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August 28, 2013

Who's No. 2 at RB for the Tide?

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Two featured running backs is a staple of a Nick Saban coached team. Dating back to Terry Grant and Glen Coffee in 2007 and every subsequent season, Saban's Crimson Tide teams employ two backs to handle the majority of the carries. While one hammers away on the defense, the other stays fresh on the sideline until it's time to switch. Back and forth it goes, all game, all season.

It's effectiveness is proven.

Yards per carry has increased each season since Saban's first season at the University of Alabama in 2007. Grant and Coffee helped lead a rushing attack that averaged 4.0 yards per carry. Those averages rose steadily culminating last season with 5.6 yards per carry. The yards per game also rose yearly from 149.2 in 2007 to 227.5 in 2012. The only exception was in 2010 when the total dipped from 215.1 in 2009 to 182.9.

But the question remains which back will rise to fill the No. 2 back role this season. Sophomore T.J. Yeldon ascends to the premier back role, but who claims the spot behind him isn't as clear as it's been in years past. Kenyan Drake, the team's third leading rusher in 2012, wasn't listed on the team's recently released depth chart. Asked about the competition for the No. 2 spot, Saban named every running back on the roster except for Drake. He said freshmen Derrick Henry and Altee Tenpenny could get playing time against Virginia Tech.

"I think that T.J. (Yeldon) certainly is a guy that has played a lot and has experience. I think Jalston Fowler is another guy who's played a lot and had experience. He's going to play a dual role in this game. He'll play some running back, some H-back. Dee Hart is a guy that's played some who will have some situational playing opportunities in this game as well.

"I think that there's probably two of the freshmen that have sort of...I think they're all good. (Alvin) Kamara had an injury, so he missed a while. He'll be back practicing today, but it's hard to get him ready to play this game right now. Tyren Jones did a good job in the last scrimmage, but really Altee and Derrick Henry have gotten the most reps and are probably the most prepared to be able to play right now. And I feel like we have confidence in both those guys that they can go in and play well if they need to."

Fowler and Hart sustained season-ending knee injuries last season, but both are back fully healthy.

Yeldon knows that to be as effective late in the season as he was a year ago, one or more backs will have to separate themselves from the pack.

"(The backs behind me) are really great running backs," Yeldon said. "They are still picking up on the little things like the blocking and reading the gaps, but they should be ready for the first game. The depth chart is up to the coaches. Whoever they have behind me will be ready."

2007
Terry Grant 180-891
Glen Coffee 129-545
Team 149.2 YPG/4.0 YPC

2008
Glen Coffee 233-1,383
Mark Ingram 143-728
Team 184.6 YPG/4.6 YPC

2009
Mark Ingram 271-1,658
Trent Richardson 145-751
Team 215.1 YPG/5.0 YPC

2010
Mark Ingram 158-875
Trent Richardson 112-700
Team 182.9 YPG/5.1 YPC

2011
Trent Richardson 283-1,679
Eddie Lacy 96-674
Team 214.5 YPG/5.5 YPC

2012
Eddie Lacy 204-1,322
T.J. Yeldon 175-1,108
Team 227.5 YPG/5.6 YPC

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Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or 205.722.0229.

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