Alabama defeated West Virginia, 33-23, in the Crimson Tide’s season-opening game in Atlanta last week, and Bama amassed 288 yards of rushing offense on 49 carries. But Kenyan Drake, Alabama’s second leading rusher last year with 92 carries for 694 yards (7.5 yards per carry), barely scratched against the Mountaineers.
Drake, a 6-1, 202-pounder from Powder Springs, Ga., had only three carries for seven yards Saturday.
A year ago the left out tailback was usually Derrick Henry, who was a freshman. Asked about Henry getting more carries last season, Alabama Coach Nick Saban had a rhetorical question: From whom would you take the carries?
T.J. Yeldon (6-2, 221, junior) was Bama’s leading rusher last year with 1,235 yards. He opened this season with 23 rushes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Henry ((6-3, 241, sophomore) moved ahead of Drake late last season and averaged 10.9 yards per carry for the season (35 carries for 382 yards). Against West Virginia, he had 17 runs for 113 yards and one touchdown.
“I liked the way both guys played,” Saban said.
Obviously, it is a crowded field at tailback for a limited number of plays.
But there is more to Drake being the man left out than just the abilities of Yeldon and Henry.
Saban said there were special situations in which Drake was to be used, and those situations didn’t arise. “We thought he would play a little bit more in the game.”
The coach said, “We have a lot of confidence in all three of those guys. As long as we can keep them healthy, that’s probably how we’ll play.”
One special situation that Saban had hinted at in the pre-season is using Drake as a pass receiver. He is one of the players the coach had singled out as “a mis-match guy,” meaning that if he comes out of the backfield and is covered by a linebacker, the speedy Drake would have the potential for big gains as a receiver.