- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 15, 2015

When Kenyan Drake gets the ball and some running room, Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland can’t resist taking a peek.

Drake has resumed his role as one of the second-ranked Crimson Tide’s playmakers, whether he’s returning kicks, running or catching the ball. So far, he’s been worth watching.

“He’s very explosive,” Ragland said. “Any time he touches the ball he’s liable to go all the way. So any time I see on the little screen that Kenyan has the ball, coach (Kirby) Smart might be talking and he’ll get mad because I’ll stop and I’ll look and see him go.

“I’m glad he’s back doing his thing.”

Drake is returning to form in time for Saturday’s night game against No. 15 Mississippi. He sustained a broken lower left leg in last season’s meeting and now is coming off two of the better games of his career.

Drake ranks second in the Southeastern Conference in all-purpose yards, with 117 rushing and 139 receiving while also returning kicks. He took a shovel pass 69 yards against Middle Tennessee en route to a career-high 91 receiving yards and had a 43-yard run against Wisconsin.

He’s a speedy, versatile complement to 240-pound backfield mate Derrick Henry, who already has six rushing touchdowns.

Drake was emerging as a big-play threat in Lane Kiffin’s offense, especially as a receiver, when the gruesome injury occurred against Ole Miss. Rebels receiver Laquon Treadwell can relate. A broken leg and dislocated ankle ended his season less than a month later against Auburn, and he said Drake called to encourage him.

“We checked on each other during fall camp and he said he was doing well,” Treadwell said. “He’s making a lot of plays this year on kickoff return and at running back. That’s very nice to see someone coming back off an injury.”

Drake opted to skip media interviews leading up to this game, when he undoubtedly would have faced a barrage of questions about his injury 11-1/2 months ago. Treadwell can understand his situation and rehabilitation process better than most.

“Coming off big injuries, it’s something that’s overwhelming,” the Ole Miss receiver said. “It’s a mental process. It’s not a fraternity you want to join, but having someone with an injury just as big as yours, being able to communicate with them gives you confidence.”

Drake and Tide coach Nick Saban talked after the Wisconsin game about not trying to go for the huge play every time. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder opened against Middle Tennessee with a 40-yard kick return.

“I just thought after the first game Kenyan was trying to make a big play every time he got the ball,” Saban said. “He was really trying hard, maybe too hard. That was affecting his decision-making, whether he should bring the ball out on the kickoff and how he actually ran the play as it was designed, to press the hole and get out of it what you can get out of it. The big plays will come.

“You have to let the game come to you and I certainly think he was a lot better in this last game, and hopefully he’ll be able to build on that.”


AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Mississippi, contributed to this report.

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