TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The questions facing Eddie Lacy these days are turning more from the toe and ankle to TDs and yards.
Top-ranked Alabama' starting tailback had a slow start as Trent Richardson's successor this season, but appears to be hitting his stride after an offseason limited by injuries.
Lacy ran for three touchdowns against Arkansas and gained 106 yards on 15 first-half carries versus Florida Atlantic, reclaiming some of the spotlight from talented freshman T.J. Yeldon.
"It took a while," Lacy said. "But I'm slowly getting better and I'm starting to feel a lot better out there, getting more comfortable as far as running without thinking so much about injuries."
He missed spring practice to recover from toe surgery then had a hamstring and ankle injury slow him down late in preseason camp.
As a result, Yeldon took center stage in the opener, gaining 111 yards against Michigan.
Heading into Saturday's game against Mississippi, Lacy seems to be returning to the form of two years as a backup that helped ease Alabama fans' worries about replacing Richardson, a Heisman finalist.
"He's really had to fight through a lot," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "He didn't really get back into shape because some of the time that he missed. Now, he's starting to get there."
It seems unlikely a third straight Heisman candidate will emerge from the tailbacks after Richardson and Mark Ingram (the 2009 winner) shined the spotlight on Bama's backs.
For one, a series of four blowouts have limited the chances for any of the runners in a backfield that runs at least four-deep. Lacy is averaging about 11 carries a game, splitting carries with not only Yeldon but Kenyan Drake, Dee Hart and, before a knee injury, Jalston Fowler. His 15 rushes against FAU marked a season high for the team.
Neither he nor Yeldon is even on track to reach 1,000 yards at this point, but Lacy doesn't seem particularly concerned with numbers for a guy who's finally getting his turn.
"We're a group. We're like brothers," he said. "Whoever's number is called, we're going to get in and do what we have to do."
Plus, quarterback AJ McCarron is leading the SEC in pass efficiency and tied with Georgia's Aaron Murray for second in touchdowns behind Tennessee's Tyler Bray.
Lacy's apparent re-emergence comes after he gained 71 yards on 18 carries in the first two games.
"He kind of seems like he's got that extra step to him again," Tide center Barrett Jones said. "We're still waiting for the spin move to show its head but once it does, we'll know that transformation is complete."
Lacy has flashed his trademark spin move at times, and the power that helps make him the go-to guy as Alabama approaches the end zone. He has rushed for a team-high four touchdowns but his longest run has been 18 yards. Five teammates have logged runs at least that long.
Yeldon has been used more as a receiver, but Lacy has been awfully effective in pass protection.
Lacy tends to be far more talkative when asked about teammates than when asked about himself.
He dismisses how difficult it was to rebound from injuries.
"If you think about it from it being my time, it's kind of tough," Lacy said. "But if you get out of yourself and into the team, it's perfect timing."
He's not bashful when asked about his blocking, though.
"Every blitz they come through, I hit them and they don't make it to the quarterback," he said. "So I guess that's a win in my book."
Teammates say Lacy is one of Alabama's funnier players, improvising to keep the mood light.
"If something happens, I'll make a joke about it," he said. "It tends to keep everyone loose."
Well, not everyone. Lacy hasn't made Saban laugh.
"I tend not to make jokes when coach Saban is around," he said.