Alabama gave T.J. Yeldon the day off during last week’s win over Western Carolina, advising he simply get healthy for this week’s Iron Bowl showdown with Auburn.

Yeldon will have had two weeks to prepare for the Tigers when the two teams take the field in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, and based on Nick Saban’s comments Monday it appears Yeldon will resume his usual workload.

But is that smart? Should Saban lean more on Derrick Henry against Auburn? Let’s delve further into the questions at hand:


Players involved: T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry

Who will probably get more snaps: Yeldon

Who should get more snaps: Henry

Yeldon has 17 more carries than Henry this season despite playing in one fewer game, and he’s averaged 15 carries per game to Henry’s 12. Saban shed some light on why Yeldon has spent so much time on the field during the coach’s media availability on Monday.

“(Yeldon) has been by far, in my opinion, our most effective guy all the way around when it comes to blocking, running the ball, being a pass receiver,” Saban said, according to

That may be true, but all of those roles can put a great deal of strain on the foot and ankle injuries Yeldon has played through for most of the second half of the season. The effects of those injuries can be seen in Yeldon’s last three games against Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State. He averaged just 64 yards per game on the ground, well below his season average, and had just 24 yards receiving in the three games combined.

As a result, Saban is justified in sitting Yeldon last week, and he should be just as cautious with how many snaps he gives Yeldon in the first half of this week’s game. Saban would be better served saving Yeldon for the game’s more critical moments, allowing Henry to carry the bulk of the workload out of the backfield.

The Tide don’t necessarily need a heavy dose of Yeldon for all four quarters to gain an edge on the Tigers. Alabama is the better team and the hotter team entering this matchup, and it boasts the SEC’s No. 5 rushing offense. Auburn, on the other hand, has allowed more than 177 yards per game on the ground in the SEC this season. Alabama absolutely needs production from Yeldon to take down the Tigers, but it doesn’t need him on an every-down basis.

Henry is a physical runner than can wear a defense down even if his carries aren’t going for many yards. If Alabama rides Henry in the first half to complement quarterback Blake Sims (who has been awesome at home this season), it could at least give the Tide a physical edge heading into the second half.

At that point, Yeldon could take over the game against a tired defense. This is not to say Yeldon should sit out the first half, but it is to say he doesn’t necessarily have to be the guy for all four quarters. Favoring Henry in the first half and favoring Yeldon in the second half could preserve Yeldon for crucial drives late in the game.

Consider this — if Alabama is up seven late in the game and is trying to run out the clock, wouldn’t you rather have Yeldon at his best for that very moment? Let’s even say Alabama is down seven late in the game, wouldn’t you want your best blocking and receiving back on the field?

It’s more important to use Yeldon in those scenarios than on a third and 3 in the first half, and using him on that third and 3 carry could make him a little less effective late in the game. Every hit takes its toll, and it’s rare a running back ever steps on the field and doesn’t get hit. Saban should let Henry take those hits early in the game, then use a fresher Yeldon to hit back late in the action.

Alabama doesn’t want to find itself in the same situation it found itself in at the end of the LSU game, when Yeldon injured his ankle and gave away a late possession in the process. Saban must learn from that game and preserve Yeldon in case a comparable situation presents itself.

Both backs will see plenty of action on Saturday, but it’s when they see the field that’s more significant. Knowing Yeldon is still not 100 percent, Saban shouldn’t give him the most snaps, just the most important ones.