Shortly after signing with Alabama, former 5-star running back Trey Sanders made a “Muhammad Ali-like” prediction for his upcoming inaugural season in 2019. Sanders said, “As a freshman, I do play on winning the Heisman, nothing less. If I come short, I will be a finalist.” Tide fans salivated at the thought of what this young man would do. However, this bold proclamation would come to a screeching halt during preseason camp. Sanders suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for the entire year. Now, as a redshirt freshman, Trey will have the opportunity to make good on the promise he once delivered.
The Port Saint Joe, Florida native would get his first opportunity earlier this year in game 1 against Missouri. Much to the disappointment of fans and Sanders himself, he only accumulated 1 yard on 9 attempts. Some in the fan base begin to grumble at his less than stellar performance. Those who truly understand the game held no grudges against him. Let’s be honest. He wasn’t exactly placed in the best position to excel. By that time in the contest, the majority of the highly touted starting offensive line had been removed. The group that replaced them didn’t exactly do him any favors. Running lanes simply didn’t exist and there’s only one other tailback in history that could run without a line. That was Barry Sanders. Trey is not Barry, at least not yet. Nick Saban was very observant about the youngster’s circumstances and discussed it after the game. “We had a couple other offensive lineman in there, you know, [Trey Sanders] didn’t have a lot of opportunity but at the same time I think the experience will do him well. We didn’t handle their front as well when we took some of the first guys out and I think that contributed to it as well,” Saban said.
Since the contest against Missouri, Sanders has played sparingly. He did make a significant appearance in last week’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers though. Trey averaged 5.6 yards per carry and accumulated 39 yards on 7 attempts. A highlight came when he exploded around the left side of the line for a gain of 20 yards, moving the Tide into Vols’ territory late in the game. That run gave a good indication that his explosivness was back. In addition, he muscled through defenders with authority. That combination of power and 0-to-100 burst is something the Alabama offense is in great need of. This is especially true since they just lost star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. If you watched his feet, he changed direction on a dime. Don’t mistake that for dancing around either. He typically likes to make one cut and hit top speed. Although he ran with power, I also saw finesse in his stride. It made me hunger for more.
Perhaps, more of the Trey Sanders coming out party will evolve this weekend against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have one of the more highly rated defenses in the league though. While not as impressive as Georgia, they could serve as a good runner up. He certainly will play more of a role this week in the running back rotation; which is something coaches really would like to have. This will allow Alabama’s lead horse to take fewer reps and be fresher come the 4th quarter. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian echoed that sentiment, “I think, ideally, we would like to have a little bit more rotation, so that Najee is maybe a little bit more fresh into the second half.” Fellow ball carrier Brian Robinson Jr. shared a similar point of view, “He’s (Trey Sanders) making good role on our depth,” Robinson said. “He’s learning the playbook, so I feel like he can make an impact on our team in some kind of way.” With the pounding that Najee and Brian are able to provide, adding a third demolitionist to the mix with Sanders will prove to be vital when wearing down their opponent in Bryant Denny Stadium.
Tide fans hang on. The moment of Sanders is creeping upon us. Hopefully, it will be this week and again against LSU in Baton Rouge. It will come. Trust the process. When it does finally arrive, the experts will be talking and the Tide will become even more dangerous. To those of you reading this article who oppose the dynasty that is T-town’s finest, it will add to your incessant grumbling. To those of us who bleed Crimson and White, it gives us yet another reason to stand and cheer.
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!