TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama will be without a key component of its offense for the rest of the season.
Running back Kenyan Drake, who broke his leg in the second quarter of the Crimson Tide’s game against Ole Miss, will miss the rest of the season with the injury, Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Monday.
“I think probably eight to 10 weeks before he really can start doing things that would allow him to be able to even think about being able to play football again,” Saban said.
It was a gruesome injury, one that won’t escape the minds of many who saw it live or on replay. The nature of the injury and recovery time aren’t much of a surprise.
But now Alabama will have to finish the season without one of its most explosive weapons—one who had been used all over the place so far this season—and suddenly finds itself with limited running back depth.
“Kenyan’s got a lot of production for us and he’s done a really good job all year long,” Saban said. “I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that when you lose a player like that, it does have some impact. But I do think we have other players that can do those things. Now they’re going to get the opportunity to do it and we’re going to have to have some other people to step up.”
Drake was the Crimson Tide’s most versatile player and one of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s favorite toys through four games.
In Alabama’s three-back backfield, he was the home run hitter of the group. He has an argument for fastest player on the team and was used a lot on off-tackle runs. He also led the team in touchdowns with four.
Kiffin was using Drake more in the passing game, and he was thriving.
Drake’s speed and 6’1”, 202-pound frame allowed him to be used as a receiver at times. He was split out wide against Florida Atlantic and took a screen pass 39 yards to the house. His most impressive play as a wide receiver came against Florida.
The Gators matched up Drake with a linebacker who had no chance against his speed in the open field. The safety couldn’t get over in time, and Drake was off to the races.
Alabama has plenty of talented offensive weapons on its roster but can’t just replace him straight up.
T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are two talented running backs in their own rights, but neither has the skill set to replace Drake. Henry is very much a physical, between-the-tackles runner. Yeldon uses his vision and quickness to hit holes hard and fast. He has speed in the open field but can’t hit the accelerator like Drake.
The trio made for an effective combination, with each bringing a different set of talents to the table. Now that Drake’s out, it limits more of what Alabama can do in the run game.
It also gives the team's running back depth another hit.
Tyren Jones is already out “several weeks” with a torn tendon in his finger. Drake’s injury leaves Altee Tenpenny as the only other true running back on the roster.
Tenpenny was a 4-star prospect out of high school and has looked fine in mop-up duty. He is more in the mold of a downhill runner, too. It’s unclear if Tenpenny will get in the rotation, but if he does, he won’t be able to bring what Drake does.
As Alabama tries to make the climb back to the top of college football, it will have to do so without one of its best and most versatile offensive weapons.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.