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This Probably Means Nothing

In last year's absurd Alabama preview, I suggested that 'Bama is really the same team every single year, in as much as four specific aspects - the mildly effective, fresh-faced, Bama-banged quarterback; the physical embodiment of the platonic running back ideal; the immovable front seven; and the undersized wide receiver/IED - are present every season, regardless of results. Re: the "platonic running back ideal," I focused on the guy I then assumed would be next off the assembly line:

Jimmy Johns, as a positional prerequisite, is 6-2, 225 and runs sub-4.5, but to opponents he's just the same hulking, sleek chunk of concentrated crimson meat that's been punishing their tacklers ad nauseum on an annual basis their entire adult lives. The corollary is that every one of these fleet adoni winds up in some way ailing (oh, poor, awesome Ahmaad Galloway and Santonio Beard) or caught in some kind of lurch among three identical intimidators who struggle to find a dominant rhythm over an entire season.
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Johns was scuttled to fullback and barely played, it turns out, and actual leading rusher Terry Grant fell about four inches and 40 pounds short of the "positional prerequisite." It was completely wrong, is what I'm saying.

But it was intriguing enough that one of the editors of an Alabama-centric annual coming out this summer asked me to submit a piece on the unspectacular consistency of the Alabama running back. Digging in the archives, I expected the production from the position over the last 25 years - since Bear Bryant retired and bit it in 1982 - would represent more or less a straight line.

That article's not going to happen, because any notion of consistency among Alabama running backs is sort of a myth. Since it's a busy day here in the non-blog world, and since I did the work, and since it's no longer a proprietary editorial secret, you should know it looks more like this:

The years with asterisks (1985, 2001-02) are years that combine the averages of the two leading rushers, whose stats were very close. What we can learn from this:

a) Bobby Humphrey (1985-87) was pretty awesome.
b) Shaun Alexander (1998-99) was pretty awesome.
c) A whole stable of guys under Dennis Franchione (2001-02) were pretty awesome, though you probably don't remember any of them.
It's probably during the Franchione years that I got the picture of an endless reserve of hulking stallions laying in wait, since the Tide had something close to that under Fran: Ahmaad Galloway and Santonio Beard, for starters, and the smaler, shiftier Shaud Williams, who shared the load with Beard in 2002. They were immediately followed by another prototype, Ken Darby, who set a school record for first-time starters with 199 yards against Southern Miss in 2004, an endlessly frustrating game I saw in person one year after watching the Tide roll up 300-plus rushing on another very respectable USM defense in '02. The quarterback was just a poorly-coiffed accessory in those games. But as imposing and productive as Galloway, Beard and then Ray Hudson (injured midway through 2004 after a ripping start) were, none of them went a full season as a starter.

So what we really have here is a great example of very limited personal observation forming an opinion that can't be backed up over any extended period of time. Such shortsightedness is what the Internet is for, of course, but it won't do in print. Let it stand here as random trivia on a slow day.