Alabama arsenal still full of big guns
Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 5:30 pm
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama found the best way to make sure Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson had enough chances to carry the ball in the spring game was to split them up.
The impressive tailback tandem each turned in big plays for opposing sides in the Crimson Tide’s spring game on Saturday. When Richardson wasn’t catching a 28-yard touchdown pass, Ingram was racing 60 yards to set up a score. They pretty much picked up where they left off in rushing for 100-plus yards apiece in the national championship game win over Texas.
They also gave the 91,312 Tide fans — and a national television audience — a glimpse of what could be a regular sight next season. Ingram and Richardson both played most of the game, and that’s OK with the Heisman Trophy winner.
“I’m not selfish,” Ingram said. “He needs the ball. He’s a playmaker and he’s explosive. Whatever helps this team win, that’s all that matters to me.”
In this case, Richardson’s White squad beat Ingram’s Crimson team, 23-17. The squads were split up with the first-team offense (Crimson) against the first-team defense and backups against backups.
No. 2 quarterback A.J. McCarron hit Brandon Gibson for a 39-yard touchdown on the final play — part II. Coach Nick Saban opted to let the White team keep going after time had run out on an incompletion a play earlier. The touchdown came on the next play.
“We were just going to keep playing,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be overtime, it was going to be sudden death. Everybody was going to go for it on fourth down.”
There was something on the line, too. The winner, as usual, gets a steak dinner while the losers eat franks and beans.
Ingram rushed for 90 yards and caught four passes for 31 more. Richardson had three catches for 63 yards, including a 27-yarder right before his touchdown catch.
He also ran for 22 yards in a game that mostly utilized the passing game with Greg McElroy sharing time with three backups.
Alabama has averaged more than 85,000 fans in four spring games under Saban. The coach found one thing especially to like about the outing besides the near-capacity crowd.
“We didn’t get anybody injured, which is always the most important thing,” Saban said. “You really can’t lose a spring game unless you lose players.”
McElroy went 12 of 22 for 142 yards with a touchdown and an interception. McCarron completed 12 of his 28 passes for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Gibson spent time in a depleted secondary as well as receiver during the spring, but had eight catches for 142 yards in the game.
Star receiver Julio Jones had a quiet day. He made three catches for 15 yards and had a couple of drops.
“We’ve got a bunch of players that are stepping up and making plays,” McElroy said. “That’s what’s encouraging. I trust one of the other receivers as much as I trust Julio in a third-down-and-long situation to make a big play.”
If A-Day laid bare one potential weakness, it’s special teams. Alabama must replace punter P.J. Fitzgerald and All-America placekicker Leigh Tiffin. Saban said the best punter on the roster before the freshmen report is offensive lineman Taylor Pharr, who was out with a concussion. Kickers Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster both made 1 of 2 field goals.
The defense only returns two starters, safety Mark Barron and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower returned for spring from knee surgery that sidelined him for most of last season.
“There’s still questions, but there’s a tremendous amount of progress that’s been made,” Saban said.
Added defensive end Marcell Dareus: “I think our defense is really catching a groove. We’ve come a long way.”
Saban is not buying into talk that Alabama would be the favorite to win the national title next season as well. That buzz started shortly after the Tide wrapped up its latest crown.
“We’re not worried about last year’s team,” Ingram said. “We won a championship, SEC and national, but that’s in the history books. It’ll be there forever. This year, we’re focused on our team. We can’t live in the past, because we’re going to be judged on the future.
“Us winning last year isn’t going to help us win against San Jose State or Penn State or Florida or any other team next year.”
Spoken like a true Saban disciple. The coach said any preseason No. 1 ranking would stem mostly from what the Tide did last season. That doesn’t mean he’s not optimistic about 2010.
“If I was voting, I wouldn’t vote it,” Saban said. “I would think that there’s somebody with more players coming back that had a successful season. Do I like our team? I love our team. Do I like our players? I love our players. Do I think we can develop into a good team? Absolutely. But I’m not a big poll guy.”