We have our final pre-draft blogger interview for you today and it's with Nico2.0, from Roll 'Bama Roll, who took some time out to give us the low down on CSC's most crushed-on draft pick: Mark Ingram. Nico was able to answer some important questions on Ingram that may shift the balance of who Saints fans want as the Saints first round draft pick come Thursday night. So continue reading to see if "Ingramania!" is all it's cracked up to be.
Anyway, there really isn't anything negative to say about him. He's done nothing but exemplify the kind of "work hard, get coached, stay out of trouble, and do what's best for the team" mentality that Saban has worked so hard to instill at Alabama. Just look at his Heisman acceptance speech, he went out of his way to thank everyone from the offensive line to trainers for making it possible while genuinely seeming honored to be the first Alabama player ever to bring one back to Tuscaloosa. And he's from Michigan!
Jon: What is your personal opinion on Ingram?
Nico: I think I speak for pretty much all Bama fans when I say we love him to pieces and whoever drafts him will get a whole lot of new (admittedly fair weather) fans from this state. I mean, I pledged my undying allegiance to whatever team drafted Rolando McClain last year and then Oakland had to go and screw that up for me, but the Saints? PLEASE draft Ingram, I can definitely get on board with rooting for him down there.
So yeah, we love him. He's a great kid, has done nothing in his time at Alabama to even hint at being anything less than a quality human being, and we miss him already.
Jon: From watching Ingram, how would you say he performs as a running back?
Nico: He's been a remarkably well rounded back ever since his true freshman year, showing good pass blocking skills and the ability to be a factor in the passing game from game one. As a true freshman he played a huge role early on as the #2 back behind Glenn Coffee, and was usually our main guy inside the 20s because he never fumbled (He lost a grand total of 2 in his career at Alabama) and always fell forward.
As remarkable as he was that season (rushing 143 times for 728 yds and 12 TDs), he took a huge leap forward as a sophomore (271 rushes, 1658 yds, 17 TDs). I can't find a link now, but he told a great story about how he was able to so drastically improve on what was already a very impressive showing. RB Coach Burton Burns took him into the film room and showed him running plays that he ran and the exact same plays that Coffee ran. In every play Coffee, who was not nearly the talent that Ingram is, was always getting more yardage and Burns showed Ingram how Coffee was pressing the hole, setting up blocks in the open field, and etc. Ingram said he spent a lot of his free time studying that film and working on improving his patience in the backfield and letting the line create lanes for him instead of just bulling his way through like he had as a freshman. All that is to say that not only is he just naturally a hell of a running back, he's smart and he's coachable and he's willing to work and do what it takes to always be on top of his game.
Jon: Is Ingram more of a power rusher or a speed guy? Can he do both?
Nico: While he can do both, at the NFL level he's going to be more of a power rusher than a speed guy. He's deceptively fast and elusive once he gets into the open field, but in the pros where EVERYONE is fast, he's going to really make his money running between the tackles and getting yardage after contact instead of outrunning anyone. You can get away with that in the college game to some extent, but if he's going to be successful in the pros he's going to need a team that wants to use him as workhorse, downhill runner.
Jon: Did Ingram benefit from a good run blocking line that may have made him seem better than he really was?
Nico: You maybe could have made that argument in '08 and '09 (we had a nasty run blocking line both of those years, and '09 was his breakout, Heisman season) but we had some serious issues with our offensive line in '10. We had to replace two key veterans at LG and RT, and then we were plagued by injuries all season long that kept us shuffling the groupings and it really showed. but he still managed a solid 5.4 ypc average and 13 TDs despite missing the first two games of the season with a knee injury. Most of the yards he gained this past season (and really his whole career) were made after contact, and especially in '10 he really earned a lot of those yards.
Jon: Finally, do you think Ingram will have what it takes to be an elite workhorse in the NFL?
Nico: Definitely. Go back to '09 and take a look at our offense; it was Mark Ingram. Take a look at his stats (and highlights) from the South Carolina game. The offense was sputtering, Greg McElroy was literally having the worst game of his career, and the coaches put the entire game on Ingram's shoulder. 24 rushes and 246 yards later we walk away with a 20-6 victory capped off by one of the most impressive individual efforts I've ever witnessed. On the final drive Ingram carried the ball six consecutive times for 68 yards and a TD to put the game away after carrying a huge load the entire game and with EVERYONE in the stadium knowing exactly who was going to get the ball. Hell, all but one of the plays was run out of our Wildcat formation so there wasn't even any doubt where the ball was going. But despite being visibly gassed he stayed in and carried the team. So yeah, he's shown plenty of times that he has no trouble being the workhorse.
I would like to thank Nico2.0 for taking the time out to answer these questions. And for more news on all things 'Bama, check out Roll 'Bama Roll.
The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, April 28th and SB Nation has everything you need to prepare for it - NFL mock drafts, draft projections, scouting reports, the full NFL draft schedule and more. Check it all out at SB Nation's NFL Hub and our NFL Draft blog Mocking the Draft