The Saints picked three guys in the 3rd round this year and I think most would agree that running back Alvin Kamara is the most exciting. I caught up with Caleb Calhoun of All for Tennessee, a Fansided Network Vols blog, to get some more information on Kamara. I think you’ll be even more excited when you read what he has to say. You can check them out on Twitter here. Many thanks to Caleb for his info, the Q&A is below:
Andrew Juge, Saints Nation: The vision for Kamara is “the next Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles” in this Saints offense. Is that putting way too much pressure on this kid – or can he be that special in this offense?
Caleb Calhoun, All for Tennessee: It’s easy to see the Saints using Kamara the way they used Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush. The guy is extremely versatile as a pass-catcher and runner, and don’t forget he was also an elite punt returner. Now expectations for him to put up numbers that Sproles put up in 2011 might be a bit unrealistic, but you’re definitely on the right track with that comparison.
As you might know, the Saints often operate back by committee, but with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson on the roster they’ll get creative about how they get Kamara his touches in year one. That means kick/punt returns, catches and tosses/sweeps/delays. He probably won’t see a lot of standard straight ahead carries. Is that ok, and do you think that fits his skillset? How did Tennessee use him?
That perfectly fits his skillset. Kamara is an awesome change of pace for the Saints as they use Ingram and Peterson by committee on regular running plays, and Payton has a brilliant enough of an offensive mind to know that. Up until midway through last year, when he began to take on a larger role due to injuries and departures, it’s exactly how the Vols used Kamara.
While Bush was great at this role, I think he and C. J. Spiller weren’t maximized in this role in large part due to their IQ. Because maximizing this position is predicated on matchups, audibles, motion and extensive playbook knowledge – Sproles is really the one who made the most of it because he’s ridiculously smart. How would you rate Kamara’s football IQ? Can he thrive in a complicated role like this?
Kamara picked up the Tennessee football playbook immediately when he stepped on campus in 2015, so intelligence should not be a problem. His one issue is vision on short-yardage plays, but the Saints aren’t likely to use him in those situations as much anyway. Remember, a leak in April showed that Kamara had the highest wonderlic score of all the top running backs in the draft.
Can you tell me how his character is viewed at Tennessee? Solid locker room guy or other?
At first, Alvin Kamara had major character issues, but he’s grown dramatically since then. He only came to Tennessee because he was kicked out of Alabama due to an arrest and then had to go to junior college. Then, when he first came to Tennessee, Kamara appeared to be using the Vols as a pit stop for the NFL. But in the winter of 2016, when everybody thought he would leave for the NFL Draft, he returned and underwent a dramatic character transformation. Kamara was named team captain last Summer and became one of the vocal leaders of the Vols. So this Alvin Kamara is a guy you want on your team.
Is durability at the NFL level a concern given his slight frame?
The guy was a feature back in the SEC down the stretch in 2016, so he should be okay. On top of that, the way we both expect the Saints to use him should protect him from too many injuries.
Anything else we should know?
Kamara has matured greatly since he’s been in Knoxville, and if he continues to mature at that pace, the sky is the limit for his potential. One underrated quality of him is his ability to pass block, something you don’t always see from all-purpose backs. Showing his true colors as a team guy, Kamara went out of his way to improve in that area last year. And that adds another huge element to a team like the Saints with a quarterback like Drew Brees considering how they spread the field.