published Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Bama's Eddie Lacy focused

The sophomore running back looks to avoid costly turnovers as he takes on a bigger role for the Crimson Tide.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Hold it high. Keep it tight.

The words mean quite a bit to Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. Losing another fumble isn't an option this year after dropping a few as a redshirt freshman last fall.

His role in the Crimson Tide offense is simply too important, he said.

Stepping into the No. 2 job behind Trent Richardson, the bulky back from Geismar, La., will see much more meaningful playing time as a sophomore with limited depth behind him. Only sophomore Jalston Fowler has collegiate playing time besides Richardson and Lacy. So he's focusing on holding the ball higher and tighter in the first week of preseason practices considering the momentary lapses last season.

"I got a little down on myself. Fumbles happen; it's football," he said. "All you can do is think forward. You don't keep thinking about what you've done in the past. You have to move on. You've got to keep going."

Neither of the two turnovers cost Alabama a win, but both were lost in troubling situations. The first came in the 2010 opener when the ball was punched loose as Lacy looked to punch it in from the 2-yard line against San Jose State. Two weeks later at Duke, Lacy was five yards from the end zone when he lost the ball and a potential fourth-quarter touchdown.

Lacy's first season of action at Alabama was still far from a disaster. Playing mostly late in lopsided wins, he ran for 406 yards on 56 carries to average 7.2 yards an attempt. His 111 yards against San Jose State led the team as did his 86-yard day against Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl.

Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain sees the greatest improvement in Lacy's preparation

"The game of football for Eddie, at some times, wasn't the most important thing, and it has really become that [the most important thing] to him," McElwain said. "What he did last spring and through the offseason is fantastic."

At 6-feet, 220 pounds, Lacy brings a frame similar to Richardson (5-11, 224 pounds). The similarities continue with the bruising, contact-seeking running style that became Richardson's calling card in his two Alabama seasons.

Alabama safety Will Lowery certainly isn't looking to engage Lacy if he doesn't have to.

"He's very big, but up top, he's got a real big upper body," Lowery said. "He doesn't look as if he might be shifty when you're looking at him, but when it's on the field, he's extremely shifty, and it's tough to get a hold of him and bring him down. I think that he is really a quality runner, and he really can catch the ball. I think that you guys might have seen some of that in the spring as well."

He differs from Richardson with a spin move that he's pulled out of the hat a few times in competition. Teammates call him "Circle Button," since that triggers a spin move on PlayStations' football video games.

"It's just natural instincts," Lacy said. "I've been able to do it good over the years and I continue to do it. It just got better."

Having a bigger job on this year's team brings extra attention to all aspects of Lacy's life. That includes the weight room. Word spread quickly after he strained a pectoral bench pressing over the summer.

He wears a harness in practice to keep it from aggravation, but Lacy is still amazed how much Internet attention was focused on his chest.

"I don't even know how it got out so fast," he said. "I was in the weight room and then the next thing I know, it was all over the media and stuff. But it was just a little strain."

Such is life, Lacy is learning, in the spotlight at Alabama.

The turnover thing is another lesson learned and a focus in practice.

"I just make sure I have the ball high and tight at all times," he said.

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