College football has always been predicated around the quarterback position. This is rightfully so because every team wants a quarterback that is going to be tough, possess the skills/ intangibles, make the right decisions and be accurate with his arm. For Southeastern Conference fans, they recognize outside of Tim Tebow, Cameron “Cam” Newton and Johnny Manziel that most of the QB’s who won the Heisman Trophy came from the Big 12. In my opinion, it would feel like beating a horse to death if one were to constantly talk about how important the quarterback is. You don’t have to be “football knowledgeable” to understand that the field general is highly importantly to the success of a team. Don’t get me wrong, you need to recognize the quarterback because without him who is going to pass the football, but every once in a while it is great to also recognize the running backs and receivers. The difference between the Big 12 and the SEC is simple. It is high-octane (spread) offense versus aggressive defense. It is very little running the football versus a heavy dose of ground and pound. It is a pass first offense versus using the run to help set up the play action vertical passing attack, to make a long story short you don’t need a five-star QB to be successful in the SEC.
After the coveted QB position, there are two other areas on the field that players can perform well at and they are the running back and wide receiver position. The aspect of the game that makes running backs and receivers special is versatility. Let’s be honest, not every running back and receiver is a speed demon. You are going to have some running backs that specialize in getting tough yards and receivers that have the toughness to go over the middle of the field and make catches in traffic. As a coach, your job is to recruit the running back and receiver that is going to fit your system and style of play well.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide, they have lacked the status of having a five-star quarterback, but the upside to this statement is they haven’t needed one. In the three BCS National Championship seasons, Alabama has gotten to the title game and won with having to mold three and four star QB’s. Something that the Crimson Tide has done, though, is continue to recruit and bring some of the best running backs and receivers that college football has ever seen. Of course, many of you know the song from Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock called “It takes two” and with superstar duos like Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Batman and Robin and even Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, we can clearly see that with a talent tandem on one team things seem to go well. Since 2000, Alabama has recruited a marvelous group of running backs and receivers that have truly made a mark on this program. Here are the best RB and WR tandems for Alabama since 2000.
BEST RB and WR Tandem Since 2000
RUNNING BACK TANDEMS
· Glen Coffee & Mark Ingram, Jr. (2008)
o 2,111 total rushing yards (Coffee 1,383 yards & Ingram 728 yards)
o 22 total rushing TD’s (Coffee 10 TD’s & Ingram 12 TD’s)
o Mark Ingram, Jr. set the freshman record for rushing TD’s in (2008) with 12
o Alabama went undefeated with this RB tandem in 2008, including blowing out Auburn in the Iron Bowl 36-0.
o The Tide though lost to the Florida Gators in the SEC title game and the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Utah.
· Mark Ingram, Jr. & Trent Richardson (2009)
o 2,409 total rushing yards (Ingram 1,658 yards & Richardson 751 yards)
o 25 total rushing TD’s (Ingram 17 TD’s & Richardson 8 TD’s)
o This tandem right here terrorized opposing defenses. Whether the Tide was in the pistol, single-back or wildcat formation, these two always found a way to rush for huge gains and get yards after contact.
o The Crimson Tide went undefeated with this tandem in 2009, including getting revenge on Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators as the Tide rolled 32-13 and won its 22nd SEC title.
o This tandem also propelled Alabama to the 2009 BCS Title Game in Pasadena, California where they defeated the Texas Longhorns 37-21 to take home its 13th national title.
o Mark Ingram, Jr. became the first Crimson Tide player to win the coveted Heisman Trophy in 2009.
· Mark Ingram, Jr. & Trent Richardson (2010)
o 1,575 total yards rushing (Ingram 875 yards & Richardson 700 yards)
o 19 total rushing TD’s (Ingram 13 TD’s & Richardson 6 TD’s)
o Due to knee surgery at the beginning of the 2010 season, Mark Ingram was not as explosive as he was in the previous season. Opposing defenses were able to lock in on him and Trent Richardson more.
o The tandem helped the Tide to a 10-3 season. This was good to me, but for fans who want to see greatness game in and game out, they weren’t happy about this season.
o With this tandem, Alabama did win the Capital One Bowl as they defeated Michigan State 49-7.
o Ingram and Richardson together at Alabama totaled 3,984 yards rushing and 44 TD’s. This is remarkable.
