Eight tailbacks and one football doesn't seem like math that would work, but Alabama coach Nick Saban does not believe he has overcrowding at that position.
The Crimson Tide return sophomores T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, redshirt junior Jalston Fowler and redshirt sophomore Dee Hart from the 2012 BCS championship team. This past Wednesday, Alabama signed Derrick Henry of Yulee, Fla.; Alvin Kamara of Norcross, Ga.; Altee Tenpenny of North Little Rock, Ark.; and Tyren Jones of Marietta, Ga.
"I don't really see how we have a stacked group at running back," Saban said Wednesday, when he addressed his fifth top-ranked recruiting class in the last six years. "We have one guy coming back that rushed for a thousand yards. We have another guy that carried the ball a few times as a freshman and two guys that got hurt and may or may not be able to come back and play that position very well.
"To me, to have really good depth at running back, you need five really good players."
Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 6.3 yards a carry last season, while Drake had 281 yards and averaged 6.7 yards a carry. Fowler tore an ACL in the second game last season against Western Kentucky, and Hart tore an ACL in the fifth game against Ole Miss.
All four of Alabama's tailback signees are Rivals.com top-100 players, with Henry 36th, Kamara 45th, Tenpenny 53rd and Jones 79th.
Saban has employed stout tailback tandems in recent years, including Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson during the 2009 and '10 seasons and Eddie Lacy and Yeldon in 2012.
"Three of those guys usually play a lot," Saban said. "I know in your guys' little fantasy football world you put these guys' names down, but there are circumstances. I think a lot of these guys are going to have a good opportunity to contribute next year."
Alabama has developed a significant tailback pipeline to the NFL in recent seasons with Kenneth Darby, Glen Coffee, Ingram and Richardson being drafted since 2007 and Lacy expected to get drafted in April. Ingram and Richardson were first-round selections.
"Players have had success here moving on to the next level," said Henry, who enrolled early.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier signed the nation's No. 16 class, which was good for seventh in the SEC behind Alabama (No. 1 nationally), Florida (No. 4), LSU (No. 6), Ole Miss (No. 7), Auburn (No. 8), Texas A&M (No. 10) and Georgia (No. 12).
"We were we watching that TV today," Spurrier said Wednesday, "and we were saying, 'Man, I'm glad we're in the Eastern instead of the Western side.'"
Spurrier had several signing-day quips. When asked about rankings, he pointed to Florida's touted 2008 class and said, "Two years later, that No. 1 class drove Urban Meyer to retirement."
And when waxing philosophical, Spurrier said "recruiting classes don't always pan out. Of course, they always seem to pan out at Alabama."
Coming up empty
Safety Tray Matthews was the only Rivals top-100 player whom Georgia signed Wednesday, marking the fewest number for the Bulldogs since Rivals began its rankings in 2002. The 6-foot, 194-pound safety tried to lure other Peach State prospects to Athens, and he thought offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, of Lake City, Fla., would be a future teammate as well.
"It was frustrating, and it kind of hurt me a little bit, but every player has to go where they feel they need to go," Matthews said Friday. "It surprised me a lot, because I thought we were going to get Montravius Adams and Laremy Tunsil and Reuben Foster. I was 100 percent we would get Laremy, but at the last minute he went to Ole Miss.
"I would have loved for Reuben (who signed with Alabama) to have been here, and Montravious (Auburn) is just a freak. I wish we would have gotten all three of those guys, but we've still got a really good class."
The final words
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin on his signees being ranked 19th nationally by Rivals.com and Scout.com: "This signing class is further proof that Vanderbilt has arrived." ... Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on landing Adams, a defensive tackle, and defensive ends Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel: "Coach [Rodney] Garner is a great coach, and he's going to have three guys who will have the chance to help us immediately." ... Arkansas coach Bret Bielema when he had to discuss Wednesday a class that did not yet include touted tailback Alex Collins: "You are going to get curveballs thrown at you." Collins' mother confiscated his signing papers, but he was able to sign with the Razorbacks on Thursday.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...