Alabama won college football's 2009 national championship with the tailback tandem of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, the 2011 national title with Richardson and Eddie Lacy and last year's title with Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
The Crimson Tide seem to have their pair in place for another run this season.
Yeldon rushed for 124 yards and Kenyan Drake added 106 last Saturday as the top-ranked Tide throttled Kentucky 48-7 at Commonwealth Stadium. The two sophomores each fumbled in the first quarter at Lexington and are not drawing comparisons to their predecessors yet, but they are showing signs of a flourishing partnership.
"It's just what you would expect with Alabama," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said this week. "Sometimes the names change, but it just seems like every one of their players are very good. Both of those guys are very explosive and very tough runners, and they both have great vision. They are tough to bring down and made us miss.
"We had more missed tackles in that game than we've had all year, and I just think they are a great tandem."
Yeldon and Drake have been at their best against SEC opposition. The two combined for 199 yards in the 49-42 win at Texas A&M and 220 in the 25-0 blanking of Ole Miss before their 230 last weekend.
"We're pleased with both of those guys, and I don't think that either one of them has played their best games in terms of what their capabilities are," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "I'm not disappointed at all in the way that they've played, but I think that from a consistency standpoint, they would be the first ones to tell you that there are things that they could do better.
"We're going to certainly continue to try to get them to improve, even though they've been very productive."
It's little surprise Yeldon is Alabama's top tailback.
The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder from Daphne, Ala., became the first Tide true freshman to rush for 1,000 yards when he gained 1,108 last season. Yeldon rushed for 111 yards in his collegiate debut against Michigan and wound up averaging 6.3 yards a carry.
The other half of the tandem was among Alabama's chief questions in preseason camp. Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and Drake were the returning candidates, but the Tide also landed the nation's top tailback class that consisted of early enrollee Derrick Henry as well as Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny.
Drake briefly got lost in the shuffle when he didn't make the trip to Atlanta for the opener against Virginia Tech due to undisclosed violations, but he had seven carries for 50 yards and a touchdown in the second game at Texas A&M.
"He's more like a speed guy and a fast guy," Yeldon told reporters last Saturday. "He's probably one of the fastest guys on the team. I know we're just always trying to keep each other's head right and keep telling each other to work hard."
A 6-1, 201-pounder from Powder Springs, Ga., Drake is noticeably lighter than Yeldon. Stoops said his Wildcats were too busy getting in and out of personnel groupings last week to distinguish any differences in the two Tide tailbacks, but Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has noticed.
Bielema's Razorbacks travel to Tuscaloosa this weekend.
"There are some tendencies as far as what kind of run plays they run, and you have to be aware of that," Bielema said. "Our defensive coordinator is definitely aware of that, but on the same account they are so good at the other positions that if you concentrate on the running back position, all of a sudden they've got receivers running free.
"They're both guys who have the ability to turn a 4-yard play into an 8-yard play because of the way they run the football. I appreciate the way they roll in there. They stay very consistent, and the people around them understand the running game. The guys who make them great are the guys up front."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
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 ...
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