Alabama has averaged a program-record 490.5 yards a game this season as well as a healthy 37.1 points per contest.
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin believes the Crimson Tide could have been even better had junior running back Kenyan Drake not broken his leg in the early October loss at Ole Miss. Drake was behind T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry on the depth chart, but the versatile 6-foot-1, 202-pounder from the Atlanta suburb of Powder Springs produced six touchdowns in the first four games.
"He was kind of the Reggie Bush factor," Kiffin told a radio station this past week in Little Rock, Ark., where he attended the Broyles Award ceremony. "The first play of the Florida game, we threw to him as a wide receiver. The other guys are phenomenal running backs, but they don't do the other stuff that Kenyan did."
Drake had rushed 22 times for 112 yards (5.1 per carry) and four touchdowns before the injury, and he had five receptions for 159 yards (31.8 per catch) and two scores. Matched against Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison on Alabama's first play from scrimmage Sept. 20 inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, Drake quickly broke free for an 87-yard touchdown reception from Blake Sims.
That Drake missed most of the season did not seem to bother him last Saturday, when he was smiling and holding a giant "SEC" placard after Alabama's 42-13 thumping of Missouri inside the Georgia Dome.
"I've enjoyed being just a student for once without all the hustle and bustle of having to go to every game," Drake said, "but I've missed being out there with my team."
Drake's season ended in the first minute of the second quarter in Oxford, when he caught a 10-yard pass from Sims but got hit high and low by Rebels defenders. CBS cameras caught the gruesome injury -- "Obviously your foot is not supposed to be sideways like that," Drake said -- as well as tears streaming down his face when he was carted off the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium turf.
"I've never been hurt like that before in my life," he said. "I cried, but not because it hurt, but because I didn't know how my future would end up. The support has been overwhelming, and I'm still getting letters to this day.
"With Bama Nation, there are no greater fans in the world, and I'm blessed to be a part of this."
Drake said he is 10 weeks into his rehab and hopes to be able to go through spring practice.
Rated by 247Sports.com as the nation's No. 88 prospect in the 2012 signing class, Drake rushed 42 times for 281 yards (6.7 per carry) and five touchdowns as a freshman on Alabama's third BCS championship team in four years. He was the primary backup to Yeldon last season, rushing 92 times for 694 yards (7.5) and eight scores, before being passed by Henry on the depth chart before the Sugar Bowl.
Kiffin obviously liked what he saw in Drake's limited action this season, and he is ready to renew the relationship once Drake is healthy again.
"It will be exciting to get him back next year," Kiffin said. "I shouldn't do it, but I sometimes imagine if we still had him. It would be such a mismatch issue."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.