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Alabama Football: Don’t sleep on Kenyan Drake

Alabama has a stable of running backs returning in 2014, but T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are the lone two that are mentioned in conversations.

Both backs are coming off productive seasons in 2013. Yeldon rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Henry totaled 382 yards rushing (10.6 yards per carry) with three touchdowns.

Yeldon is chasing Shaun Alexander’s career record (3,585 rushing yards) and Henry became the talk of the town after his performance against Oklahoma, but don’t count Kenyan Drake out of the conversation.

He has his endeavors of being in Nick Saban’s “doghouse,” but Drake is the great contrast aside from Yeldon and Henry. Granted, Yeldon has more rushing yards, but Alabama’s roadrunner has displayed a better yards per carry average than Yeldon in the last two season.

Alabama Running Backs: Kenyan Drake vs. T.J. Yeldon

Name Year Yards per carry average
T.J. Yeldon 2012-13 2012: 6.3—2013: 6.0
Kenyan Drake 2012-13 2012: 6.7—2013: 7.5

Drake enters his junior season with 975 yards rushing and 13 scores off 134 carries. Yeldon is the tall back. He has vision, power and speed. Henry is the power back. He has great leg drive and doesn’t go down easily after contact.

Elusiveness in the hole is what separates Drake from others. His ability to see the hole open and hit it quickly is pivotal to Alabama’s success.

Not only is he elusive in the hole, but Drake also has exceptional vision and cutback abilities. He knows how to change speeds in the open field. Drake has added toughness to repertoire this offseason. He’s improved on running behind his pads when going in between the tackles.

Drake is a productive running back, but he’s an underrated receiver. Despite his quickness, Drake excels at catching balls out of the backfield. He’s dangerous in space and is good at making defenders miss. Drake caught 12 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown in 2013.

Drake’s off the issues have resulted from being at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Unlike most coaches, Saban has a different way of getting a player’s attention.

Saban doesn’t believe in dismissing players from the program. He looks at this football team as a family and like family; Saban would rather have his players learn from their mistakes than to release them from the team.

Two things have woken Drake up this offseason, Saban’s message and the competitiveness of his teammates. The talk has been on Yeldon and Henry, but Drake is arguably the third most explosive player on the team.

Mother Nature provided rain on Alabama’s first scrimmage, but it had no affect on Drake. He led all backs with 88 yards rushing and a touchdown off six carries. Drake was the leading receiver, recording four receptions for 65 yards.

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said he’s not trying to change the Tide’s offense completely, but rest assured that Drake will be used a lot more next season.

Yeldon and Henry have been named to many award watch lists. Both backs are even in an early Heisman conversation. With that being said, each team needs to have one player that is indispensable. For Alabama, Kenyan Drake is that player.

Drake is explosive, versatile and competitive. He’s battling Henry to remain as the No. 2 running back, but he’s also challenging Yeldon for the No.1 spot.

A fastball and a curveball are both good pitches, but all pitchers need a devastating changeup in their arsenal to be successful.

Alabama has the power and leadership with Yeldon and Henry, but Drake is that change of pace back. He gives the offense a different wrinkle and keeps defenses on its heels.

Saban’s message woke him up, but Drake’s competitive teammates have pushed him. Yeldon and Henry are good, but don’t write Drake out of the equation in 2014.

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