· Trent Richardson & Eddie Lacy (2011)
o For people who thought that it was the end for Alabama when Mark Ingram went to the NFL began to hit the reset button when they feasted their eyes on spin cycle “circle button,” Eddie Lacy along with speed and power, Trent Richardson
o 2,310 total rushing yards (Richardson 1,679 yards & Lacy 631 yards)
o 28 total rushing TD’s (Richardson 21 TD’s & Lacy 7 TD’s)
o This tandem took a great deal of pressure off then redshirt sophomore QB AJ McCarron.
o With only one loss, this tandem took the Tide back the BCS title game where the Alabama’s defense prevailed and Trent Richardson’s rushing TD sealed the deal and gave Alabama its 14th BCS title.
o Every running back in college football has that “Heisman Moment.” Richardson’s came in 2011 against the Ole Miss Rebels when he took the hand-off from McCarron and ran 69 yards to pay dirt. It wasn’t the run that got him into the Heisman conversation, though, it was the way he just completed broke the defensive backs ankle and juked his way into the end-zone.
o Richardson earned a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation. He did not win, but at least he was a finalist.
· Eddie Lacy & TJ Yeldon (2012)
o The one thing that I must give coach Saban and the Crimson Tide credit for is every time they lose a player to the draft or graduation, they always have another player to set in and take rank. Case in point, true freshman running back from Daphne, AL TJ Yeldon.
o 2,430 total yards rushing (Lacy 1,322 yards & Yeldon 1,108)
o 29 total rushing TD’s (Lacy 17 TD’s & Yeldon 12 TD’s) * This tandem rushed for one more touchdown than the Richardson & Lacy tandem (28 in 2011)
o Though McCarron grew up a little more as a QB, this tandem still took a lot of pressure of him. While defenses were so ready to stop the run, it allowed McCarron to pass for 2, 933 yards and 30 TD’s.
o The tandem did three things for the Crimson in 2012 that will never be forgotten: TJ Yeldon’s reception of the screen pass from McCarron for the game-winning touchdown against LSU in Baton Rouge (21-17), a brilliant running game for Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon as they slashed and gashed Georgia’s defense in a tough SEC Champion Game as the Tide won 32-28 and the beat down this tandem put on Manti Te’O and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as they won 42-14.
o The tandem also helped the Tide dismantle Auburn in the Iron Bowl 49-0 and led Alabama back to an undefeated season.
o TJ Yeldon broke tied Mark Ingram’s freshman record of 12 rushing TD’s in 2012
WIDE RECEIVER TANDEMS
· Tyrone Prothro & Keith Brown (2004-05)
o For those of you who watched the 2005 Alabama vs. Southern Miss Game, then you saw the absolutely most spectacular, ridiculous catch that I have ever seen. The ability of QB Brodie Croyle to put the ball out there and the ability of WR Tyrone Prothro to have the presence of mind to trap the ball on the back of the DB’s helmet and make the catch was just sick good.
o 1, 609 total yards receiving (Prothro 672 yards & Brown 937 yards)
o 9 total TD’s (Prothro 4 TD’s & Brown 5 TD’s)
o This tandem was poised for greatness, but due to the play-calling of Coach Mike Shula against Florida in 2005, Tyrone Prothro suffered a compound injury to his right leg. He had several surgeries, but to no avail. I mean honestly when you are demolishing Florida the way Alabama was you need to rest your star players. Shula did not do this and thus Alabama lost a receiver that could have been a legend for years to come. Prothro did go on to finish his undergraduate and achieve a bachelor’s degree.
· Keith Brown & DJ Hall (2006-07)
o When you think of Alabama receiver that could have been productive in the NFL, but it just didn’t happen that way, you think of DJ Hall.
o 2,945 total yards receiving (Brown 926 yards & Hall 2,019 yards)
o 19 total TD’s (Brown 8 TD’s & Hall 11 TD’s)
o This was another tandem that could have been really good, but the leadership wasn’t there from the coaching and the players’ standpoint.
