Alabama’s running back factory has churned out another NFL draft pick in Eddie Lacy.
Friday, the junior announced his intentions to forgo his senior season and enter this year's NFL draft. He becomes the fourth Alabama running back leave early since 2008 when Glen Coffee made that decision. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson followed suit when they had the same opportunity. If Lacy is the first running back off the board this April, it will be the third year in a row that that player has been from Alabama.
Lacy had been in pain all year and told reporters this week that he only felt 100 percent for one game this season—Monday’s BCS National Championship game where Alabama beat Notre Dame 42-14. Lacy had 22 touches for 157 yards and two touchdowns, threw in his signature spin move on one of his scores and even stiff-armed Fighting Irish safety Danny Spond on one play that blew up Twitter.
All season, Lacy was nursing his surgically repaired foot (he had turf toe last spring), a banged up knee and a stiff ankle. But he played through the pain and finished the year with 1,322 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.
Though it was a hard decision to make, Lacy is finally healthy and feels it’s time to move on to the next level.
“We get hit a lot,” Lacy said of the nature of being a running back. “We have to pretty much go when you can. It’s all about the position you put yourself in at the end of the season. If you’re able to go, you should leave. If you have to come back and play another year, that’s not a bad decision, either.”
Lacy is projected as a second- or third-round pick and several boards have him as the No. 1 or No. 2 running back in the draft. Usually, Alabama head coach Nick Saban does not approve of his players leaving early if they aren’t a guaranteed first-round pick, but Lacy is a different story.
“There’s two ways to look at it,” Saban said. “You can come back and say, ‘I’m going to prove that I can be durable by having a great season and playing 12-13-14 games without ever having an issue or problem and that may enhance my draft status.’
“Or you can say, ‘I have certainly had durability issues to some degree but I’ve also been a very, very, very productive player in my career here and I only have so many years I can play. So maybe at my position, where durability is such a factor, it might be more beneficial for me being a really solid high draft pick to go ahead and do what I’m doing.’”
The fact that Saban was so keen on splitting the carries between his two star backs was key in preserving Lacy throughout the season. In the national title game, Lacy had 20 carries and T.J. Yeldon had 21, and that’s how it was divided most of the year.
“That’s one of the best ways as a running back to handle that position,” Lacy said. “It helps you as far as recovery and lasting long during the season because you don’t take as many hits.
“Splitting carries is much better than being one back and taking all those hits week in and week out.”
Alabama’s offense will miss Lacy, but it won’t be hindered by his departure. Yeldon, who ran for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman, is poised to take on the starting role in 2013. Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler, who were sidelined this season with knee injuries, will be ready to roll. Then add in Derrick Henry, a 6-foot-3, 243-pound five-star running back who broke a 59-year-old rushing record of 11,232 yards this season by racking up 11,610 at Yulee (Fla.) and is already enrolled at Alabama, and maybe four-star prospect Altee Tenpenny if he keeps his commitment to the Tide, and Bama’s backfield will be dangerous once again. Like it always is.
For more Alabama coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!