With Alabama running back Kenyan Drake’s July 5 arrest, a misdemeanor for obstruction of governmental operations, he has once again landed himself in head coach Nick Saban’s proverbial doghouse — and is currently suspended behind the transgression.

To play devil’s advocate, it’s not like he’s done anything that egregious in his two seasons at the Capstone. He was suspended for violation of team rules in the 2012 season opener. He pretty much met that same fate in last season’s opener against the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the process repeated itself in the now infamous Sugar Bowl loss to the Oklahoma Sooners (sorry, Coach Stoops).

To make matters worse, he missed some practice time in the spring — along with fellow talented underclassman running back Altee Tenpenny — due to academic transgressions.

“They didn’t do what they were supposed to do in school this week,” Saban said after a spring practice per AL.com. The pair spent time at what Saban dubbed “the study table.”

“If they don’t stay over there for four hours, they probably won’t play in the spring game,” Saban expressed. “I’d rather do it now than during the season.”

Despite possessing the most talented backfield in the college football, some say in all of football,  led by the uber-talented T.J. Yeldon and supported by budding superstar Derrick Henry, it may be in Saban’s best interest to ensure that Drake stays in the fold.

Because he’s possibly the most talented back on the roster.


I had the pleasure of watching Drake play in his prep years at Hillgrove high school in nearby Powder Springs, Georgia — where he was named Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of GA — when his team played my former high school, the Brookwood Broncos (2010).

His short-area quickness was indelible; his track speed (4.34 timed 40-yard dash) was undeniable; his hands were unforgettable. For my money he looked like a reincarnation of former USC Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush.

At a listed 6’1″, 201 pounds, he’s built very similar to Bush (6’0″, 203 lbs). While he may not have the “prerequisite” size to be a workhorse, although Kansas City Chiefs’ star back Jamaal Charles (5’11”, 199 lbs) may disagree, he’s big enough to have a major impact in the between-the-tackles game.

But his talents comes from his ability to make something from nothing.

When former offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier brought in his area-blocking scheme, he needed backs that could implement the one-cut-and-go philosophy. But he also needed backs that could make the first defender miss.

Former star Eddie Lacy met the requirements, and he also provided some physicality due to his size. Yeldon is similar to Lacy in some aspects; both are missing that sixth gear. Drake (nor Henry) has no such problems.


Here against the Ole Miss Rebels, Drake takes the dive and make the initial defender miss. Usually when a play is schemed up to perfection, there will still be an unblocked defender. But players who can make that defender miss, or run them over, have a greater chance to spring explosive plays.

Drake hits the initial defender with the “dead leg.” After “ghosting” him, he outran the angle of the secondary defender. And when it seemed as though star safety Cody Prewitt had the proper angle to make the stop, Drake left him grasping at air as well.

These type of runs are extremely galvanizing for teams.

With 694 yards to his credit (for the 2013-14 season), on only 92 carries (with nine total TDs), you can bet your bottom dollar that Drake did a lot of galvanizing.


Case in point: Here, against the Arkansas Razorbacks, on a designed outside-zone run Drake had the wherewithal to bend it back against the grain (as he spotted the free defender) before pressing the front-side action.

Additionally, after bumping into the tight end, he makes a defender miss who catches him with his pants down (which is the strangest football analogy, ever). That particular defender could still barely lay a hand on him.

And we encounters the safety on  the third level, with a two-way go, it’s pretty much curtains at that point in time.

Forty-six yards later, it’s a TD.

Drake’s ability to decelerate and accelerate is unbelievable; his zero-to-60 is very BMW-like and his top-end speed is very reminiscent of Germany’s finest vehicle (those preceding comparisons pretty much takes out the guesswork as to which car manufacture is my favorite).

But don’t sleep on Drake’s ability to convert speed to power. Although his agility and play-making ability deserves top billing, he truly does have the makeup to be a viable all-around back. In fact, Nussmeier used him multiple times in goal-line situations. But it’s his ability to effect the passing game that needs highlighting.


Here, against the Panthers of Georgia State, Drake is the outlet for quarterback A.J. McCarron. In very Bush-like fashion he’s able to make an explosive play out of lemons. Catching the ball with his back turned to the defender, Drake used the eyes in the back of his head to set the defender up.

He gave him an inside pivot, backpedaled and turned on the spin cycle. From there he turned on the jets and and made out like a mini G5, soaring for the TD.

Thankfully for Tide fans, all three prominent backs have exceptional ability in the screen game. But it’s the pass-blocking prowess of Yeldon that separates him from the other two. Although Drake is improving in that category as well.


Here we see Yeldon making his presence felt in “pass-pro” on DeAndrew White’s one-handed grab for a TD versus the Panthers. On this outside/in read, Drake attacks his responsibility instead of letting the rusher get to the backfield.

Since this is a quick fade, allowing the rusher to get penetration may have disrupted the sight line for the QB. It may have been better for Drake to have gotten his body into the defender instead of cut-blocking. But, nevertheless, he got the job done while assisting on one of the better catches of the season.

Drake’s talent appears limitless.

How He Can Improve

It would be a complete oversight on my part if Drake’s fumbling problems weren’t brought up. In those aforementioned 92 attempts, he fumbled four times with three of them resulting in a turnover — a fact that’s not lost on Saban.

“Kenyan is a very talented guy, has great speed, really gifted and instinctive as a runner,” Saban said on his radio show prior to the Sugar Bowl. “The big thing we’ve tried to work with him on is ball security. It’s been somewhat of an issue.”

As was the case with Bush, when you’re that elusive you’re bound to have a disconnect with proper technique.


In a game that was much too close for comfort for Tide fans, a 20-7 victory over the very formidable Mississippi State Bulldogs, Drake had a costly fumble deep in the fourth quarter. As is the case with most of his fumbles, he failed to keep the ball high and tight, instead opting for low and away as he got ready to perform his moves.

It may take hours and hours of drilling to erase, more like minimize, this instinctive habit from Drake’s repertoire. Just like the constant teaching from Saban (and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin who coincidentally was the OC for Bush during his Heisman campaign), coupled with an overall maturation process, will eventually do away with the nicknack transgressions that have haunted the talented running back.

While Yeldon is the most well-rounded (and best) and Henry is the darling (and the future), it’s Drake that possesses the most innate talent. Here’s hoping that all three stay intact for the Tide’s inevitable run at a national championship this season.