In the Alabama Crimson Tide’s annual A-Day game Saturday, freshman running back T.J. Yeldon proved Alabama still has some talent in the backfield after the departure of Trent Richardson.
In front of a crowd of 78,562 fans, Yeldon helped the White team defeat the Crimson team 24-15 by leading all running backs with 88 rushing yards. He made numerous big runs and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Yeldon showed some catching ability as well, hauling in a game-high 91 receiving yards and a touchdown. For his performance, Yeldon was awarded with Dixie Howell Most Valuable Player of the Game award.
Head coach Nick Saban was pleased with Yeldon’s performance in the game.
“He was the difference in the game for his team,” Saban said, “and made a lot of good plays, and had a lot of production. I think that’s important for us because we needed somebody like that.”
Saban also said Yeldon will have a good chance to make an impact next year as a freshman.
“Him and Amari Cooper have probably been the two freshmen that have really shown that they have ability and can make plays and could be contributors,” Saban said. “But again, it’s their maturity and how they can manage the role that they’re in. So, we’re looking for [Yeldon] to continue to mature and have a pretty significant role in helping our offense next year.”
One of the things Saban said makes Yeldon such a valuable runner for Alabama is his athleticism. Apart from Eddie Lacy, Yeldon is probably the most versatile back on this team. Where fellow running backs Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler have more narrow running styles, Yeldon’s versatility allows him to get yards a number of ways.
“[Fowler] can do certain things, and Dee Hart can do certain things,” Saban said. “And T.J.’s kind of one of those guys that can do everything. He’s a good runner, he’s got some power, he’s got some speed, he’s a really good receiver.”
Yeldon was able to display that versatility throughout the game, but used one play in particular to showcase his overall athleticism. Yeldon came out of the backfield and caught a pass from sophomore Phillip Sims. Turning around, Yeldon was met with junior college transfer Travell Dixon. Yeldon lowered his shoulder on Dixon, broke away from the would-be tackle, and then used his speed to race past the remaining defenders into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown reception, eliciting a huge roar from the crowd.
Yeldon’s performance did not go unnoticed by his teammates, either. Junior wide receiver Kenny Bell said he was impressed with Yeldon’s performance.
“T.J. really stepped up today,” Bell said. “He really showed what he can do, to be a freshman running back.”