TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama sustained a number of bumps and bruises last week, but none loomed larger than running back Eddie Lacy's.
The presumed starter at tailback sprained his knee and ankle during Saturday's scrimmage and is day-to-day, according to coach Nick Saban.
While the injury could prove to be minor, it is being taken seriously. The junior from Louisiana played for most of last season with turf toe that required surgery during the offseason. He missed all of spring practice and had been working himself back to 100 percent during fall camp.
The hope is that the sprain isn't symptomatic, but it has prompted questions about the Crimson Tide's depth at tailback.
Junior Jalston Fowler is the only returning player with experience running the football. He carried the ball 56 times for 694 yards and four touchdowns last season. Behind him are freshmen tailbacks Dee Hart, T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. Yeldon, a four-star recruit in the 2012 class, stole the show at Alabama's spring scrimmage, amassing more than 100 total yards on offense.
Saban said he'll rely on all of them to carry the load.
"Dee Hart’s had a good fall camp and he’s right in the mix with all the rest of the guys," Saban said. "So is Kenyan Drake. I think all those guys are probably going to play this year and all of them are going to have a significant role. But Jalston Fowler’s going to play and run the ball, too, whether he plays H-back or not -- especially if Eddie Lacy’s not able to be 100 percent by the game, which I think would be a surprise to me if he’s not going to be OK by the weekend."
Fowler said he's confident with all of the running backs. He said Yeldon is a "kid that can do everything. I mean everything: catch, run, he's physical -- everything."
"[Drake] has lots of energy," Fowler said. "Kid never stops. Like, never."
"[Hart] has got speed. He can hide between the holes. He's so small, you can't really tell where he's at."
That's something Fowler, at 6-foot-1 and 242 pounds, is unfamiliar with.
"You can tell where I'm at," Fowler said, prompting laughter from the media. "I can't hide."
Getting better all around
Saban made one thing clear: Camp is over but the work is not done.
Alabama's pre-season camp officially ended after Saturday's scrimmage. Classes begin tomorrow and the race to Michigan is shortly after that.
"We want to improve fundamentally," Saban said. "We've made a list of things that we need to improve on in every area of our team that we're going to spend time working on this week to try to improve. I think every player has got to focus on what he needs to do to improve individually, and then as coaches we have to improve those guys fundamentally as well as get the units to play a little bit better and improve the quality of performance from a big picture standpoint."
Facing the Wolverines is just the first frame of the Crimson Tide's season. On Tuesday, Saban outlined how they'll begin preparation for Michigan.
"There's a lot that we have to work on this week," Saban said. "We work on our first three opponents in no certain order and then sometime later in the week we'll start working more on our first opponent.
"This is the way we’ve done it for a long time. I think you can practice too long for one particular game. It may be the most important game that you ever play. Even when we played the national championship game, we only practiced so many days for that game. … I think it’s really critical -- and I think this has helped us in the past -- that we spend time working on other opponents now. Because when we play them that week, we’re not starting from square one. We’ve got a little background in what we’re doing. The players kind of know what to expect.
"We’re going to play three completely different styles of offense in the first three games -- and that’s not counting what we’re going to see the rest of the year."
"We'll just see how that goes," he said. "It's not an exact science."