T.J. Yeldon Odds to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy
by Dave Schwab - 7/23/2014
Alabama's football team under head coach Nick Saban has not only become known has one of the top programs in the nation with three national titles since 2009, but it's also known for producing some of the top running backs in the country.
Mark Ingram was named college football's most outstanding player in 2009 by winning the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, and Trent Richardson finished third in the Heisman voting just two years later. Both of these running backs moved on to the NFL to continue their career.
Heading into the 2014 season, the next in a wave of great running backs for the Crimson Tide is T.J. Yeldon. He led the team in rushing last season with 1,235 yards on 207 carries for an average of six yards an attempt. He also found the end zone a team-high 14 times, but playing in the shadows of quarterback AJ McCarron kept him from getting any serious consideration for the 2013 Heisman Award. He was not even in the Top 10 in voting, while McCarron went on to finish second behind Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
Yeldon is being billed as the top player on Alabama's offense this season with McCarron off to the NFL. There will be a changing of the guard at the quarterback position with Blake Sims or Jacob Coker most likely getting the starting nod, but he will still face some stiff competition for carries with running back Derrick Henry also on the roster. Bovada has set the odds on Yeldon's chances to win this year's Heisman Trophy at 18/1. These are the second-best among running backs (Georgia's Todd Gurley is listed at 12/1) and 10 th-best on its current futures odds board. Henry is also on that list with 25/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy.
Saban's indecision at the quarterback position should actually work in Yeldon's favor despite the presence of another quality back in the mix. The Crimson Tide will have to rely heavily on their running game until one of these two quarterbacks settle into the starting role, so there should be plenty of touches for both running backs this year. With McCarron at the helm, Alabama averaged 248.5 passing yards a game in 2013 as opposed to the 205.6 yards a game it gained on the ground. If you go back to the 2009 season when Ingram won the Heisman, the Crimson Tide passed for 2,631 yards that season while rushing for a total of 3,011 yards. You can expect the same type of mix this season, with Yeldon getting the bulk of the carries as the featured back.
This will be Yeldon's third season as Alabama's lead back after gaining 1,108 yards as a freshman in 2012. He averaged 6.3 yards a carry that year and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground. Over the past two seasons, he has also caught 31 passes for 314 yards and one score. Given the inexperience at quarterback, there is a strong possibility that Saban could look to exploit his pass-catching skills out of the backfield much more than he did in the past. This would only help Yeldon's Heisman chances with some inflated numbers in the passing game.
Alabama will kick the new season off with an appearance in the Chick-Fil-A Classic against West Virginia on Aug. 30, which should give Yeldon a chance to shine right out of the gate in front of a national audience. The Tide's first conference game is against Florida at home on Sept. 20, but the real meat of their schedule is weighted towards the end of the year, starting with LSU on the road in early November and Auburn at home on Nov. 29.
Yeldon is set up to have a big year, which should make him one of the first backs off the board in next year's NFL Draft. As far as his is chances to win the Heisman, they appear to be pretty remote no matter how many yards he gains given the depth of talent ahead of him on Bovada's futures odds list at the quarterback position.
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