Alabama Coach Mike Shula wasn't worried about the numbers when he said, "Kenneth Darby looked good when he ran the ball." Those numbers were 11 carries for only 16 yards, but included one touchdown. And the "Oh, yeah," is that his yards came against a first defense that was dominant in the first scrimmage of the spring at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.
(By the way, Alabama has not had many good football teams when the offense was ahead of the defense in the spring. Even breaking in seven new starters, the defense has advantages in experience, in the Crimson Tide working in new quarterbacks, and the always advantage of knowing the offensive schemes.)
Following the scrimmage an obviously pleased Darby said, "I missed all of last spring. I didn't want to miss this spring. This is a whole lot better than last spring. I know today could have been better for the offense, but I feel good because I'm looking at the long haul. I've been watching the young guys and I think they are getting there. It's a little slow, but it will pick up. Our goal was to pick up where we left off in the bowl game (a 13-10 win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl that gave Bama a 10-2 record and a national ranking of eighth) and go from there."
Last year Darby was diagnosed with a sports hernia, an injury requiring specialized surgery in Philadelphia. The injury is sometimes career-ending, often-times a long recovery.
Darby beat the odds in a big way. The upcoming senior is on track to become Alabama's all-time leading rusher. Last season he had 239 carries for 1,242 yards (5.2 yards per carry) with three touchdowns and a long run of 48 yards. He also had 29 receptions for another 132 yards.
Darby, who is expected to earn his degree in August, needs 1,080 yards in 2006 to break the Alabama career rushing record of 3,565 yards, held by NFL MVP Shaun Alexander. If Darby reaches his goal, he will become the first back in Bama history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in three consecutive seasons.
He also has 10 100-yard rushing games, five behind Bama co-leaders Alexander and Bobby Humphrey.
Darby had been missing in action in contact work prior to Saturday. Tendonitis in his knee was the diagnosis. He said, "It feels okay. It bothers me a little bit. After spring practice, I'll take some time, relax, stay off it. It's getting better, but you can't stay off it when you're practicing football."
Darby said in an attempt to get ready for his first spring action he had "been trying to do things on my own, trying to stay in shape. But when you miss two weeks of football practice, you can't be in football shape."
He added, "I need to get better. We all know we all need to get better."