Mark Ingram has been back in the lineup for the Alabama football team for two games after missing the first two as he recovered from arthroscopic surgery. He had injured his knee on the Monday before the opening game.
Ingram has come back with a vengeance, rushing 33 times for 308 yards (9.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns, including the winning score against Arkansas in a come-from-behind win last week.
This week Ingram will lead number one ranked Bama against seventh rated Florida in the nation’s key college football game. Kickoff Saturday from Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 7 p.m. CDT with CBS televising the game. It will be Ingram’s first Tuscaloosa appearance of 2010. He played at Duke and at Arkansas.
Ingram is frequently in the wildcat formation, meaning the quarterback is out of the way and the direct snap goes to Ingram. From there, everyone knows what to expect.
And when Ingram looks across the line of scrimmage at the defense, he sees just about every available body. “They pretty much bring everybody into the box,” he said. “They know it’s coming and it’s pretty much execution. Are we going to block them the right way we know how to? If we don, then we’re going to have success on the play. If not, they are going to have success. It’s pretty much just lining up and playing football.”
Ingram said he’s fine with the wildcat and also fine with the more traditional tailback position, taking the ball from the quarterback from either the I formation or with quarterback Greg McElroy in spread formation standing beside Ingram.
“It’s similar except for the transition of the quarterback giving you the ball,” Ingram said. “The run plays are blocked the same, we read them the same. They’re really similar. There’s not much difference in taking a handoff or taking a direct snap. I like them both. It doesn’t make a difference.”
Alabama offensive guard Barrett Jones said it’s a little more complicated than it might seem. Although a play is called, no one knows where the hole might be for the back to run through. “That depends in part on what the defense gives us,” Jones said. “Fortunately, both Mark and Trent (back-up tailback Trent Richardson) have the ability to make quick decisions and quick moves.”
Ingram said he likes the pressure of being the man called on to ice the game with late runs. “I thrive on that,” said the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. “Any player should love to be in that situation.”
There’s some physicality involved in being the man everyone on the other team is trying to tackle. Ingram has a plan for that.
“Everybody says the running back is always getting hit, but I try to deliver the hit,” the 5-10, 215-pound Ingram said. “I want to make the defense not want to tackle me or I want to make them sick of tackling me by the fourth quarter. I try to punish them before they hit me.”
Ingram is reminded several times each day by classmates and fans and reporters that he won the Heisman Trophy last year. The trophy is on display in the Hall of Champions in the Moore Building, where Alabama players have meetings, practice locker room, training room, weight room, and even the media center for interviews.
“We pass it all the time going in and out of meetings,” Ingram said. “Sometimes I recognize it—notice it—and sometimes someone will joke around, say something like, ‘Hey, Mark, is that your trophy over there?’ It’s right there in the hallway, so it’s hard to miss.”
After the first two games in which he participated, Ingram’s name is back in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
“It’s an honor,” Ingram said. “But at the same time, my focus is going out every single day at practice and becoming a better player, putting myself in a situation where I could have success to help this team win games. Everything else is secondary. Everything else will take care of itself.”