TUSCALOOSA | To the fans, Eddie Lacy is a dreadlocked blur, spinning past defenders into the secondary. To his teammates, he's affectionately known as "Circle Button." To University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, he's a weapon.
A mix of power and speed, Lacy is more than just a complementary back. His speed makes him the perfect change of pace to Trent Richardson's brute style, but the 6-foot, 220-pounder isn't afraid to dip his broad shoulders and lower the boom himself as he did on more than one occasion Saturday afternoon as he totaled 134 yards of total offense and one touchdown.
Two first-quarter plays encapsulated what Lacy brings to the table.
On Alabama's second possession, Lacy caught a screen pass from AJ McCarron, patiently waited for his offensive linemen to carve a trail through the defense and raced 48 yards down the field to help Alabama take a quick 14-0 lead.
Two possessions later, he took a handoff and raced up the middle for a 20-yard gain. It wouldn't be a signature Lacy run without his perfected spin move, which he used twice during the run to gallop into the Kent State secondary.
"Yeah, I did a few spin moves out there today," Lacy said after the game with a sheepish smile.
It's that spin move that earned him the nickname "Circle Button" from his teammates, a reference to the circle button on a Sony Playstation controller.
"His spin move is so powerful," sophomore linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "You wouldn't expect his spin move to be pretty powerful, because you'd think it would be elusive, but he breaks most of the tackles off of it. We have a whole spin-tackle drill for the linebackers just for that."
Lacy finished with eight carries for 58 yards and a touchdown, adding three catches for 76 yards.
The sophomore from Geismar, La., gave fans a glimpse of what was to come last season as he patiently waited his turn behind Mark Ingram and Richardson.
He rushed for a career-high 111 yards in the season opener against San Jose State and finished the season with 406 yards on 56 carries (7.3 yards per carry) in 12 games. But it was his 62-yard touchdown run in the blowout Capital One Bowl win against Michigan State that fans likely remember the most. As Alabama was trying to run out the clock to mitigate a lopsided game, Lacy took a handoff up the middle and went untouched to the end zone, almost turning around twice to look for defenders.
He redshirted in 2009 during the Crimson Tide's BCS national title run, and even as just a practice player, he made a name for himself as word-of-mouth reports of his exploits surfaced throughout the season.
He doesn't have to wait anymore, teaming with Richardson to shoulder the majority of the carries this season. The team is counting on him.
"Eddie's a fast guy, he's an explosive guy, he's got good size," Saban said. "I think he really understands the offense and has a lot more confidence. I think he kind of showed that last year in the bowl game. We've always felt Eddie was very capable. When he first came here, he had a little issue with ball security. That's gotten a lot better. We feel like he should be one of our very, very good players. He's had a really good fall camp, and I thought he played extremely well today and took advantage of the opportunities that he had."
Reach Aaron Suttles at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.