Tide notebook: Tide running backs offer change of pace
by Marq Burnett
TUSCALOOSA -- For the first time during Nick Saban’s tenure, Alabama truly has running backs who offer a change of pace to the other.

In the past, the Crimson Tide’s one-two tailback punch featured two power backs, but with sophomores T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, the styles vary.

“It’s good for our team,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “Those two guys have played well. Both tailbacks complement each other in terms of their style. One guy’s a little bit faster. The other guy’s more of an inside, make you miss, hard to tackle.

“The change of pace that the two guys complement each other with is really something that's good for our team.”

Yeldon leads the team with 657 yards and seven touchdowns. He averages 93.9 yards a game and 6.6 yards a carry. In six games, Drake has rushed for 402 yards and seven scores on the ground. Drake averages 67 yards a game and an otherworldly 8.2 a carry. He’s gone over 100 yards in the past two games.

They both catch the ball out of the backfield as well. Yeldon has 11 catches for 104 yards while Drake eight grabs for 104 yards and a score.

“Hopefully, they'll both continue to improve and play well for us,” Saban said. “The fact that they both do well probably speaks to something that's happening up front with the offensive line and the receivers, in terms of how everybody's doing their job on those particular plays.”

OFFENSIVE LINE: If there’s been one unit on this Alabama team that has managed to silence the critics, it's the offensive line.

The offensive line has gone from being a potential liability to a strength by creating holes for the tailbacks and protecting quarterback AJ McCarron.

The Tide hasn’t allowed a sack in the past three games, and after allowing four in the season opener, the unit has given up just three in its other six contests.

“Our goal every week is no sacks, no hurries,” right tackle Austin Shepherd said. “We want to keep AJ clean. That’s kind of what we strive for. It’s kind of our goal is just, keep him clean.”

So, with all the success as of late, does the offensive line want to say 'I told you' so to the critics?

“Uh, no, because I knew all along we could do it,” Shepherd said. “I just knew it was going to take time. Obviously, we’re doing good now. We can do a lot better, obviously. Everything’s going to keep rolling and we’re going to keep improving every week and working on everything we need to work on.”

PRACTICE NEWS: Cornerback Bradley Sylve (high ankle sprain) and true freshman running back Altee Tenpenny (turf toe) sat out of practice again Tuesday. Both wore black non-contact jerseys.

With his left ankle heavily wrapped, Sylve worked to the side with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. He tried to run and backpedal, but was noticeably limping. Tenpenny rode the stationary bike.

Defensive end LaMichael Fanning was not seen at practice. Fanning wasn’t with the defensive end group during the media viewing period.

Safety Vinnie Sunseri underwent successful knee surgery Tuesday. Sunseri posted the news to his Twitter account: “Surgery went awesome and I thank God for all the support! Can’t wait to start working! Gonna be back stronger than before! #4monthcountdown.”
© 2013