Eddie Lacy works his way to feature role

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Junior running back Eddie Lacy has patiently waited his turn behind two Heisman trophy finalists, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. In a reserve role, Lacy still managed to score 13 touchdowns during his first two seasons at the University of Alabama.

Now it’s his turn.

Ingram and Richardson have moved on to the NFL, and Lacy will get his chance to be the feature back for the Crimson Tide this year. It’s a fortuitous position to be in, but it’s a role that comes with high expectations.

“With these fans, it’s a great feeling and you just have to embrace it, but at the same time, you have to come in and take care of business,” Lacy said.

The 6-foot, 220-pound running back knows he can do the job, but because of his role on the team the last two years, spelling Ingram and Richardson, he also appreciates the depth behind him and knows how important their success is to the team.

“It’s great,” Lacy said. “It’s the same way it was with Trent when I gave him a rest. It’s all just clockwork. Everybody is doing what they came here to do.”

There might a lack of experience behind Lacy this season, but there’s no shortage of bodies. Jalston Fowler, who rushed for close to 400 yards as a sophomore, is back. Redshirt freshman Dee Hart is expected to make a significant contribution after a torn ACL kept him out a year ago, and the most impressive of the group could be true freshman T.J. Yeldon.

In the spring game, Yeldon finished with 88 yards rushing and 91 yards receiving, earning the Dixie Howell Most Valuable Player of the Game.

“He looks great,” Lacy said of Yeldon. “He looks as though he’s been in this program for at least a year and a half, two years, and he’s just getting here. He’s going to be very good in the future.”

The Alabama coaching staff might need to rely on Yeldon and the other backs sooner than anticipated. Lacy is recovering from a turf toe injury that kept him out for all of spring practice.

He suffered the injury in the Tide’s fourth game of the year against Arkansas but opted to play through the pain all the way through the BCS title game.

“It’s mental toughness,” Lacy said. “How much pain can you take before you have to give in?”

The junior finally had surgery in the offseason, and he’s just now getting back to 100 percent as fall camp gets underway. On the first day of practice, he was on the field, going through all the normal drills, and coach Nick Saban was pleased with his progress.

“He did everything the first day,” Saban said. “He didn’t have any issues or problems. He worked through the summer, worked through the rehab and worked his way up to what everybody else was doing in the summer conditioning program.

“He hasn’t done a lot of cutting, and that will be sort of what will be the next test. But he took every rep that he was supposed to take in practice and didn’t seem to have an issue.”

Lacy expects to be ready for the season opener against Michigan in Cowboys Stadium, where he will presumably get his first start at Alabama and the chance he’s been waiting for.