: Jonah Williams

No. 22: Da'Ron Payne

No. 23: Ryan Kelly

No. 24: Landon Collins

No. 25: Cam Robinson

26-30: Terrence Cody, Calvin Ridley, Javier Arenas, Reggie Ragland, Jedrick Wills Jr.

31-35: Dee Milliner, D.J. Fluker, Marlon Humphrey, Rashad Evans, A'Shawn Robinson

36-40: Rashaan Evans, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marcell Dareus, Eddie Jackson, O.J. Howard

41-45: Courtney Upshaw, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Henry Ruggs III, Jarran Reed, Xavier McKinney

46-50: Dalvin Tomlinson, Antoine Caldwell, Kareem Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Trevon Diggs

51-55: Mike Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Ronnie Harrison, Damien Harris, JK Scott

56-60: Ross Pierschbacher, Eddie Lacy, Bradley Bozeman, Ryan Anderson, Glen Coffee

61-65: Greg McElroy, Josh Jacobs, Anfernee Jennings, James Carpenter, Kenyan Drake

66-70: Terrell Lewis, Blake Sims, Christian Miller, Irv Smith Jr., Tim Williams

71-75: Mack Wilson, ArDarius Stewart, Deionte Thompson, Raekwon Davis, Jalston Fowler

76-80: Josh Chapman, Cyrus Jones, Kevin Norwood, Isaiah Buggs, Jake Coker

81-85: Bo Scarbrough, Anthony Averett, Leigh Tiffin, Ed Stinson, DeQuan Menzie

86-90: Jesse Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, William Vlachos, Da'Shawn Hand, Arie Kouandjio

91-95: Nico Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, DJ Hall, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial

96-100: Trey DePriest, Damion Square, Christion Jones, John Parker Wilson, Simeon Castille 

12] Trent Richardson, RB

  • Won 2011 Doak Walker Award
  • 2011 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2011 Unanimous All-American
  • 2011 All-SEC
  • Third-overall pick in 2012 NFL Draft
  • Finished third for the 2011 Heisman Trophy
  • Set the Alabama single-season rushing record with 1,679 yards
  • Set an SEC record for rushing touchdown by a running back (21) and tied Shaun Alexander’s SEC record for total touchdowns in a season (24)
  • Team captain
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