For someone handed the keys to one of the most visible football programs in America, Trent Richardson isn’t too worried about his production.
The third-year Alabama running back paid his dues for the past two years, sitting behind Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Now he owns the Tide’s backfield, but he’s not looking to match Ingram’s career or carve his name into any record books.
Three games into his first season as "the guy," Richardson is running like he’s on a mission for some postseason accolades (he’s fourth in the SEC, averaging 105 yards a game and leads the league with eight rushing touchdowns), but he insists his only goal is winning.
“I don’t care if people are trying to shut me down or not. As long as my team is having a good time and we’re winning, it’s OK with me,” Richardson said.
The last two defenses have failed miserably in shutting him down. Two weeks ago at Penn State, he carried the ball 26 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns. A week later, he ran just 11 times against North Texas for 167 yards and three touchdowns. He has two or more touchdowns in all three games this season.
Still, Alabama’s bullish back is humble in his approach and leads more with his mouth than his actions.
“In the past, he knew his role and he knew he wasn’t our primary back, but this year he knows the responsibility that comes with that position and he’s really stepped up leadership-wise and really become a leader for us,” offensive lineman Barrett Jones said.
Jones said it’s been a joy working with Richardson. Physically, Jones said Richardson is “better than ever” because of the shape he’s in and his ability to absorb hits better this season.
Richardson’s attitude has also been a blessing. It would have been easy for him to give up in the past as one of the most talented backups around, but he didn’t. It also would have been easy for Richardson to come in with a “get mine” attitude this season, but he hasn’t.
“Not many guys could have done what Trent did the past two years here -- playing behind Mark,” Jones said. “Most people would say that Trent probably would have started anywhere else in the country. He waited his turn and supported Mark and really was the ultimate teammate.”
Instead of resenting Ingram, Richardson listened and learned from him. He tried to mimic Ingram’s cutting ability and quickness.
He learned how to read defenses better with extensive film sessions with Ingram and most of all; he learned to be humble as the go-to -guy. Ingram left Richardson with the wisdom of expecting to get a defense’s best each week and to overprepare in order to keep from getting complacent.
This weekend, complacency would hurt Richardson and Alabama’s offense. The Tide faces its toughest test thus far when No. 14 Arkansas comes to town. The Razorbacks have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season and are allowing 87.7 rushing yards a game and 3.3 yards per carry.
Richardson said he expects to get the kitchen sink thrown his way from Arkansas’ defense. Not just because of the West implications or the overall talent Arkansas’ defense has, but the Hogs know firsthand how talented he is.
Richardson has averaged 75 yards in two games against Arkansas. Richardson knows this Arkansas team will be accounting for him on every play and come Saturday afternoon, he’ll be ready for it.
“I know they’re going to bring everything to me Saturday,” he said. “I know I have to be prepare because they’re going to be ready for me.”