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October 7, 2011

UA junior beginning to make his move

TUSCALOOSA | It took a career-best performance on the road against a ranked team to do it, but consider the wheels on Trent Richardson's Heisman Trophy candidacy officially greased.

The University of Alabama junior's chances at the coveted award got a boost last weekend from a 29-carry, 181-yard romp through the Swamp in Gainesville, Fla. And while Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck continues to be the national favorite for the honor, Richardson is quickly gaining the necessary attention to position himself for more votes.

Richardson ranks ninth in the nation in yards per game at 124.4, and among the eight rushers ahead of him in yardage, none have as many rushing touchdowns (10).

UA center William Vlachos said Richardson possesses much of the same intangible qualities -- and the ability to ignore the Heisman hype -- as former UA rusher and Heisman winner Mark Ingram.

"Time will tell, but the way I see him working every day in practice is like he's the fourth-team tailback and he's got something to prove with a chip on his shoulder," said Vlachos, who blocked for Ingram's winning campaign in 2009. "He continues to practice hard and work hard."

One vote Richardson figures to have a strong shot at is Ingram's. As a former winner, Ingram has a vote himself.

"I probably have a good chance at his vote," Richardson said with a laugh. "I'm like his little brother, so I might have an advantage."

Like Richardson, Ingram's candidacy in 2009 also began to gather momentum in midseason with a big performance, with Ingram's coming against South Carolina.

Richardson, for his part, is focused on the season only.

"I try not to buy into it, man. I try to stay focused and just take one day at a time," Richardson said. "And make sure I'm doing everything I can to get better."

Oddsmakers have taken notice. A 12-1 longshot at most Las Vegas sports books to win the Heisman just a week ago, Richardson's odds have drastically changed in the wake of his performance against the Gators. One online oddsmaker, sbgglobal.com, installs Richardson at just 6-1 this week. The only candidates with better odds than that are four quarterbacks: Luck (3-1), Wisconsin's Russell Wilson (3-1), Michigan's Denard Robinson (5-1) and Oklahoma's Landry Jones (5-1).

Richardson passed running backs Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina and LaMichael James of Oregon on the odds board.

Stiffarmtrophy.com, which brings more science to Heisman prognostications than betting odds, also gave Richardson a jump. The site polls real Heisman voters for the top candidates, and ranks the results. Stiffarmtrophy.com listed Richardson eighth in the race last week; fourth this week.

"When you have good games, obviously, more people will pay attention and more people will support him in the Heisman race," said Stiffarmtrophy.com's Kari Chisholm.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.


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