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Previewing the 2014 Alabama Running Backs

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Nick Saban has recruited and developed running backs better than any offensive position during his time at the Capstone. How will the carries vary in 2014?

T.J. Yeldon dives for a second-half touchdown against LSU.
T.J. Yeldon dives for a second-half touchdown against LSU.
Kevin C. Cox
A hot source of debate among the Alabama faithful for many years, running back has always been a source of contention among Crimson Tide fans. I take a look into our chances of success in 2014.

THE INCUMBENT

T.J. Yeldon is the best running back on this team. And no, it isn't close. As the only back in school history to eclipse 1,000 yards in his first two seasons, he only needs 1,222 yards to break Shaun Alexander's school record. You can bring up the four lost fumbles of 2013 as an argument to bench him, but then one might realize that this is an easily correctable issue. Yeldon is faster and shiftier than Derrick Henry. He's stronger and better at reading blocks than Kenyan Drake. Simply put, Yeldon is the most complete running back going into the season, and he will be throughout 2014.

Jalston Fowler is listed as a running back on the team's website, but he's a running back in name only. He's been the prototypical H-back for the Crimson Tide's offense and no one will come close to unseating him this season. Unbeknownst to many, Fowler was actually second on the team in touchdown receptions in 2013 with five. Corey McCarron and Michael Nysewander, both listed as tight ends, will most likely be Fowler's main backups at H-back.

THE MAIN BACKUPS

As expected, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake will be the main backups. The other team's style of defense will dictate who gets the majority of the reps to spell Yeldon. For instance, against a tough, bruising team like Florida, Henry will likely get more snaps than Drake. Against Tennessee, a team without much depth on the defensive line, Drake might get lots of carries that'll stretch them from sideline to sideline. Basically, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and running backs coach Burton Burns can trot out any combination of these three players and stand a good chance to rush for at least 175 yards in any game this season.

THE RESERVES

There was an outside chance we would see Bo Scarborough right here, but due to academic issues we won't see him until January. The two main players you'll see come in during garbage time are Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny. Jones took a redshirt last year while Tenpenny played as a true freshman. With the likely departure of T.J. Yeldon after 2014, Tenpenny will most likely wait until 2015 to get meaningful snaps. Jones, buried on the "depth chart," will probably play plenty on special teams. At 5'9", 212 lbs., he has a similar body type to Dee Hart, so look for Jones to make some big plays in coverage this year.

Overall prediction for the running backs: A. As with any backfield, they are completely dependent upon their offensive line, but, as I wrote earlier, I think the line will have a very good season. The grade of "A" is a combination of my faith in an improved line and the sheer talent we have lining up behind whatever quarterback ends up starting. There aren't many, if any, running back units in the country with three studs that complement each other like Drake, Henry, or Yeldon.

What do you all think? Is anyone here #TeamHenry or even an avid supporter of Kenyan Drake? Leave a comment below. As always, thanks for reading!