College football is all about balance. Though it starts on the offensive side with the quarterback, running backs play a pivotal role in maintaining balance in the run/pass ratio. In the same manner that coaches enjoy having two talented quarterbacks, they probably relish having two game changers at the running back position even more.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide, the fortune of recruiting the best at the running back position talent wise continues to be successful. Though Shaun Alexander stole the show from 1996-2000, the Crimson Tide began installing the duo running back system in 2002 with Santonio Beard and Shaud Williams. The system didn’t really catch on for the Tide until 2008. In Nick Saban’s second season as head coach, Alabama had its first dynamic duo in Glenn Coffee and Mark Ingram.
Ingram and Coffee guided the Tide to an undefeated 12-0 season in 2008. The next year, Trent Richardson joined the party. In 2009, Ingram and Richardson terrified defenses in the Southeastern Conference and the nation. The one, two punch of Ingram and Richardson gave Alabama an SEC title, its 13th national title and its first Heisman winner, Ingram. In 2011 and 2012, there was no drop off. Behind Richardson and Eddie Lacy (2011) and Lacy along with TJ Yeldon (2012), the Crimson Tide continued to thrive and win championships. This season looks to be no different as a new star will look to make his mark.
As a native of Powder Spring, Ga., Kenyan Drake attended and played football for Hillgrove High School. Despite seeing little action in his first three years, Drake exploded onto the national surface as a senior. Under head coach David Ironside, Drake proved that he was ready for the collegiate world. In his senior season, he had 175 carries for 1,610 yards (9.2 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns.
The thing that had college scouts baffled about Drake was his versatility. He was more than just a running back in high school. He was a gifted receiver and an outstanding return specialist. He totaled 315 yards on the receiving end with five touchdowns and returned two kickoffs for scores as well. Drake was a two sport guy; along with football he also had a love for track and field. He won the 100-meter dash in the 4-AAAAA Championship.
With his ability in being a dominant all-purpose back in high school, Drake was considered a consensus four-star recruit. Rivals.com ranked him as the No.13 prospect in Georgia. 247 sports listed him as the No.4 all-purpose back and ESPNU ranked him as the No.15 running back. Scout.com ranked Drake as the No.17 running back nationally.
As far as high school awards are concerned, Drake was Georgia’s Gatorade Player of the Year. He was named second-team All-State Selection by the Georgia Sports Writers Association (2010 & 2011). He earned Super 11 honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In 2012, Drake decided to take his skills to Alabama. He chose the Crimson Tide over Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Purdue. As a freshman, Drake took his time learning behind Lacy and Yeldon. In 11 games, Drake had 39 carries for 273 yards and five touchdowns. He scored his first collegiate touchdown against Western Kentucky on a 32-yard run. Of his five touchdowns, three of them came against SEC opponents (Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi State).
Though Drake accomplished a championship in being a member of the team, he didn’t get the opportunity to do too much and really show off his abilities. With Lacy now in the NFL with the Packers and Yeldon as the featured back for the Tide, Drake has stepped in and has assumed his role as the No.2 guy. Despite not playing against Virginia Tech (off-the-field issues) in the season opener, Drake has really stepped up and has shown his teammates, the coaching staff and the fan base that he is a productive player. Following the matchup with the Hokies, Drake scored a touchdown in each of the next three games against Texas A&M, Colorado State and Ole Miss.
He didn’t run the ball particularly well against Colorado State, but he came up huge on special teams (defense) in blocking a punt that was recovered by teammate, Dillon Lee for a touchdown. Against Mississippi, Drake watched as Yeldon torched the Rebels with 17 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown. When he got his opportunity, Drake embraced it. He totaled 12 carries for 99 yards including a 50-yard burst to pay dirt. Against Kentucky and Arkansas, he has rushed for over 100 yards and scored twice in both games.
Drake has brought the soft hands that he had in high school to the Crimson Tide in the receiving aspect as well. He has eight receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. Currently, Drake has 49 carries for 402 yards and seven touchdowns. Like the No.2 backs before him, Drake has assumed the job and is doing it well thus far. If he can continue to secure the football and be that great change of pace back opposite of Yeldon, Alabama is going to be a very difficult team to stop now and in the future.