Crimson Tide loaded at running back

Yeldon a top RB, must fix fumbling problem

Anniston StarMarch 4, 2014 

Alabama TJs Turn Football

FILE -- In this Sept. 8, 2012, file photo, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon (4) is taken down after a run by Western Kentucky defensive back Tyree Robinson (22) during an NCAA college football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Yeldon leads a tandem of backfield talent as the top-ranked Crimson Tide approaches its season opener. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, file)


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As the start of spring practice for Alabama approaches, we'll continue to breakdown each position. Today, we take a look at the Crimson Tide's stable of running backs.

Departed: Alvin Kamara (transfer), Dee Hart

Ready for spring: T.J. Yeldon, rising junior; Kenyan Drake, junior; Derrick Henry, sophomore; Altee Tenpenny, sophomore; Tyren Jones, redshirt freshman.

Coming in the fall: Bo Scarbrough

Outlook: Once again, Alabama is loaded at running back. A serious argument could be made that the Crimson Tide has one of the best backfields heading into the 2014 season.

In his first two seasons, Yeldon did something that Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy didn't: rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

Yeldon has amassed 2,343 yards and 26 touchdowns. He'll enter spring practice as the No. 1 back with many expecting him to be a three-and-done player if he posts more strong numbers.

When healthy, Yeldon is one of the best backs in the SEC and the country. But he has had his issues with the biggest knock being ball security. In 2013, his fumble to carry ratio (one fumble to every 41 touches) was the worst of any starting running back during Nick Saban's tenure.

Properly carrying the ball will likely be his biggest focus during offseason workouts.

If Yeldon isn't able to fix his fumbling problem, there's more than enough capable talent behind him as both Henry and Drake are chomping at his heels.

After not playing much early during his freshman campaign due to lack of knowledge of the blocking schemes, Henry exploded onto the scene during bowl practice. He surpassed Drake on the depth chart and had a dominant performance in the Sugar Bowl, racking up 161 total yards and two touchdowns on just nine touches in the Tide's loss to Oklahoma. If Henry continues to improve like he did during postseason practice, he could provide the Tide with the power rushing attack it lacked last season.

As for Drake, he's the back who really needs to make a move during spring. Drake is definitely talented, and he has the numbers to prove it. For his career, he averages 7.3 yards per carry and has an otherworldly carry to touchdown ratio (one touchdown for every 10 carries).

But with Yeldon already of ahead of him and Henry having passed him, Drake could find himself as the odd man out considering Saban has shown he favors a two-back rotation. Still, the addition of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin could change things in Drake's favor, as Kiffin may find a way to incorporate all three of the Tide's top running backs into the offense.

Before he was sidelined with a turf toe injury, Tenpenny played well during his limited time and was even ahead of Henry on the depth chart. He'll have an uphill battle to crack the lineup in 2014, but if he continues to work hard, he'll likely earn a more prominent role in 2015.

As for Jones, he didn't touch the field last season, but it wasn't because of a lack of talent. Alabama inked four running backs in its 2013 class, and with only one football to go around, at least two were destined for a redshirt. Jones along with Kamara, who transferred out, were the two. Like Tenpenny, Jones may also be competing for a more featured role in 2015 or beyond when others move on.

With Alabama breaking in a new quarterback, expect a run heavy offense to begin the season. And with so many players capable of being the starter, the competition should push each one of them to be great.

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