Saban: All injured guys should be back practicing except for Jalston Fowler who will have surgery and is most likely out for season— Tommy Deas (@tommydeas) September 10, 2012
Not a huge surprise from the looks of Fowler and the rest of the team as he was carted from the field on Saturday, but bad news nonetheless. Though Fowler was clearly the #3 running back in the rotation, there is no discounting his value as a blocker and receiver out of the backfield and it was pretty obvious we intended him to play a vital role on the offense even if it wasn't as a ball carrier. So where do we go from here?
The most obvious "beneficiary" is walk on H-back Kelly Johnson, who played far more snaps against Michigan than we expected (and even better played at a higher level than one would typically expect from a walk on in his first significant game experience). Saban noted that we have backups at every position, so don't expect to see the new I Formation wrinkles go away just because Fowler isn't there to play fullback.
As far as running back goes, this casts a bit of a shadow on the "stable" of backs that we're supposedly going to ride right to the national championship. Eddie Lacy is battling injuries himself, and trying to ascertain the extent of those injuries is a fool's errand given Saban's unwillingness to reveal even the slightest minor injury news. But the fact is Lacy is not at the point where he is going to be a 25-30 carry work horse like Trent Richardson yet. Further, Saban noted that there were questions about whether Lacy would even play against Michigan and that they were prepared to start T.J. Yeldon in his place. While Yeldon has so far looked capable of shouldering a significant load (and thankfully enrolled early so he can't realistically be viewed as a true freshman anymore), its still troubling to think we're so suddenly young in the backfield.
If there are any silver linings to this it's the opportunity for Dee Hart and Kenyan Drake to contribute more and further develop in the offense. Hart played some quality snaps against Michigan and was a little surprising in his effectiveness between the tackles considering his size, while Drake was the super stud RB recruit in this year's class before Yeldon committed. Though Drake did not enroll early like Yeldon we burned his redshirt against Michigan and it's obvious we have no problem playing him if needed.
Overall, losing Fowler isn't on the same level as losing McCarron, but it's not welcome news either. Finger crossed that the injury bug is sated for the season.