TUSCALOOSA | Eight games in, and Eddie Lacy is feeling fine.
Four more to go, and T.J. Yeldon, if how he ran Saturday against Mississippi State is any indication, is healthy for the stretch run as well.
University of Alabama coach Nick Saban has been feeding almost all of the team's rushing load to two running backs ever since he took the job at UA. And in November, when the cumulative grind of Southeastern Conference play begins to take its toughest toll on players, the Crimson Tide's running backs remain fresh.
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"We've always had two backs. It's sort of a philosophical thing that we like to have two backs," Saban said. "We think durability is such a critical factor in running backs, that if you play one guy all the time, it enhances his chances of maybe not being able to continue to play at the same level. it's always been our goal to play two guys. Not always equally, but fairly equally to where both guys have a better chance to sustain the season at a high level and are productive throughout."
Yeldon leads the team in rushing with 649 yards on the season, but Lacy is right behind with 596. Lacy has carried the ball 109 times, and Yeldon is not far behind at 93. Both have seven rushing touchdowns.
"It doesn't feel like the ninth game (approaching) at all. Our rotation has been great, we have our legs under us and we're ready," Lacy said.
Yeldon, under team policy prohibiting freshmen from media interviews, was unavailable for comment.
Saban established the sharing mentality in the UA offensive backfield right from his first season in 2007, when running backs Terry Grant and Glen Coffee split 309 rushes, Grant with 180 and Coffee with 129. Almost every year since, Alabama's backfield tandem has had one elder and one newcomer. In 2008, it was Coffee and freshman Mark Ingram. For the following two years, it was Ingram and Trent Richardson. Last year, Richardson led the way with support from Lacy, and this year Lacy has shared with the freshman Yeldon.
"Eddie's done a really good job for us, T.J.'s done a really good job for us," Saban added. "The combination of the two is probably most effective for us."
Alabama ranks 22nd nationally in rushing at 214.4 yards per game. Lacy said saving the physical mileage that comes with his position could be a positive for his potential future as a pro player as well.
"I think of it future wise," he said. "A lot of running backs want to get the ball 20-30 times a game, but at the same time it wears your body down, and you don't really know how long your body will last."
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