In what was one of the most unexpected moves of the offseason, Alabama brought back former Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin back to the SEC following the 2013 season as its replacement for recently departed offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
Kiffin was let go as the head coach of the USC Trojans in the middle of the 2013 season, and he spent time consulting the Alabama offense and head coach Nick Saban leading up to its 45-31 Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.
Now, he has the keys to Alabama's offense as its new offensive coordinator. Under hood is a stable of horses at running back—all of whom are capable of being stars.
T.J. Yeldon has topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa, but his job is in jeopardy after Derrick Henry burst on to the national scene with a 100-yard performance against the Sooners.
Toss in juniors Kenyan Drake and Dee Hart, sophomore Altee Tenpenny, redshirt freshman Tyren Jones and incoming athlete Bo Scarbrough—who could move to another position—and the Alabama running back corps looks more like a small village than a position battle at one spot on the depth chart.
So, what should Kiffin do?
|Alabama Returning RB's 2013 Stats|
Yeldon obviously has the attention of the nation. He's the incumbent feature back for a high-profile program, and his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa have certainly earned him the benefit of the doubt.
But ball security has been an issue for Yeldon. He fumbled a team-high five times and lost four during the 2013 season, according to stats released by Alabama; That's on top of a freshman campaign that saw him tie for the team lead with two lost fumbles.
Everybody is obviously going into spring practice with a clean slate thanks to Kiffin being in the house, but expect extra attention to be paid to Yeldon and rising sophomore Derrick Henry.
The 6'3", 238-pound Henry exploded on to the scene in the Sugar Bowl, rushing eight times for 100 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Sooners. That earned him the designation as "the next man up" in Tuscaloosa, and it could land him the majority of the carries this fall if he proves that he can be consistent this spring.
He clearly has the size to be a star, but he also showed the burst and shiftiness to be a dangerous weapon in space in his limited action as a freshman. He should be an every-down back, not just a situational one.
Kiffin should go in with eyes wide open and let Henry and Yeldon battle it out. If Yeldon can solve his fumbling issues or simply beat out Henry and the rest of the pack, Henry will certainly find a home as a situational back, even though he's capable of more.
When he's not in the doghouse, Drake has proven that he can be the effective "lightning" to the thunder of either every-down back. He averaged a whopping 7.54 yards per carry last season, scoring eight touchdowns in the process. If Kiffin wants to get creative, he can mix Drake in with either Yeldon or Henry at the same time to spice up the offense a bit.
That's where head coach Nick Saban comes in. Sure, Kiffin will have control of the offense, but Saban runs the ship in Tuscaloosa, and if Kiffin starts too fancy for Saban's liking—which isn't a stretch considering Kiffin's track record from time to time—he will be reeled in.
The rest of the group will likely be fighting for carries in reserve roles or work on special teams—or, in the case of Scarbrough, switch positions.
It's the epitome of a "rich man's problem."
Everybody has a clean slate, but expect Kiffin to let Yeldon and Henry battle it out for the feature-back designation and then let the the rest of the chips fall into place.
Don't be surprised to see Henry spring the upset.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer on Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.