Sometimes I wonder how the NFL careers would’ve turned out for uber-shifty running backs like Reggie Bush and C.J. Spiller had some coach had the foresight to cross-train them at receivers during their formative years as football players.

After all, when you possess the type of explosiveness, short-area agility and hands as those two players — while lacking the type of bulk to be an every-down, franchise-type back — playing receiver would’ve possibly yielded similar results while lengthening the effectiveness of their respective careers.

For University of Alabama RB Kenyan Drake, the news of his getting a chance to practice with the receiver group hit me like a ton of bricks — in a positive sense, of course. Being as though I’ve written on numerous occasions that Drake could easily slide into a full-time receiver role and dominate, needless to say I was as giddy as a little schoolgirl.

I’ve waxed poetic about the plight of the running back position, and it may be a little clearer given the provided circumstances. Rising junior Derrick Henry, all 6’3″, 241 pounds of him, should receive the lion’s share of the carries as he has special gifts that can’t be quantified.

Although most would look at him as a Bo Jackson-like power back, the thing the pair have in common most is blinding speed. This would leave one to believe that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin feels he has an explosive element on the field with Henry.

The power element should come from redshirt freshman freak Bo Scarbrough, who at 6’2″, 237 pounds, running a 4.4 40-yard dash, could be the hammer to Henry’s nail — as the latter is more organically finesse — but will also add an explosive element of his own.

The changeup could come in the form of the elusive 5’10”, 205-pound true freshman Damien Harris and his ability to make you miss in close quarters. That’s not to gloss over the fact that he also possesses the type of power that will separate defensive players from their souls.

And with another future contributor in the form of the 6’1″, 215-pound incoming freshman DeSherrius Flowers, it’s safe to say the Tide’s backfield may be as stacked as ever.

But if you contrast that with the loss of the greatest receiver in the program’s history, Amari Cooper, and couple it with the devastating recent injury to promising receiver Cam Sims, we could very well have a void on a team that turned out to be more of a passing outfit than we could’ve ever imagined from a Nick Saban-led squad.

I have complete confidence that Drake could fill-in and star in a new role centered around being an X-, S- or Z-receiver.

At 6’1″, 201 pounds, Drake is built very similar to Cooper and has, perhaps, the same exact skill set. What made Cooper almost indefensible was his ability to stop on a dime and provide change for all parties involved — in addition to his tackle-breaking prowess.

You have to imagine that if the 6’1″, 211-pound Cooper were a running back, he’d play exactly like Drake.

As far as his NFL prospects go, the league is littered with backs around Drake’s size that are commonly referred to as third-down or change-of-pace backs that undoubtedly have a role but aren’t as much of a commodity as one might think.

Bush and Spiller have constantly battled injuries and have yet to prove they can be full-time options as every-down backs in the NFL. The 6’0″, 201-pound Bush reminds me most of Drake as he may the most elusive player of this entire generation; his highlight-reel is filled with defenders who’ve gotten their ankles detached trying to tackle him in space.

But after nine NFL seasons — with only two eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark — Bush has only averaged 4.3 yards a tote and is now on his fourth team. Many speculated that Bush should’ve thought about switching to receiver a few years into his NFL career when it became apparent he couldn’t take the pounding at RB.

Spiller, who has averaged an outstanding 5.0 yards per attempt in his NFL career, was once moved to a slot receiver for a portion of a season and looked really good in the process.

Drake is currently in a scheme that is tailor made for his skill set as a receiver. Cooper was basically used as an extension of the run game as he was fed a steady diet of hitches, slants, drags, reverses and more screen passes than you could shake a stick at; Drake could replicate that in his sleep.

But it was all designed at forcing the defense to pay extra attention to the quick game, and thus providing favorable coverage for when Kiffin called an 8-, 9- or even a double-move route — which almost virtually went for a touchdown.


Routes of the “smoke” variety were a huge part of Cooper’s success in his record-setting junior season; QB Blake Sims had carte blanche to get the ball into Cooper’s hand the minute the defense showed it was in area or off-man coverage.

Can you imagine what Drake would do with this much space?


Just look at what he does with no space…


Here we see Kiffin scheming up the deep ball against favorable coverage — two-deep, split coverage — with Cooper operating from the slot. Getting athletes like Cooper or Drake matched up with safeties is football suicide for defensive coordinators.


This is all you need to know about the skill set of Drake: He showed a Cooper-like way of setting up this slant-and-go route by being able to pursue it hard to the inside and bend it back against the grain without losing a modecum of speed.

Additionally, he showed how great his hands are by not having to turn around to catch the ball and simply plucking it out of the sky much like we’ve seen from great centerfielders like Ken Griffey Jr.

From there his 4.3 40-yard dash speed kicked in and made it look as though the safety was running in mud; you can’t tell me he didn’t look exactly like Cooper on that play.

Kiffin is the master of putting backs and receivers in position to make stars of themselves, much like we saw from Bush when the pair were at the University of Southern California.

You have to wonder if the coach has ever thought what would’ve happened had he gotten Bush away from the running back group into Kiffin’s natural coaching position of receiver.

One thing’s for sure: Drake has the prerequisite skill set to be a focal point at receiver if he were to undergo a full-time position switch. But chances are he will continue to be moved all around the formation in attempt to create mismatches.

Now that’s scary.