Published November 20, 2014
Alabama's Trent Richardson is eager to show what he can do against No. 1 LSU.
Not because Saturday night's showdown is the type of game that serve as a showcase for the Heisman Trophy candidate. The star tailback for the No. 2 Crimson Tide said it's because he was injured and didn't play much against the Tigers.
"This game means a lot to me because I didn't get to play in it last year except for about one quarter," Richardson said. "So I really can't wait to showcase what a healthy Trent can do in this game."
Richardson was hurt when LSU's Patrick Peterson slammed him to the ground on a short touchdown catch and became an otherwise nonfactor in last year's game, carrying six times for 28 yards. He left it with a torn abdominal muscle, a slightly torn knee ligament and a bitter memory.
Richardson missed the next two games and wasn't particularly effective in the final two behind Mark Ingram.
The nation's No. 3 run defense will greet him on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and Richardson has an idea of what to expect after last year's run-in.
"That's always in the back of my head, these guys took me out," he said. "And I had to sit out two more games after that. It's in my head already that I know they're going to try to come right at me and they're going to try to take me down."
The Tigers have already withstood one of college football's best running backs, holding Oregon's LaMichael James to 54 yards on 18 carries in the opener. Both are Heisman candidates and prolific runners, but have decidedly different styles.
"LaMichael James was more of a speedster," LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. "To contain him, you just had to keep your head up. Trent Richardson is more of a power ball guy. No one man is going to tackle him. We are working on pursuing the ball. We can't let just one man tackle him. We have to group tackle him."
Richardson's 989 rushing yards leads the league and his 18 total touchdowns — including one receiving — puts him tied for second nationally in scoring.
Only one SEC quarterback, Georgia's Aaron Murray (18), has more TDs passing than Richardson has rushing.
LSU coach Les Miles singles out Richardson's 76-yard run against Mississippi when he froze a defender near the end zone with a stutter step.
"Trent Richardson is not only fast, but he's also strong," Miles said. "He has lined up against some great teams. He is always ready to compete. I saw his move against Ole Miss. It would have thrown my hip out of joint."
Richardson has averaged 139.3 yards in three games against Top 25 teams this season and had a school record-tying string of six consecutive 100-yard efforts snapped by Tennessee in the last outing.
Richardson's former backfield mate, Mark Ingram, demonstrated the kind of impact a big performance in a game like this can have during his 2009 Heisman season. Ingram ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns and had an electric 69-yard catch against Florida in the SEC championship game and became Alabama's first winner of the coveted award.
Their rankings: Alabama was No. 2, Florida No. 1. Richardson deflects talk that this game might become another Heisman stage.
"It could be, but I don't buy into that stuff," he said. "For the Heisman Trophy, I say (left tackle) Barrett Jones, Nachos (center William Vlachos), I hope them boys get it."
Apparently, Richardson is taking his cue from Ingram. Vlachos said that the current New Orleans Saints tailback voted for him for the Heisman last season, and he sees a similar mind-set in Richardson.
"He's a team player," Vlachos said. "He brings the same amount of effort whether it's a passing down and he's got to go (block) a defensive end, or if they're saying, 'Hey, it's third-and-1 on the goal line and you've got to get the touchdown for us.'
"Whatever he's got to do for our team, he does it. He's not worried about attention and that type stuff. He's worried about this team and doing what he's got to do to help our offense."