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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tide's Darby will give Warriors a better look

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Darby

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Kenneth Darby needs 1,076 yards to become Alabama's all-time rushing leader.

Alabama sports information

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Twice, Alabama running back Kenneth Darby has seen the University of Hawai'i football team in person.

Neither time, however, have the Warriors seen much of him.

"It was like one series, one (carry in 2003) and it went by like the snap of a finger," Darby said.

But the man who is on pace to pass Shaun Alexander and become the Crimson Tide's career rushing leader is intent on changing that, too.

"Oh, yeah, I plan on it," Darby said.

Unlike Darby's one carry for a 5-yard loss as a redshirt freshman in UH's 37-29 victory, he figures to be the Tide's workhorse come the Sept. 2 season opener in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

As such, his yardage will likely be the best early barometer of the state of a rebuilding Warrior defense. Slow or halt Darby and the Warriors will have a chance at Alabama and a lot to look forward to for the rest of the season. But let him find his game-dominating stride and, well, it would make for a long afternoon and a less than auspicious start.

With a new, lightly tested sophomore quarterback and its own rebuilding defense, the expectation is that Alabama will turn to its bread and butter, the running game, to move both the ball and the clock on the Warriors.

For the past two seasons, that has usually meant calling on No. 34, Darby, early and often. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder averaged 18 carries and 4.8 yards per carry even while playing with an undiagnosed hernia his sophomore season. Last year, as an all-Southeastern Conference pick, Darby averaged 20 carries per game and 5.2 yards per attempt.

"If I got to choose, I'd carry it 30 times a game, but I'm not gonna be greedy," Darby said. "I'll take what they give me."

Sometimes, they give him a lot. In a two-game span last season Darby had a combined 71 carries.

"The 36 (against Mississippi State) and 35 (LSU), didn't seem like that much," Darby said.

"It felt like 15 or 16 (carries)," Darby said. "I loved it. I feel great when I'm on the field getting the ball. I don't get tired. I feel like I get stronger. I mean, when they told me I had 36 carries I didn't believe it."

What many in Alabama believe is that Alexander's career rushing record of 3,565 yards is among several school marks living on borrowed time.

That the 1,076 yards Darby needs to move from seventh place on Alabama's all-time list to the top and, in the process, become the school's first back to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons is a matter of staying healthy.

Indeed, the expectation there is that the UH game could launch Darby into a running start at both. He needs 71 yards against UH less than his per game average to move into fifth place on the list. Or, 157 yards to take over fourth place.

One thing is for sure: After seeing little of Darby in their first two meetings, the Warriors will make his acquaintance next month.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.