Kenyan Drake returns from injuryBy Elliott Propes | 04/15/2015 11:18pm
CW | Pete Pajor
One of the highlights that comes to mind for many Alabama football fans during the 2014 season was the 87-yard catch and sprint touchdown for Kenyan Drake against Florida.
Just the next week, another play unfolded that Crimson Tide fans would not forget as well – only this time they wish they could.
Early in the second quarter, Drake caught a half back screen and fought for a first down. An Ole Miss safety hit him awkwardly, and when Drake appeared from the dog pile, all of national television could see his left leg fractured. Drake missed the remainder of the season after surgery, but he has made his way back to the field this spring.
“I feel like we have the best athletic support staff in the country," Drake said. "You know they are going to do their job to get me back to where I can be 100 percent. I’m not there yet, but I appreciate everything they have done for me up to this point, and I am just happy to be back out on the field with my teammates.”
Drake has looked fresh and agile during practices and seems to have regained all of his speed. With T.J. Yeldon declaring for the draft, Drake moved up the depth chart as the primary second running back behind Derrick Henry.
“Obviously I’m not 100 percent yet," Drake said. "That won’t come until later on in the fall, but everything until this point has been great. My leg has responded well. I can run in a straight line pretty well. The cutting still brings a little difficulty, but like I said, at the end of the day I feel pretty normal. Once I get out there it’s just working through the soreness, which is pretty typical.”
Drake has been seen running through many wide receiver drills this spring. During most media viewing periods, he splits the time half and half between both the running backs and receivers. He lined up as receiver several times last season before his injury. Drake was lined up as a receiver during the 87-yard pass against Florida. Overall, he had 159 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in his five games.
“Well, Kenyan Drake is a guy that we want to get on the field," coach Nick Saban said. "Derrick Henry and him both are probably pretty dynamic players for us. They are really good playmakers. We are going to explore every way possible that we can get those guys the ball. We may have some personnel groups where we play those two guys together. I think those are the scenarios and reasons that you are seeing what you're seeing.”
After Drake and Henry, the running back depth has fallen off recently. Altee Tenpenny announced he would transfer in January. Then at the end of March, Tyren Jones was dismissed from the program after he was arrested for marijuana possession. Just a few days following Jones’ dismissal, Bo Scarbrough tore his ACL for the third time and will miss all of the 2015 season.
“That’s football," Henry said. "It is going to happen. That’s the nature of the game. Other guys have to stay ready. We just have to keep working and keep competing. Like I said, injuries are going to happen, but you can’t let it affect you because you got to keep working and getting better.”
With the position being thin, redshirt freshman Ronnie Clark has seen most of the third team reps. Clark was spending more time at the defensive back position, but because of the recent mishaps he has moved to running back. The lack of depth could mean that Drake and Henry will have to carry a little more of the load than was expected before spring began, but regardless it will be a pivotal year for Drake, someone who said he is happy to be back on the field.