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August 6, 2012Eddie Lacy is a tough man to bring down, a strong running back with enough agility to execute college football's best (and most surprising) spin move.
So it is surprising something as small as a toe could keep him sidelined for eight months, waiting, watching and rehabbing from surgery after a painful case of turf toe.
"It was a little frustration," Lacy admitted Sunday in an interview at the University of Alabama's annual open practice. "I just had to watch and get mental reps. I am fine now."
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban echoes that prognosis, saying Lacy can once again "do everything," although he is being brought along slowly in practice, doing no full-speed cutting and, at least in Sunday's practice, wearing the no-contact black jersey for part of the workout.
If the injury is gone for good, Lacy could double last year's 95 carries (for almost 700 yards, the Southeastern Conference's best per-carry average) this season and post statistics in keeping with Alabama's last two feature backs, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.
There will almost certainly be some sharing of duties because Alabama's backfield depth, with Dee Hart, Jalston Fowler and A-Day MVP T.J. Yeldon, is substantial. Part of the attraction of Lacy, though, is the intrigue of precisely how high his upside really is.
"I don't think about that," he says. "We are a team. I want to carry the ball, but I want us to win. So my job is to make sure everybody stays positive and nobody lets down.
"I think we can have a great offense. We have a good quarterback and a good offensive line. We all just need to do our jobs."
There are other offensive questions that only the season will answer. Alabama will not make sweeping offensive changes, but as quarterback AJ McCarron matures and a young receiving unit gains experience, the Crimson Tide may be less tethered to the ground than it has been in recent seasons. Lacy fits into that type of attack as well, as he has shown flashes of being a good receiver. He has also fumbled a few times in his career but says that ball security "will not be a problem" in the upcoming year.
Lacy also has a sense of his place in the Crimson Tide running back legacy, noting that Richardson, now with the Cleveland Browns, still "calls me and coaches me," while he tries to pass his own experience to the younger backs, including Yeldon, who, Lacy says, "already looks like he has been here for two years."
There is an element of waiting one's turn at Alabama. Lacy has done that. Now he just has to hope that neither a sore toe nor a long layoff can keep his turn from coming.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.