Alabama’s Trent Richardson didn’t mind one bit last season playing second fiddle to his Heisman Trophy-winning teammate.
In fact, he rather enjoyed it.
“I can’t come close to telling you all the things I’ve learned from that guy,” Richardson said.
Now, all of a sudden, Richardson is the guy.
He’ll make his second straight start at tailback Saturday while Mark Ingram remains on the mend from arthroscopic knee surgery.
It was a short work night last week for Richardson, who carried the ball just 10 times in Alabama’s 48-3 trouncing of San Jose State. One of those was a 39-yard touchdown jaunt, and he also caught three passes for 46 yards.
But Penn State comes to town this weekend, and the Nittany Lions haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Iowa’s Shonn Greene in 2008.
“They don’t make mistakes and are a real hard-nosed team that likes to come downhill and hit you,” Richardson said.
Richardson has done his film work. It’s an art he learned from Ingram.
“We watched film all the time together, a lot of times away from football,” Richardson said. “That’s where he helped me learn how to really play this game. I’m talking about reading blocks and reading the safety and knowing where the blitz is coming from.
“And one of the main things he taught me was how to be a leader.”
With Ingram still working his way back to full strength, Richardson has taken to heart what his mentor told him when he initially realized he was going to be sidelined for a few games.
“I called him and told him I was sorry,” Richardson recounted. “He told me, ‘It’s your time now. God put you here for a reason, and you gotta step up, man. Take that load. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be back soon. I know you can do it.’
“It’s an honor to step into his shoes until he gets back.”
Notice Richardson didn’t say “fill his shoes.”
With a player like Ingram, that just doesn’t happen. Still, Richardson has to be one of the most electrifying backups in all of college football.
For that matter, if he were anywhere else in the country, he probably wouldn’t be a backup. He’d be the guy on all the Heisman Trophy promotional posters.
At Alabama, he’s just another cog -- an incredibly talented cog -- in an offense that can beat you a number of different ways.
“It’s awesome, all the talent we have out there,” Richardson said. “Everybody’s touching the ball and making plays. It’s a blessing to see everybody clicking. That’s what happens when nobody’s satisfied, and nobody on this team is satisfied.”
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Richardson is ready for a heavy workload Saturday night. He has the build, strength and stamina to be a 25-carry guy if that’s the way the Crimson Tide choose to go, although Richardson has never carried it more than 19 times in a college game. That 19-carry effort came in last season’s BCS National Championship Game.
“That’s nothing new to me and what we practice for,” Richardson said. “I haven’t had to carry it a lot because Mark has always been there beside me, but I’m prepared for it and conditioned well. I mean, I’m ready to go.
“I’ll take it as much as they want to give it to me.”
As explosive as Richardson was last season, he says he’s a much better runner now.
His reads have gotten better. He’s squaring his shoulders and hitting the hole faster.
“I know the plays better, too. I know my linemen and know what defenses are trying to do to me,” said Richardson, who rushed for 751 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman.
“The game’s slowed down a lot for me.”