Players say running game will improve
TUSCALOOSA | Those involved in the University of Alabama's running game already know. They don't have to be reminded.
"We're going to get better," junior running back Eddie Lacy said. "Yeah, we're going to get better."
It's not that the Crimson Tide's ground game is bad, exactly. It's just that through five games, UA hasn't been as dominant on the ground as the Alabama teams that won national championships twice in the previous three years.
Alabama averaged 214.5 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry on the way to last year's national title. The 2009 national championship team averaged 215.1 yards on the ground and 5 yards per carry.
This year's numbers are more like what Alabama did in 2010, a 10-win season that was considered a down year. The Crimson Tide averaged 182.9 rushing yards and 5.1 yards per carry two years ago. Through five games, UA is averaging 188.2 yards per game and 4.7 yards per attempt. Alabama has run for 225 yards or more in three games but been held to 125 or less twice.
"There's a lot of technical things that go into it, but just because we don't have a good game every week doesn't mean we have to get down about it," Lacy said. "We just have to go out, prepare and come out every weekend and do the best we can do to help the team out."
The running backs aren't the only ones involved in the ground game. The offensive line, too, expects better production on the ground. With Alabama playing this weekend at Missouri, which ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing defense (107.5 yards per game allowed), that rushing game will be tested.
"I'm not satisfied with it at all," guard Chance Warmack said. "My teammates tell me and I tell my teammates that we need to do better, and we need to just show that instead of saying it."
Lacy, who has averaged less than 13 carries per game so far, leads Alabama with a 62.8-yard average. With bruiser Jalston Fowler lost for the season to a knee injury sustained in the Western Kentucky game and Dee Hart out the season after his own knee injury against Ole Miss two weeks ago, Lacy may be asked to carry a bigger load.
"If necessary I can do it, but the way the coaches do it they probably have a good rotation for us," Lacy said.
That rotation will include two freshman backups, T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, who have combined to average more than 80 yards per game. Brent Calloway moved over to running back from his H-back position in practice this week, and coach Nick Saban mentioned backup quarterback Blake Sims as another possible candidate to provide depth.
"It's a position they've already played before, so they know what to expect coming into it if that's what they have to do," Lacy said.
Lacy follows Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and All-American Trent Richardson as Alabama's lead back. He wants to keep up the tradition.
"Every guy who comes in knows there is a standard in that room," Lacy said. "We run the ball a lot here, so you have to have a certain attitude. I wouldn't say I'm taking on a leadership role, but at the same time I have to make sure everyone is focused and lives up to the standard."
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