Mark Ingram’s run for a second Heisman Trophy has been put on hold, and possibly even derailed, before the Alabama tailback had a chance to gain a single yard.
Ingram will miss No. 1 Alabama’s opener against San Jose State after injuring his left knee late in practice Monday, coach Nick Saban said Tuesday.
Saban said in a statement the star tailback had an arthroscopic procedure and should make a full recovery in a “relatively short time.”
“Mark will definitely be out for this week’s game against San Jose State and we will manage this on a week to week basis beyond this week,” Saban said.
If the absence proves short-lived, it figures to have more of an impact on Ingram’s bid to join Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winners than it does on Alabama’s hopes for a repeat national title.
San Jose State went 2-10 last season, but the Crimson Tide face a much stiffer test in the second week of the season. No. 19 Penn State visits Tuscaloosa on Sept. 11, then Alabama travels to Duke.
Alabama does have a talented backup in sophomore Trent Richardson, who ran for 751 yards and scored eight touchdowns last season, including 109 yards and a 49-yard touchdown against Texas in the national title game.
He and Ingram were picked as the preseason first-team all-Southeastern Conference tailbacks.
“It’s different not having (Ingram) out there,” Richardson said. “We’re not losing Mark; he’s still going to be out there. We know we have to do what we have to do. Mark will support us and we will support Mark too.”
Added center William Vlachos: “We are extremely fortunate to have guys behind him that are going to rise to the opportunity.”
Ingram became Alabama’s first Heisman winner as a sophomore after rushing for a school-record 1,658 yards and catching 32 passes. He’s the first running back since Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett in 1976 to win both a Heisman and a national title in the same season.
He was the third consecutive sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, joining quarterbacks Tim Tebow of Florida and Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford. An early injury sidelined Bradford, while Tebow was a finalist as a junior and a senior though he never got to hoist the bronze statue again.
If Ingram misses more than one game, it could allow players such as Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore or Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams — or someone else — to get a head start on him in the Heisman race.
Then again, the emergence of Richardson and a diverse offense that also includes standout receiver Julio Jones might have hindered Ingram’s chances to repeat anyway.
Asked Monday if he thought Alabama could have two 1,000-yard rushers, Ingram said: “Yeah, definitely. I think it’s a definite possibility, but our main goal is to do whatever we can to help this team win. We’re not really focused on stats. We’re focused on executing our assignments, playing the best football we’re capable of playing week in and week out and help this team win games. Stats really isn’t an issue or something we’re focused on.”
There’s not much experience behind Richardson while Ingram is out. Redshirt freshman Eddie Lacy is listed as the third-teamer.
“Eddie’s a little bit taller than all the other running backs,” Ingram said Monday. “He’s a physical runner. He can make you miss. He can catch good out of the backfield. He’s another great back. He’ll be real special here as well.”