"We didn't know what to expect," Alabama Coach Mike Shula said. "But throughout his rehab, we were told that he was on track or ahead of schedule. I think Coach Woods (Sparky Woods, who coaches running backs) did a good job of giving him enough, but not too much in pre-season camp."
Shula said he thinks Darby "looks good. He's running with more confidence than ever."
Darby, a junior, said he never thinks about the injury that sidelined him late last season. "Maybe on day every couple of weeks it will be a little sore," he said. "But only in practice. I never think about it in games."
When Bama star receiver Tyrone Prothro suffered a season-ending broken leg last Saturday, attention turned to how Bama would make up for his considerable loss. Most of that attention was on which wide receivers would get more work, as well as who would take over Prothro's punt and kickoff returning duties.
But replacing Prothro's numbers is not necessarily dependent on the wide receivers making up the yardage and touchdowns. "It gives everyone on the team more opportunities," Darby said. "It's not one guy who is going to do it. The receivers have to step up their game. The offensive line has to block better than ever. And I want to do more."
Darby said one of his goals coming into the season was to be a more complete player. "I want to run the ball well, but I wanted to be a better blocker and better pass receiver," he said. "I want to do anything I can to help the team. And I think I may be getting more passes."
"He won't be lining up at wide receiver or anything like that, but we want to do everything we can to get the ball in his hands," said Shula.
Darby said that one reason for Alabama success this year is the work of the offensive linemen. "They are getting better because they are getting more experience, seeing different defenses every week. But the main reason they are getting better is because they have worked their butts off. They have done all you can ask."
Darby said he isn't too much concerned about the national rankings, but he does like to compare Alabama to other top teams. "I don't get to watch a lot of college football," he said. "I haven't seen a game from the first quarter until the end since last bowl season. But I see a little of a lot of games, and this weekend when we're off I'll watch a lot of college football."
He said he likes to watch the top teams and think how Alabama compares. "I think we stack up pretty well," he said. "We really have more weapons than most teams. I think we could play with anyone."