No school has been able to produce running backs like the University of Alabama since the arrival of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.
It started with Glen Coffee, a relative unknown rusher from the state of Florida, who became an All-SEC player for UA in 2008 and went on to be drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round where he enjoyed a brief but successful NFL career.
Next, and most notable, was Mark Ingram, a late addition to the Tide’s 2008 recruiting class from Michigan. As a sophomore, Ingram won the school’s first Heisman Trophy after rushing for a school-record 1,542 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns. He was drafted in the first round last year by the New Orleans Saints.
This past season it was Trent Richardson’s turn. The junior running back from Florida carried the Alabama offense, and he, too, was invited to New York as a Heisman finalist. Although he fell short, he is now a lock to go in the first round and could be a top 10 pick in April’s NFL Draft.
With the Tide's recent string of success, it’s easy to see why the top running backs in the country want to come to Tuscaloosa, and the UA coaching staff continues to stock the cupboard.
On Feb. 21, UA landed its second running back commitment in the 2013 class from Marietta, Ga., star Tyren Jones. Jones led the state of Georgia as a junior with 2,375 yards and 38 touchdowns.
At 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, he may be small in stature, but Jones possesses the power to go along with his blazing speed. He can run by you, around you or through you, and he’s a home-run threat on every play.
Just ask his high school teammate Brandon Kublanow.
“I think he’s the best running back in the nation," Kublanow said. "Just his elusiveness, his speed and his drive.”
For Jones, Alabama was the easy choice. The 2013 star received an offer from the Tide when he was in town for UA’s junior day on Feb. 18, and it took him just three days to decide that’s where he wanted to go.
It didn’t matter that they already had a commitment from ESPNU 150 Watch List running back Altee Tenpenny. The pedigree of Alabama was written on the wall.
“After looking at the system they run and the education, I talked it over with my parents and let them know my decision,” Jones said. “I just love how hard-nosed Nick Saban, Coach (Scott Cochran) and the entire staff is.”
Jones mirrors that hard-nosed mentality on the football field. Just watch him run.
Many questions remain, though: How will he and Tenpenny coexist? Will both recruits stay committed to the Tide through the entire process?
The easy answer is a look at what Alabama running backs have done under Saban. In 2008, Ingram served as a perfect compliment for Coffee. In 2009, it was Richardson and Ingram who co-existed in the backfield together. This year, Eddie Lacy proved to be a vital member of the national championship team, serving as Richardson’s backup.
UA’s offense uses multiple backs to keep one another fresh, and success seems to just go along with the territory.
Will Jones and Tenpenny both end up going to New York one day for the Heisman presentation? Maybe. Maybe not. But both players have the talent and ability to play a major role for Alabama in the future.