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Freshman tailback T.J. Yeldon makes splashy Alabama debut in spring game
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) ' New Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon showed that the Crimson Tide's backfield has plenty of remaining talent.
The highly touted freshman, who enrolled in January, had 88 yards rushing and 91 yards receiving in the Tide's spring game Saturday before 78,526 fans. Yeldon led the White team to a 24-15 win over the Crimson and is among the crop of runners vying for carries with the departure of Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson to the NFL.
Yeldon won the Dixie Howell Most Valuable Player of the Game Award. Presumed starter Eddie Lacy sat out the spring while recovering from surgery to repair a turf toe injury.
"T.J. did a good job in all the scrimmages. He made the difference for his team," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "He made a lot of good plays today and had a lot of production.
"I think that's important for us because we needed someone like that. He has a really good opportunity. Eddie will hopefully be able to come back, Jalston (Fowler) can do certain things, Dee Hart can do certain things. T.J. is one of those guys who can do everything."
Quarterback AJ McCarron, playing for the Crimson team, completed 29 of 42 passes for 304 yards with two touchdowns. He was also intercepted three times.
"At the end of the day it's for the fans and we just want to kind of make it fun for them and make some crazy plays at the same time that we probably wouldn't do in a real game," McCarron said. "Coach always says, 'Just have fun,' and I had a lot of fun today."
One of the nation's top running back recruits, Yeldon keyed two third-quarter touchdown drives after being down at halftime, 9-3.
The first score was on pass over the middle that early-enrollee Chris Black turned into a 44-yard catch-and-run, the other being 50-yard pass in which Yeldon broke a tackle.
Both were thrown by reserve quarterback Phillip Sims, who despite being limited by a sore shoulder started for the White team and completed 9 of 12 passes for 135 yards. Philip Ely, who split time with Sims, completed 10 of 18 passes for 83 yards. Neither had an interception.
McCarron had a 47-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell on a flea-flicker, and 17-yarder to Christion Jones late in the first half.
Safety Vinnie Sunseri intercepted his last attempt to secure the win. He actually returned it all the way to the 5-yard line where he took a knee, but Saban ruled him down after 21 yards at midfield when McCarron tried to slap the ball out of his hands.
"He gave AJ too much credit that he could tackle," Sunseri said with a smile. "He doesn't realize that he wears that black (noncontact) jersey for a reason."
Sunseri is one of five defensive players replacing an All-American from last season, in his case Mark Barron.
"I felt really comfortable in what I had to do on every single play," said.
Adrian Hubbard, stepping in at outside linebacker where Alabama used to have Courtney Upshaw, earned the Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the Game Award after he had three sacks.
Alabama visits the White House Thursday to celebrate its second national championship in three years.
"How good is this team? I don't know, I think it's kind of up to this team," Saban said. "I think it's kind of up to a lot of players on this team, a lot of players that have opportunities that haven't played much before. We certainly don't have the maturity as a team that we had a year ago, or that we had three years ago, but there's certainly enough players on this team that we could develop into a pretty good team."