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Alabama Football: RB T.J. Yeldon's Demise Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon is severely underappreciated. Many at The Capstone are in favor of lessening his role in favor of phenom Derrick Henry. Roll 'Bama Roll's Murf Baldwin hits the film room to show why Yeldon is still king.

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As a society, why are we so quick to dismiss what's proven for the latest, "greatest," phenomenon? As it pertains to fans of Alabama Crimson Tide football, superstar tailback T.J. Yeldon is being cast aside as yesterday's news in favor of sophomore phenom Derrick Henry.

Don't get me wrong; Henry deserves the amount of attention he's receiving.

But one must ask oneself the question: Will Henry really accomplish anything that Yeldon hasn't already? This whole situation is very reminiscent of how former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was treated his final season in Tuscaloosa -- with the younger star Trent Richardson playing the role of Henry.

Once again, no knock on Henry, but 382 yards (and four touchdowns) pales in comparison to what Yeldon has racked up thus far in his brief career.

Despite the presence of former star Eddie Lacy (his freshman season), Henry and the very underrated Kenyan Drake, Yeldon has still somehow managed to become the first back to go over 1,000 yards each season to start his career -- with 1,235 yards (14 TDs) and 1,108 (12 TDs), respectively.

Did you get that?

Not Ingram, Richardson, Lacy, Henry nor Drake managed to do that. But if you take the pulse of the fan base you would think that Yeldon is the average run-of-the-mill J.A.G. (just another guy), instead of a college star with designs on being the same in the professional ranks.

Even media types have gotten into the act. Henry's fall prognostication undoubtedly grew with his exceptional performance in Bama's loss to Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. His eight-carry, 100-yard performance (with another 61-yard TD catch-and-run) showed a ton of speed and agility -- especially for a back his size (6'3", 238 lbs).

As impressive as that was, Yeldon's performance (25 carries for 153 yards with one TD) against the University of Georgia (in 2012) -- to help send the Tide to the BCS Championship Game  -- was just as impressive.

While others may point to Lacy's monster performance in the same tilt (20 attempts for 181 yards with two TDs), Yeldon's achievement need not be glossed over.

Yeldon, too, has fantastic size (6'2", 220 lbs) for his skill set that may be unparallelled.

In fact, can you really name a game where Yeldon has ultimately come up small? He has consistently delivered some of his best games against the staunchest of competition. Supporters will admit that Yeldon has to corral his fumbling issue (five last season), but the same could've been said for Richardson -- who fumbled four times as a sophomore.

Besides, his skill set is much too vast to harp on the negative.

Play-Making Ability


This sequence emphatically embodies what Yeldon is about. He takes the inside zone and immediately makes the first defender miss. That's the mark of a special back: anticipation, vision, agility and speed. Notice how he's able to chain moves together as well.

Even though he's 220 pounds, he has a knack for disallowing punishing shots. This is an underrated aspect in backs these days. Yeah it looks great to always try to run defenders over, but eventually the contact will catch up in the form of injuries.

Yeldon possesses the ability to generate explosive plays where other backs would be "D.O.A." He is listed as having 4.4 40-yard dash speed, but it's his agility that separates him from other big backs.


Here's a run from that aforementioned game against Georgia. His change-of-directions skills are none more apparent than here. Once he sticks that foot in ground his lateral quickness can turn any ankle into sawdust.

And while he's not lauded for being a physical runner per se, when the situation calls for it he can lower his pad-level and drive through would-be defenders. Getting out of an Alec Ogletree (currently of the St. Louis Rams) tackle is nothing to sneeze at.

Pass Protection

Let's be real here; great running backs must possess the ability to protect the passer. Being a three-down back is what separates the good from the great. Today's defenses do a masterful job at disguising how it deploys its blitzers in the manufactured-pressure packages. Backs must be able to quickly decipher their keys and deliver blows to much larger athletes.

You won't find another back better than Yeldon in this underrated aspect of football.


In this zone blitz from the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the Tide's slide protection takes care of the right side of the formation, but it reveals a free-rusher coming from the opposite side. Yeldon's initial responsibility was to eye the "Mike," who may have come on the outside of the overload blitz. Once he dropped back, Yeldon had to readjust and cross the formation.

He gets his entire body across the edge-rusher -- which seals him off. Blocking is about angles as much as it's about physicality. Bama running backs coach Burton Burns has done a quality job of helping Yeldon maximize his potential in pass protection.

Screen-Game Prowess

Three-down backs also must possess the ability to be an outlet for the QB. Teams like the New Orleans Saints use their screen game as an extension of the run. Some say it is their run game.

Usually it's the backs that understand "pass pro" that excel in the screen game. There are a few characteristics that aid in the process: the ability to sell the block, innate timing for the leak out and, of course, soft hands.


Supporters of the Crimson and White can't possibly forget this play. Yeldon's screen-game prowess came into play when the Tide needed it the most -- against the heated rival LSU Tigers. Down by three, with only 54 seconds remaining, Yeldon took this pass to paydirt.

His ability to make defenders miss in the open field is uncanny, and outside of his perceived fumbling issues, he virtually has no flaws in his game. I'm not trying to say he's Superman.


But he can fly...

Murf Baldwin covers the Alabama Crimson Tide for Roll 'Bama Roll in addition to being a staff writer for The Falcoholic. He previously covered the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints for Bleacher Report. Are you not entertained? Follow Murf on Twitter.