Running back Eddie Lacy was expected to step right in and fill the void left by Trent Richardson’s early departure for the NFL.
But the junior battled nagging injuries dating back to the 2011 season. Whether it was turf toe that required surgery or an ankle and knee injury during spring practice, Lacy could never seem to get into a rhythm. The injuries led to Lacy entering the season in less than peak physical condition, hindering his explosiveness and ability to get in and out of his cuts.
Through three games, Lacy totaled 126 yards and found the end zone four times, slowly getting stronger with each game. Lacy broke out against Florida Atlantic, rushing for 106 yards on 15 carries. Despite his struggles, Lacy remained positive and never let on how truly hurt he was.
Offensive lineman Chance Warmack said Lacy was still limited in the game against the Razorbacks but continued to maintain his enthusiasm. He attributed Lacy’s performance in part to the new attitude the running back brought into this season.
“Eddie is an explosive guy and he is really upbeat all the time,” Warmack said. “I think it shows with how he is on the field. He is always willing to get that extra three yards. He is really driven this year and has a whole new outlook on how to play this game.”
As a freshman, Lacy had the luxury of playing behind Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram and Richardson. Ingram was the leader of the group, taking Richardson and Lacy under his wing. Richardson filled that role in 2011. Now, it’s Lacy’s turn to lead.
With the loss of Jalston Fowler to a season-ending knee injury, Lacy is the lone Tide back with experience. T.J. Yeldon, Dee Hart and Kenyan Drake are all freshman, which makes Lacy’s leadership valuable to the Tide’s young runners. Despite the immense talent, there are no egos in the Tide’s backfield.
“We’re a group and we’re like brothers,” Lacy said. “Whenever our number is called, we’ll get in and do what we need to do.”
In the first four games of the season, he has rushed for over half as many touchdowns as he had in the 2011 season. His teammates have taken notice of Lacy’s progress, but said there is more to come as the junior continues to heal.
“He seems like he’s got that anchor step to him again,” center Barrett Jones said. “We’re still waiting for the spin move to show its head but once it does we’ll know the transformation is complete.”
Lacy, along with the other running backs, has provided the Tide with a stable of runners with the ability to put up impressive numbers during the first four games of the season. The backfield has gained 816 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging nearly five yards per carry.