TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Mark Ingram readily admits that his life has been crazy the past four months.
As the first Heisman Trophy winner in Alabama history, he’s been mobbed everywhere he goes. He’s even had professors asking for autographs before class.
One thing that won’t be crazy next fall, though, is how Alabama splits up the carries between Ingram and sophomore Trent Richardson. Ingram received the lion’s share a year ago, but it will probably be closer to a 50-50 split in 2010.
And that’s not a problem with Ingram.
“We’re always going to be fresh,” said Ingram, who rushed for 1,658 yards last season and carried the ball 271 times. “Whenever I’m tired, he’s coming in fresh. Whenever he’s tired, I’m coming back in fresh. That defense is going to have a fresh pair of legs coming at them all game, and all that’s going to do is make both of us better.”
Richardson rushed for 751 yards on 145 carries as a freshman and may be Alabama’s most explosive back. But he can also pound, which is what makes the Ingram-Richardson tandem so hard on defenses.
“They wear down, especially when it gets in the fourth quarter,” said Ingram, who had 1,075 yards after contact in 2009. “You can tell by their body language, and they don’t want to tackle you anymore. That’s how we play as a team. We want to wear teams down. The wide receivers play that way. The offensive line plays that way, and we play that way.”
From a defensive player’s perspective, linebacker Dont’a Hightower said it’s a nightmare going up against a running back duo as well-rounded as Ingram and Richardson. Remember that Ingram also caught 32 passes last season.
“I don’t know how you can game plan for two guys like Mark and Trent,” Hightower said. “Most teams will have a big, power back and then another guy they bring in who’s a speed back, so you can get your defensive personnel on the field depending on who’s out there. But with Mark and Trent, you’ve got strength, power and speed with both of them.
“You can’t adjust on defense. I don’t see how you can stop them.”
Ingram is a little more succinct.
“We shouldn’t be anything but a headache for teams,” he said.
The SEC has seen its share of talented running back combos in recent years. Arkansas’ Darren McFadden and Felix Jones each surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in both the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and both were first-round draft choices.
Auburn’s Ronnie Brown was drafted second overall in the 2005 NFL draft, and his backfield mate, Carnell Williams, went fifth overall in that same draft. Williams rushed for 1,165 yards during the 2004 season and Brown 913 yards in leading the Tigers to a 13-0 record.
Now it’s Ingram and Richardson’s turn to see what kind of numbers they can put up. They enter the 2010 season as the two best backs in the SEC, and they also have talented skill players around them at receiver.
So, it’s not like defenses can load up just to stop them.
“Those two guys are the backbone,” Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy said. “When we need a couple of yards, they’re going to get it. If we have third-and-5, we’re not going to be afraid to run it with those guys. I can’t tell you how much better that makes you as an offense.”