Fayetteville, Ark. – The newly assembled University of Arkansas Razorback football staff has had less than two months to try to convince in-state running back Altee Tenpenny to flip from University of Alabama to the Hogs.
While Razorback Nation keeps their fingers crossed that the in-state prep star may “Call the Hogs” on National Signing Day, Bama looks to add a fourth running back to their 2013 class leaving more questions than answers for the Tide’s stockpile of running backs.
In all fairness to all parties involved in the recruiting of the North Little Rock, Ark. running back, Tenpenny has been committed to Alabama for over one year; actually one year and two days to be exact (1-28-12). Tenpenny’s commitment predates Bret Bielema’s arrival to the Fayetteville campus and perhaps has more to do with former Arkansas Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino and his staff than the current staff hoping to sway the state’s top rated player.
While we are being honest, who could blame Tenpenny for wanting to be apart of the dynasty that Nick Saban has formed? Three national championships in the past four years speaks volumes in and of itself without going into detail about the number of players sent to the NFL in total, especially the number of first round picks in the various drafts.
At some point in time the rose colored glasses for some recruits have to come off. History has a way of repeating itself and this scenario has played out time and time again; too many recruits at one position and only one ball to handoff at a time.
Normally only one tailback will be on the field at a time sans a trick play or a split back set, not something that Alabama does much of. Bama lines up in the I-formation or a single back set then challenges the opposition to stop them. A simple offensive strategy employed by Bama but a very difficult offensive attack to stop since Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa in 2007.
Alabama currently has three running backs verbally committed to their 2013 class. Included in the mix is five-star running back Derrick Henry, who is already enrolled, four-star Tyren Jones, and Tenpenny.
Jones, out of Marietta, GA, rushed for 1,682 yards his senior year with 16 touchdowns. The gaudy numbers fall short of his junior season when he rushed for 2,375 with 33 scores.
If the haul of Henry, Jones, and Tenpenny was not enough reports have Saban looking to add running back Alvin Kamara to their already impressive recruiting class. Kamara, another Georgia prep star, rushed for 2,264 yards in 2012, 1,300 yards in 2011 and totaled 43 touchdowns for his career.
For those of you unfamiliar with Henry, he’s a beast. Listed at 6’4”, 240 pounds with 4.5 forty-yard dash speed, 247Sports rates him as the top running back in the nation. He rushed for 12,212 career yards playing for Yulee High School in Florida, 4,261 of those yards coming his senior season. If that was not impressive enough Henry had 153 career touchdowns, 55 in 2012.
Then there is Altee Tenpenny. Tenpenny, 5’11”, 212 pounds, 4.49 speed in the forty-yard dash, may not have the impressive overall stats of his fellow recruits, 2,500 yards rushing yards during his senior and junior seasons with 36 touchdowns, but the Semper-Fi All-American has the ideal combination of size and speed the other recruits lack with the exception of maybe Henry.
Bama signed two running backs to their 2012 class, Kenyan Drake and T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon was the No. 4 ranked running back in the nation coming out of high school and made an immediate impact for the Tide after injuries to Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler. Drake is not to be overlooked as the nation’s 14th best running back in 2012.
Dee Hart and Brent Calloway were both 2011 signees and considered to be among the Top 10 running backs in the nation during their senior seasons. Calloway has split time at tight end opening up some room on the Alabama depth chart. A move a couple of 2013 Tide recruits may have to consider should they finish their playing career in Tuscaloosa.
Henry could be the immediate or eventually replacement to Folwer as the Tide’s big bruising back, third down or every down. One can assume Yeldon, a true sophomore will be in the mix in the Bama backfield for two more seasons. Dee Hart reportedly came back strong from his first knee injury but one has to wonder how well he will do after his second knee injury.
At some point the number of snaps handed out to the ridiculously deep Bama bench does not add up for all parties involved. True a running back or three can redshirt during the 2013 season but then there is always the 2014 class that will bring the next top running back in the nation to Alabama.
Speaking of the 2014 class Bama already has five-star running back Bo Scarbrough committed. Scarbrough is from Bama’s backyard playing at Northridge High School.
The top junior running back for the 2014 class, Leonard Fournette, is reportedly high on the Tide as well. Let’s not forget about Racean Thomas the nation’s No. 4 junior running back out of Oxford, AL, that has Alabama listed as his favorite… that’s one potentially very talented backfield.
Arkansas fans can attest to having a crowded backfield thus having to displace players to other positions of need so a recruit can get playing time. Most recently the physically talented De’Anthony Curtis was switched from running back to corner in hopes of receiving playing time leading into the 2011 season. One could argue that one of the reasons in-state recruit Michael Dyer headed to Auburn instead of Arkansas was because of the all the players the Razorbacks had waiting to receive totes; Broderick Green, Dennis Johnson, Ronnie Wingo, Jr., and Knile Davis.
On the flip side the Razorbacks have true sophomore Jonathan Williams returning to anchor the backfield in 2013. The Hogs lost three running backs to the NFL, Knile Davis, Ronnie Wingo, Jr., and Dennis Johnson.
True freshman Nate Holmes saw a back-and-forth position switch in 2012 making one wonder where he may settle in under Bielema and staff. The third 2012 running back Arkansas signed, Donovan Roberts, transferred at the end of the season.
Kody Walker is the only other tailback that has seen decent playing time for the Hogs but much like Dee Hart he has had two seasons on campus with both ending in injuries early in each respective year. Walker is also more of a fullback/short-yardage runner at this point in his young career.
True a dynasty has been built under Saban in Tuscaloosa and one can assume based off the last four years that within the next four years Alabama more than likely will win at least one more BCS title if not more. Still a young man’s playing career is different than a young man being on a national championship team watching from the sidelines.
Competition is great for a team good for the players but playing time ultimately defines a kid’s career not how great of a practice squad player said recruit was over four or five years.
Tenpenny has as much talent and ability as any other running back in the nation and one can assume that he will have a great career at Alabama, should he sign with the Tide. One can also assume that Tenpenny would have a great career at Arkansas and perhaps have a little bit more fanfare with the Hogs than he would with the Tide.
Arkansas’ lack of depth at running back should serve as an open call for any top running back in the nation wanting to play under a coach that guided Montee Ball to one of the best college football careers ever. Couple that knowledge with early playing time for a top SEC program one can only hope that Tenpenny sees the opportunities at hand flipping to Arkansas and “Calls the Hogs” on Monday Feb. 4.