Despite the looming presence of star tailback T.J. Yeldon on the roster, the Alabama Crimson Tide faithful can’t seem to get enough of rising sophomore Derrick Henry.

“King Henry,” as he’s affectionately referred to, somehow lived up to the astronomical hype that preceded his arrival to the Capstone (some of which your’s truly contributed to) — despite only totaling 382 yards on 36 totes (three for touchdowns). But as the old saying goes: It’s not how you start, but how well you finish.

And Henry’s All-State Sugar Bowl conclusion: eight carries for 100 yards (one touchdown); one catch for 61 yards that also went for a TD — was akin to Christian Bale’s epic finish in The Dark Knight Rises.

As a matter of fact, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that some think Henry is the new Bruce Wayne (with the Southeastern Conference being his version of Gotham City). The only problem being that at 6’3″, 238 pounds, running a legit 4.4 40-yard dash, this Batman won’t be granted the benefit of anonymity in his common life.

The cat is out the bag; Henry is undoubtedly college football’s next superstar.

Uncanny Explosiveness

Henry was arguably one of the most sought after backs ever after becoming the all-time leader in rushing, at the high-school level, with 12,124 yards. You don’t garner that many yards being a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust back. You get that by being explosive.

Henry is that in every sense of the word.

I first got wind of Henry prior to his junior season of high school, and when his squad came here to Atlanta to face the top-ranked Wolves of Buford, I made sure to go check him out in person.

The first thing I noticed about Henry is how sculpted he was for a player listed at 232 pounds (and only 17 years old at the time). The second thing I noticed is that his listed height is legit. He truly looked like a man playing against boys. Only these boys had some serious talent, though — most notably outside linebacker Dillon Lee who is now a teammate of Henry’s.

Henry’s team was severely outclassed, and Henry himself was bottled up for most of the game. He played tailback and “Wildcat Quarterback,” carrying the ball for what seemed like 20 yards on 20 carries.

That is, until the final drive of the fourth quarter.


Here we see Henry doing what he does best — getting to the edges. On this counter-trap run: He sells the fake, breaks multiple tackles and shows that uncanny breakaway speed.

He’s a long-strider so defenders tend to take poor angles in pursuit. Not to mention he just so darn big that you can’t help but underestimate his ability to get to corners.


Here’s another perfect example of Henry’s blinding speed. Former offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier saw Henry’s ability to work in the counter game as he deployed him in that manner often. Take notice of how Henry is adept in the cut-back game. Time after time he gets to the corner and leaves defenders in the dust.

You can’t teach that, people…

What He Can Improve On

Despite being one of the largest backs in the history of the game, Henry often operates in a manner more consistent with a scatback . Now don’t get me wrong; he can truck defenders when necessary. But his natural instinct is to bounce virtually everything or try to make defenders miss in close quarters.


Although Henry has dynamic straight-line speed, his size doesn’t lend itself to being overly agile. Fellow back Kenyon Drake is known for making lemons into lemonade — in a rushing sense — but Henry has a tougher time replicating that aspect.

Here we see a simple inside-zone run turned into a loss. For Henry to be even more effective he needs to get north/south and take a two-yard gain opposed to a two-yard loss. He will eventually learn that he can’t hit homers on every play. But a nice single can set up home runs for everyone else.


In this sequence, Henry nearly took another opportunity for a definite positive gain and almost turned it into another loss. But this time he was able to reverse course and take the carry for a 27-yard jaunt. Henry will be frustrating at times, but those feelings will quickly subside once he breaks an explosive play.

“He’s a hard worker; he’s a fine young man; tries to do everything the right way on and off the field,” Saban said on the SEC coaches teleconference (h/t to Marc Torrence, BamaOnLine).” So we’re encouraged by his progress and we think that he’s capable of making a tremendous contribution to our team in a lot of different ways.”

“Now he’s sort of comfortable in what is expected of him not only in running the ball but running pass routes, catching the ball, pass protection, being a complete player at his position, I think he’s much more confident and feels like he can make a tremendous contribution as well,” Saban concluded.

Henry’s propensity to try and bounce everything to the outside works well with his speed, but it does cause him to leave a lot of yards on the field.

Favorable Comparison

Henry will remind many of University of Georgia superstar back Todd Gurley. Both have exceptional size (Gurley is listed at 6’1″, 226 lbs); both are known to generate explosive plays. But where Henry’s first instinct is to hit the homerun, Gurley’s initial inclination is to separate defensive players from their respective souls with bone-jarring, uber-physical runs.

While Henry is built similar to a thoroughbred — with a finely sculpted physique — Gurley is built like a brick house (not in the Commodores sense) with thighs that make it look as though he’s smuggling oak wood stumps (which actually does sound Commodore-ish).

Gurley is undoubtedly a NFL franchise-caliber back who deserves to be drafted in the top 10 of next year’s draft. For Henry to compare favorably to him goes to show you just how special he is.

Adding Value To The Pass Game

To duplicate what Yeldon brings to the table a back must be effective in between the tackles, have the ability to get to the edges, pick up blitzers in the manufactured pressure game and have soft hands for the screen game.

We already know that Henry is the truth getting to the edges, and he has the size to be effective in between the tackles. What we didn’t know was about his blocking or his screen-game prowess…until his “famed” Sugar Bowl performance.


If there were any questions about Henry’s blocking prowess before this sequence; silence! On this inside/out read, Henry quickly deciphered his initial responsibility and got to the actual threat rapidly. He had perfect distribution (low-pad level while leaning into the block) and delivered the blow with force.


Here we see Henry’s ability to make it work out in space in the pass game. He takes the swing pass and promptly makes two defenders miss by being very decisive with his moves. And once he gets that big frame rolling defenders are very hesitant to engage in an overly physical manner (not that I blame them).

Although I believe Yeldon has earned the right to get the majority of the totes, it will be extremely hard to keep Henry on the bench — especially if he continues to improve at the nuances required to be an all-around back.

So get ready for the SEC’s version of Batman to reign supreme; he even comes equipped with a cool Batmobile-like vehicle.

Roll Tide.