To cap off an incredible junior season for the Crimson Tide, Richardson rushed for a career-high 203 yards on 27 carries to go along with a 5-yard receiving touchdown in the second quarter. Despite the increasingly heavy workload as of late, Richardson has just gotten stronger with each and every carry.
His numbers speak for themselves. For the season, Richardson has carried the rock 263 times for 1583 yards (6.0 YPC), and 20 rushing touchdowns. He’s added 27 receptions for 327 yards and three more touchdowns.
He’s had nine games with over 100-rushing yards, and only in the season opener against Kent State did Richardson finish with under 100 yards from scrimmage.
Richardson has completely carried the Alabama offense in 2011 with struggles from first-year starting QB AJ McCarron and the lingering turf-toe issue with backup RB Eddie Lacy. Alabama also doesn’t have a Julio Jones-type receiver that can make plays in the passing game. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks are solid receivers, and tight ends Michael Williams and Brad Smelley have really stepped up, but they don’t have the same kind of impact in the passing game.
While some would to point to Alabama’s offensive line as the reason for Richardson’s huge season, you should also remember that the Tide has had its share of injuries along the front. All American left tackle Barrett Jones hasn’t been 100% since the first half against LSU, and he missed two straight games in the aftermath of an ankle injury against the Bayou Bengals. Others have had nagging injuries that have affected their play or caused them to miss a game.
Richardson also gets a LOT of yards after contact. He routinely shakes off tackles at the line of scrimmage and turns 2 yard runs into 10 or more. Some of his best runs of the season have come when it looked like he would be tackled in the backfield, and somehow managed to gain a few yards.
Let’s look at a couple other reasons the Heisman should be awarded to Trent Richardson.
Quality of Competition
The biggest reason I believe Richardson should win the Heisman is the competition he has faced this season compared to the other Heisman candidates. This isn’t SEC bias by any means, but Richardson has faced better defenses than any other Heisman candidate.
He has faced five defenses ranking in the top 25 nationally, and each Saturday on average he is facing the #41 ranked defense in the country. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Case Keenum haven’t faced a single defense ranking in the top-25 nationally, and on average have faced the #77, #86, and #85 ranked defense each weekend. The only Heisman candidate that even compares to the competition Richardson has faced is Wisconsin’s Montee Ball.
Ball has faced 4 defenses ranking in the top-25 nationally, and on average has faced the 59th ranked defense in the country each Saturday.
In the five games against Top-25 defenses, Richardson has 110 carries for 525 yards and 8 TD’s to go along with 143 receiving yards on 14 receptions.
Even against LSU’s vaunted defense, Richardson finished with 169 yards of total offense. He was held to 89 rushing yards on 23 carries, but made up for that with 5 catches for 80 yards out of the backfield.
The Heisman is supposed to award the trophy annually to the nation’s most outstanding college football player, and nobody has been more outstanding against higher competition than Richardson.
Each Heisman campaign has a signature moment, and Trent Richardson has had more than one this season. I can think of three moments right off the top of my head that could be considered “Heisman moments.” The first came against Ole Miss on October 15th.
The Rebels aren’t a good team by any stretch of the imagination, but his run was something special. He shook off three tackles at the line of scrimmage, and then raced 76 yards toward the endzone. It looked like he was going to be stopped short, but he made a sick juke move on Ole Miss’ Senquez Golson, and for god measure carried another Rebel defender on his back into the endzone.
The second, and probably his most underrated of the season, came against LSU in the fourth quarter of a tie game. It was only a 24-yard run, but he broke four tackles to take Alabama deep into Tiger territory. Among the four tackles he shook off was one of LSU defensive lineman Sam Montgomery, who had Richardson wrapped up.
His third and final Heisman moment of the 2011 season came last Saturday against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. He broke five tackles en route to a 57-yard dash against the Tigers which included completely slapping two Auburn defenders away.
Richardson is the total package, and everything you could ask for from a Heisman candidate. His power, speed, and elusive running style has given even the best of defenses fits through the 2011 season.
I’d go as far as to say that Richardson’s junior campaign is just as if not more spectacular than Mark Ingram’s sophomore year in 2009 when he captured the Crimson Tide’s first Heisman Trophy in school history.
On December 10th at the Downtown Athletic Club, Trent Richardson should hoist the program’s 2nd Heisman Trophy.