And without Jalston Fowler this spring, Alabama’s offense would be pretty naked, but that’s not the derivation of the running back’s nickname.
“When I was a baby, my dad used to walk around and say ‘This is my nudie baby. Can’t nobody have him. That’s my nudie baby,’” Fowler said. “He said that all the time.”
In addition to staying covered up these days, he’s got the spotlight on him, too. As the only returning back with experience and two healthy legs this spring, Fowler’s the main man behind quarterback AJ McCarron. Junior-to-be Eddie Lacy, the top rusher returning, is still recovering from off-season foot surgery. He will miss the entire spring including the 2 p.m. Saturday A-Day Game.
Fowler ran 22 times for 151 yards and three touchdowns in the second scrimmage of the spring last Friday.
When Fowler got the ball as a sophomore, he made the most of it, too. He averaged 6.9 yards on his 56 carries that included four touchdowns. Ole Miss saw him run for 125 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns.
He makes all those yards with a punishing 6-foot-1, 246-pound frame.
So Alabama coach Nick Saban, who also calls Fowler “Nudie,” likes to keep him inside the tackles, running down hill.
“If you’re a power pitcher and you get 26 outs throwing fastballs, you ought not lose the game in the bottom of the ninth throwing a changeup — that’s what I think,” Saban said. “Jalston Fowler is what he is. He’s a big guy who’s hard to tackle and people don’t like to tackle him.”
Count Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard in that group.
He compared his teammate to 254-pound NFL running back T.J. Duckett, while Fowler said he models his game after Jerome Bettis, Brandon Jacobs, and LaGarrette Blount.
“He’s probably like trying to tackle a big train,” Hubbard said.
Center Barrett Jones is happy to be on Fowler’s side of the ball when he’s hitting the holes.
“I’ve never really seen a back as physical as him,” Jones said. “The linebackers will never say this, but if I was one of them, I would not want to thud him up in practice. He’s such a big load.”
Fowler did show some breakaway speed in his 69-yard scoring run at Ole Miss. He felt himself pulling away on that run, but he isn’t claiming to have the fleet feet of freshmen backs Dee Hart and T.J Yeldon.
“No, I really don’t have speed but if I can get around the corner I’m going to get around there,” he said.
Fowler’s 15-yard touchdown at Auburn also saw the big back bounce it outside and win the race to the corner.
“He does have good speed for his size, and he can run the ball on the edge on certain types of plays,” Saban said. “I think he does that very, very well. Last year, a lot of the big plays that he made when he was in there last year were stretch-type, perimeter plays.”
But it’s in the trenches where his reputation will grow.
And he’ll do it in a backfield without someone earning preseason Heisman hype for the first time in a few years.
Fowler certainly benefited from playing behind Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram and Eddie Lacy. He knows most of his 385 yards last year came on “pretty exhausted” defenses.
“I know you get tired of tackling Trent and Eddie,” he said. “Those guys are great — They have speed; They’re going to bruise you up. I come in and I’m going to bruise you up a lot more.”