· Julio Jones & Marquis Maze (2009-10)
o The prayers of the Alabama faithful for a dynamic receiving core were answered when this tandem set foot on Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2009.
o 2,809 total yards receiving (Jones 1,729 yards & Maze 1,080 yards)
o 16 total TD’s (Jones 11 TD’s & Maze 5 TD’s)
o In 2009, the 6’4 Julio Jones broke out of the pack and became the go to receiver for QB Greg McElroy. He was a possession receiver that if you threw the ball in the right spot, he would go up and make the play. Jones was that rare combination of power and speed with very good hands.
o The moment for Julio Jones came in 2009 against LSU, Alabama was trailing the Tigers in the middle of the 4th quarter when Julio Jones caught a screen pass from Greg McElroy and in the blink of an eye took it the distance. The Crimson Tide ended up winning the game 24-15.
o Marquis Maze, though just 5’9, was the tough receiver that would make the catch in traffic. His niche was in special teams. He continually gave the Tide great field position on punt returns and on some occasions he even took it to the house and scored.
o This tandem brought Alabama its 22nd SEC title, its 13th BCS title and a Capital One Bowl victory.
· Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks & Kenny Bell (2010-11)
o With Julio Jones going pro, many thought that Alabama’s vertical passing attack would struggle. Once again the Tide rose to the challenge with Marquise Maze, Darius Hanks & Kenny Bell.
o 2,223 total yards receiving (Maze 1,184 yards, Hanks 784 yards & Bell 255 yards)
o 10 total TD’s (Maze 4 TD’s, Hanks 4 TD’s & Bell 2 TD)
o Kenny Bell really showed flashes of become a dynamic receiver in 2011 though he saw limited action
o Marquis Maze really began to flourish in the special teams department in 2011. In the game against Arkansas, we witnessed the pride, fight and passion of Maze to get to the end-zone on a punt return. The ability of Maze to stop on a dime, use hit vision to set up his cuts and blockers and weave his way through defenders was just simply amazing.
o Darius Hanks quietly put together a nice season himself. He became the receiver that not only could make the catch in traffic, but he could go deep and take the top off a defense with his speed.
o This tandem got Alabama to the BCS title game where they defeated LSU 21-0.
· Kenny Bell, Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood, DeAndrew White & Christion Jones (2012-13)
o This is by far one of the most talented tandems in the history of Alabama as far as receivers go.
o 2,364 total yards receiving (Bell 431 yards, Cooper 1,000 yards, Norwood 461 yards, White 105 yards and Jones 368 yards)
o 24 total TD’s (Bell 3 TD’s, Cooper 11 TD’s, Norwood 4 TD’s, White 2 TD’s and Jones 4 TD’s)
o In 2012, everyone thought that the go to receiver for QB AJ McCarron would be WR DeAndrew White. This was the case until the Ole Miss Game when White tore his ACL. While everyone believed that WR Chris Black would get the redshirt taken off him and that he would play, it became the break out game and welcome of Amari Cooper. Cooper caught 8 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in that game and became an absolute stud ever since.
o It is always a receiver that defenses fear, for the LSU Tigers that receiver was Kevin Norwood. In the 2011 BCS Championship Game, he destroyed the Tiger defense making incredible receptions. In the game last season in Baton Rouge, he caught three passes on the final drive that set up the game-winning screen pass from McCarron to Yeldon.
o Christion Jones had a nice season as far as receptions and touchdown go, but his finest moment was also in the Ole Miss on special teams. With the Tide down 6-0, Christion Jones took the kick-off and raced 99 yards to the house for touchdown. This gave Alabama momentum and they went on to beat Mississippi.
o This tandem brought out the best in AJ McCarron as he passed for 2, 933 yards and 30 TD’s.
o This tandem also led the Tide back to the SEC title game where they defeated Georgia in a thrilling, close game 32-28 and they defeated Notre Dame in the BCS Championship 42-14.