Alabama has put several running backs into the NFL since Nick Saban was named the head coach in 2007. Of those running backs, there have been two selected in the first-round, three selected in the second-round and two selected in the third-round.
There is no denying that the running back position has been Alabama’s most consistently productive unit since 2007. Mark Ingram was fantastic during his Heisman trophy season back in 2009, and Eddie Lacy has emerged as the most productive NFL running back to come out of Alabama in recent memory despite falling to the second-round of the 2013 draft.
There was Glen Coffee -- labeled as Saban’s “original running back” because he was the incumbent when Saban arrived -- who was drafted in the third-round by the San Francisco 49ers but retired early because he wanted to serve his country.
There are the younger guys like Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon who haven’t had much time to prove themselves yet, but have impressed during limited time with their respective AFC South teams. You could also throw Kenyan Drake into that mix as well. Unfortunately, he has continued his trend of unfortunate health since being drafted by the Dolphins this past April.
Who does that leave? Well, that leaves the most talented running back to ever play under Nick Saban: Trent Richardson.
Yes, Trent was a bust in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns took him with the third-overall pick in the 2012 draft, and then proceeded to trade him to the Indianapolis Colts just one year later. For Richardson, that trade really bothered him. He had made a home in Cleveland, and he couldn’t figure out why the Browns were so willing to discard him after one year. His psyche was affected, as was his confidence.
Before all that, Richardson was making SEC defenders look silly during his three-year career at Alabama. Over the course of his three seasons, Richardson put up 3,130 rushing yards, 35 rushing touchdowns, 730 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 38 career games.
His best season came as a junior in 2011 after Mark Ingram had departed for the NFL. During that season, Richardson put up 1,679 rushing yards, 21 rushing touchdowns, 338 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns in 13 games. He had broke Ingram’s record for most rushing yards in a single season -- a record that earned Ingram the Heisman trophy in 2009 -- and he did it while helping lead Alabama to its second national title under Saban.
The talent was off the charts. At 5’9 228, Richardson was a compact running back that displayed a rare combination of power, strength, balance and explosion. He was a “can’t miss” prospect, and several teams were interested in Richardson’s services.
As we all know, Richardson ended up in Cleveland where he put up 950 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie. Despite only averaging 3.6 yards per carry, Richardson had shown some of the skill set that had made him such a desirable commodity coming out of Alabama. Clearly, that wasn’t enough.
Richardson only made it two games into his sophomore campaign in Cleveland before they shipped him off to Indianapolis. At the time, it seemed like the perfect fit. The Colts had a young, up-and-coming quarterback by the name of Andrew Luck who would prevent defenses from stacking the box against Richardson and the run game. It didn’t quite work out that way.
Through two seasons with the Colts, Richardson only managed to rush for 977 yards and six touchdowns. The more telling statistic to summarize his time there was the 3.09 yards per carry average, and after only two seasons with the team, he was cut.
There have been short stints with the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens, but it seems like Richardson’s career could be coming to an end. He has struggled with weight gain and his lack of vision has been on full display since he entered the league. One of Alabama’s all-time great running backs might see a very unfortunate ending to his NFL career.
As an Alabama fan, it’s tough to write anything negative about one of my all-time favorite players. His fall from glory was both ruthless and quick, but I still appreciate everything that Richardson was able to do for Alabama’s program. Nowadays, Richardson is known for that one stretch play as an Oakland Raider where people say he missed an open cut-back lane.
For me, he will always be remembered for this:
What do you guys think? Is Trent Richardson the best Alabama running back of all-time?