Drake Plays More By Being Right
Although nothing was ever said about Kenyan Drake having been suspended for that first Alabama game, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban indicated that was the situation in his Wednesday comments.
Drake, a 6-1, 201-pound sophomore from Powder Springs, Ga., is still listed third on what is not so much a depth chart as Bama's personnel grouping, but the number two man behind starter T.J. Yeldon is Jalston Fowler, who splits time between tailback and H-back.
Last year Drake was the number three tailback behind Eddie Lacy and Yeldon. Drake played in 12 games for the national championship team and had 42 carries for 281 yards (6.7 yards per carry average) and five touchdowns.
After missing the Virginia Tech game, Drake ranks second in rushing behind Yeldon – albeit a distant second. Drake has 27 rushes for 192 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. He also has four receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown. (Yeldon has carried 72 times for 445 yards and four touchdowns.)
Asked about the showing Drake has made since missing the opener, Saban said, "Kenyan Drake didn't play in the first game because he didn't do what he was supposed to do. So he might have played more in the first game if he had done what he was supposed to do.
"He hasn't done anything different. He just did what he was supposed to do, which he didn't do before the first game so he didn't play. He didn't go on the trip and he didn't play.
"I don't know what else there is to say about it.
"He's a good player. He played well for us last year and he's played well for us this year. He's shown a lot more maturity in doing things the right way, and we trust and believe in him. I think the other players do as well. He's been very productive so far this year.
"We're hopeful that he'll continue to do the right things so that he can play.
"Sometimes these players don't realize that, to me, doing the right thing, whether it's on the field, off the field or whatever it is, shows that you have the character to make good choices and decisions. OK, here's what I'm supposed to do, here's what I want to do, which one am I going to do?
"We can't put guys on the field that want to hit a guy late, don't want to do the right thing. It's a part of your character when you do that off the field. I'm supposed to be in by a certain time and then I don't. I want to stay out a little later. I know what I'm supposed to do. I know what I want to do, so which one do you choose?
"To me, everyone of those circumstances involves character, and people have to have enough discipline to make good choices and decisions on and off the field to develop the trust that we need to have in them so that they can play. I don't care who it is.
"That's just me."
The top-ranked Alabama football team continued preparations for Saturday's game at Kentucky with a two-hour practice in full pads at the Thomas-Drew Practice Fields on Wednesday afternoon.
The Crimson Tide travels to the Bluegrass State for a 6 p.m. (CDT) kickoff at Commonwealth Stadium on ESPN2. Alabama has won 16 straight games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium dating back to a 24-21 loss at LSU in 2010. It is the second-longest such streak in school history.
Alabama has won four straight in the series dating to the 1997 season. Both of Kentucky's wins in the series have come in Lexington, but Alabama boasts a 15-2 record in the state of Kentucky (14-2 in Lexington & 1-0 in Louisville).
Saban also discussed the status of Amari Cooper, a freshman All-America last year who has been slowed by a foot injury this year.
Saban said, "Amari's a hard-working guy. He won the most points on all of his tests in the summer conditioning program, so he's a hard worker and a guy that really, really wants to be good and do well.
"I think it's very frustrating when you have something that's nagging you that you can't do things on a consistent basis like you'd like to do them.
"I think the fact that we haven't played him as much lately, I do think he's getting healthy and he's had a really good week this week, so hopefully if we don't have a setback, he'll be able to continue to progress and do a good job."
To the surprise of no one, Saban said that safety HaHa Clinton-Dix does not appear to be in the plans for Kentucky. Clinton-Dix was suspended for a violation of team rules (reported to be borrowing money from an Alabama assistant strength coach) and did not play last week. Saban said, "HaHa's suspended until we make an announcement that he's not. I think I've made that statement more than once, and that we would tell you if anything changed."
With the absence of Clinton-Dix, Saban was asked about the secondary and, specifically, about the leadership role of strong safety Vinnie Sunseri.
Saban said, "Vinnie does a good job. Vinnie's a very smart guy. He's been showing leadership in terms of making calls and trying to help the other gyus in the secondary, which I think they appreciate.
"He all of a sudden is one of the most experienced guys back there right now.
"Deion's (cornerback Deion Belue) got some experience. It's so important to communicate well when you play aginst the no-huddle teams. I think he realizes that and is trying to get the other guys to do a good job of communicating. I think that'll be a real challenge for us this week on the road against another no-huddle team, doing a good job of communicating with the players.
"I think (cornerbacks) Bradley Sylve and Deion Belue probably help us the most because they have a little more experience at corner. So I think that helps the safeties as well, because that's where the communication breakdown comes, from the safety to the corner.
"The more the corner knows about what's going on, the better off you are."
As for preparation this week, Saban said, "We've had a pretty good week. Players are working trying to improve which is certainly the goal that we have. I've tried to emphasize to the players this week that the season is not like running the sprint. It's not about one game or one play or whatever. It's more liket a marathon that you've got to have a lot of grit.
"Playing on the road in the SEC takes a lot of grit. It's a personality trait that demonstrates a passion and perserverance toward a goal despite being confronted with significant obstacles and distractions, but it's also the highest predictor of success. That's something that you've really got to show with the kind of character and passion you have for wanting to be a good player as well as wanting to be a good team.
"It's really important to do the little things right and execute and pay attention to detail, especially when you're playing on the road against good teams in the SEC. This is certainly a good team that we have to play against. It's a different environment for us. It's always more difficult to play on the road with the noise. We didn't play very well the last time we were on the road so we certainly need to do a lot better job against a very different kind of offense in terms of what we've had to play against in the past, because it's such a good running quarterback and a good athlete at that position. It'll be a real challenge and test for us.
"Defensively, they've really played better the last two or three games, so we're going to have to do a good job of trying to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
"It's a great opportunity for us, and they've got a really good program up there and we're looking forward to the challenge."
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