Tale of two running backs

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- When Derrick Henry decommitted from Georgia in June, things changed for Alvin Kamara as well.

All of a sudden, the Bulldogs became a viable option for the 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back from Norcross, Ga.

Then another spot on the depth chart opened up when Isaiah Crowell opted to transfer to Alabama State after being dismissed from the team following three weapons charges.

"That's a lot of opportunity," said Kamara, who listed Georgia among a list of top 10 schools that also includes Alabama, Clemson, Oregon, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Florida State, Florida, USC and Auburn.

He was left with plenty to ponder. Henry, a 6-3, 240-pound running back from Yulee, Fla., also faced a difficult decision.

"It's really important, because it's four years you're going to be spending for the rest of your life," said Henry, who has rushed for 7,866 yards and 94 touchdowns over three high school seasons. "I just want to make sure I'm doing the right thing and making the right choices and taking my time, because you only get the chance once and I'm just trying to take full advantage of it."

Two backs who attend schools separated by a little over 300 miles are being recruited by similar universities. But on Friday, Henry, the nation's No. 4 running back, and Kamara, rated No. 5, found themselves on the same field, on the other side of the country, competing at The Opening.

"We know a lot of each other just because of all the Georgia stuff and all the Alabama stuff," said Kamara, who rushed for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. "We're pretty cool. He's a good guy."

Henry added, "You just try to build a bond to see what they think about the school they're being recruited by, see what they're getting out of it. They're athletes just like you, so you try to appreciate each other's talent."

Because of the bond created by sharing similar experiences, the running backs at The Opening follow the careers of their peers.

"Most of the guys are friends of mine," Kamara said. "We talk to each other on a regular basis. I try to stay up with what they're doing, and I know they kind of follow up with what I'm doing."

But, when it comes to committing, Kamara and Henry refuse to let other decisions impact how they approach selecting a school.

"I don't really let it determine my decision, but it's kind of cool to see where your friends are going and how they're handling it," Kamara said.

Norcross coach Keith Maloof tells all his players they have to make their choices based on something other than the depth chart.

"You go to a place because the school fits you, because you're not going to have football for the rest of your life," Maloof said. "You've got to get your education. That's first thing first. After that, you've got to see where you fit in, if they've got the scheme that fits your ability."

Once Kamara finds that fit, Maloof is confident everything else will fall into place.

"I think these kids know that they're good," he said. "I don't think they go in thinking, 'Well, if this guy goes here, I won't.' I don't think Alvin is thinking like that. I think Alvin is thinking, 'What is going to be best for me and my family?'"

Henry, who recently announced Alabama is the current leader for his services, is in an interesting position, because a lot of schools would like him to commit as an athlete. But he is only interested in lining up in the backfield. That will play a much larger role in where he ends up than the decisions of other players.

"The common denominator with all of them is that none of them are afraid of competition," said Pat Dunlap, the running backs coach at Yulee. "One's decision to go to a school doesn't affect the other's decision. They're going to go where they want to go. They don't worry about competition. That's the best thing about it."

Henry's decision to decommit created an opportunity for Kamara. It gave him something else to think about and it could come up in conversations throughout the weekend. But it won't impact his commitment.

"Mainly it's about feeling for me," Kamara said. "I've got to be comfortable and get along with the coaching staff, be somewhere I can fit in with the players and coaches. You've just got to get in it for the right reasons."