“I think Kenyan Drake has a lot of ability. He can certainly contribute,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Wednesday as his team prepares to face Virginia Tech on Saturday. “I don’t think he will contribute a lot in this game. I don’t think he has a significant role in this game. We had to get other guys ready to do things, and they actually did well enough.
“I also think Kenyan Drake is going to be a guy that's going to be a contributor long term to our team and can be a very good player for us.”
Drake, the Crimson Tide’s third leading rusher last season, has practiced as a scout-team running back.
Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon is the clear No. 1 with Jalston Fowler listed at No. 2.
HENRY’S NUMBER CHANGE: Derrick Henry wore No. 2 during high school, took No. 3 when he arrived at Alabama, but will have a completely different number when the Tide takes the field against Virginia Tech.
Henry practiced in No. 21 on Wednesday, and Saban confirmed the switch is permanent.
Henry previously shared No. 3 with Tide safety Vinnie Sunseri. Two players are allowed to have the same number if they aren’t going to be on the field at the same time. But both are slated to contribute on special teams, which meant someone needed to change.
Henry now shares a number with freshman cornerback Maurice Smith.
“Derrick Henry is 21 because of special teams,” Saban said. “Too many guys in the same single-digit numbers. You can’t operate. You can’t have two guys in the game at the same time with the same number on. You have to do it by seniority and he was a good sport about being willing to change and doing whatever he had to do for the team.”
Henry is one of two freshmen running backs listed on the Tide’s two-deep depth chart. Altee Tenpenny is the other. Henry is listed on the third team, but was seen taking carries at the No. 2 spot during practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
BYE WEEK BEFORE A&M: While having an extra week to prepare for an opponent is generally seen as a positive, Saban isn’t particularly fond of the Tide’s bye week before its clash with Texas A&M in College Station on Sept. 14.
“No, I don’t really like it,” Saban said during the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday. “I don’t ever remember having it that way, but it is what it is. And we’re going to do what we need to do to take advantage of it and continue to develop our team and use the extra practice days to try to improve and prepare for the opponents that we have down the road.
“It is what it is. We’ve known it's going to be this way for a long time. We have a plan for it, and we’ll implement it and try to improve our team with the circumstances that we have.”