Camp start: Aug. 5
Opener: Sept. 3 against Kent State at Bryant-Denny Stadium (12:21 p.m. EDT, SEC Network)
Fun fact: Alabama is the first team in SEC history to win 36 games in three years, but the Crimson Tide must win 13 this season to top Florida’s four-year mark of 48 from 2006 to ’09.
Alabama junior tailback Trent Richardson’s daughters are now ages 4 and 3, so they can do a lot more these days than just yell “Roll Tide!”
They will be at most of the 5-foot-11, 224-pounder’s games this season dressed in matching No. 3 jerseys, and when they are not in attendance, they will be watching on television. Watching and critiquing.
“Those little girls are so smart,” Richardson said with bright eyes and a big smile Friday at the Southeastern Conference’s media days. “They will tell me, ‘You fumbled the ball,’ or ‘You scored a touchdown today.’ They know everything.”
So which is worse, hearing about a fumble from a precious daughter or intense Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban?
“It’s kind of cute when you hear it from your daughters,” he said.
After teaming his first two seasons with Mark Ingram in college football’s most imposing rushing duo, Richardson is not only Alabama’s clear-cut tailback entering the 2011 season but the clear-cut offensive threat as well. Gone are Ingram, quarterback Greg McElroy and receiver Julio Jones, so the spotlight is now on Richardson, who rushed for 700 yards last season and averaged 6.2 yards per carry.
Richardson started the first two games last season when Ingram was injured and rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.
“Trent probably played his best football of the season when he was in that sort of ‘A-back’ role, being the guy,” Saban said. “He’s a very capable, very talented guy who has a great attitude and is a good person. He’s got a 3.3 grade point average and could be up for Academic All-American.
“I don’t have any issue or problem with Trent’s ability to play with consistency and be successful.”
Alabama is coming off a 10-3 season in which the Tide were favored every week but got upset by South Carolina, LSU and Auburn. They capped their season with the most dominating performance in all the bowls, routing Big Ten co-champion Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.
Richardson rushed for 144 yards against Penn State early last season and had 109 yards as a freshman in the win over Texas that clinched Alabama’s 2009 BCS championship. He had 266 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns a year ago, and he averaged 26.4 yards on kickoff returns and had a 91-yard return for a score at Duke.
His all-around numbers last year would have been even better had he not sprained his knee on a touchdown reception early in the second quarter at LSU. He missed the next two games against Mississippi State and Georgia State and was not a factor in his return against Auburn.
Though he split carries with Ingram, Richardson insists he was always learning from the ’09 Heisman Trophy winner on how to never get complacent, never let one person bring you down and always be humble. Perhaps Ingram’s ability to stay humble explains why Richardson never did feel like the backup.
“People always said that Mark was the guy, but we always thought we had a pretty good rotation going,” Richardson said. “People say it will be different for me this year, but I don’t think it will.”
That Saban has yet to decide on a quarterback between AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims is hardly of concern to Richardson, who is helping raise Taliyah and Elevera without paternal guidance of his own. Richardson’s father died when he was a rising star at Pensacola’s Escambia High, a program made famous by former Florida and Dallas Cowboys tailback Emmitt Smith.
Then came this April and the devastation Tuscaloosa sustained from a series of tornados, which has given Richardson even more meaningful motivation.
“You’ve got folks out there who lost everything, and these are people who were born and raised on Alabama football,” he said. “We want to bring joy back to our community, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...