At 6’3 – 245 lbs, Alabama’s star recruit Derrick Henry is a man amongst boys. Though he has yet to step foot on a college field, he has full attention of NFL personnel guys. At just 18 years old, he has yet to physically fill out, and looks every bit like a five year NFL vet. Sure is going to be fun watching him fill the shoes of former star linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Rolando McClain you say? It’ll will be a blast watching him become a pass rushing threat in the mold of Courtney Upshaw? What about becoming the first true superstar at Tight End in the Nick Saban era? Well if you’re waiting for any of those things to happen, don’t hold your breath. Derrick Henry will be taking his talents to Alabama’s offensive backfield in an attempt to break the mold of what a superstar running back looks like.
I was privileged to see Derrick Henry play live when his Yulee High School (Florida) team traveled here to Atlanta to play the Buford Wolves. In what was a mismatch to the utmost, Buford won handily 49-7. Coming into the game, it was apparent that Henry was a one man band. In what was obviously a frustrating game, Henry was bottled up with nine man boxes. With two minutes left in the game, Henry had 16 carries for 41 yards. His final carry went for a 75 yard touchdown – which allowed me to see the type of talent that made him a national phenomenon. In 2012, his 462 carries for 4,261 yards and 55 touchdowns most certainly supported that.
At 6’3, Henry is an outlier as far as running backs go. Most backs are between 5’9 – 6’1. At a position where the average career arc is 3-4 years – usually due to injury – having more surface area to hit usually means a shorter, less effective career. Some of the more prominent backs north of 6’0 are Adrian Peterson (6’1 – 217 lbs), Arian Foster (6’1 – 228 lbs) and Steven Jackson (6’2 – 240 lbs). Out of these stars, Henry most reminds me of Steven Jackson. Jackson is entering his 10th season in the NFL. He has 8 consecutive 1,000 yard season, and has generally stayed healthy his entire career. Although he’s the same size as a lot of NFL linebackers, Jackson’s agility and quickness lends itself to his versatility. Don’t get me wrong, Jackson is known for very powerful runs, but he can make you miss with a slashing style as well. This is the exact reason why I think Henry will be a running back the duration of his career.
Upon tons of film study I see a unique skillset in Derrick Henry. He’s not as quick as Steven Jackson as far as initial burst goes, but I feel he’s faster as far as his downfield speed. Once he gets into his full gape he’s going to rarely be caught from behind. He makes great use of his stiff arm and has pretty good agility in short area space. He tends to run pretty upright in the initial stages of the run, but I’ve no doubt the Alabama coaching staff will work tireless to negate this aspect of his game. Alabama has a deep stable of running backs including future NFL superstar T.J. Yeldon, (who rushed for a freshman record 1,108 yards and 12 TD’s) who is 6’2 – 210 lbs in his own right! Yeldon and Henry will follow a recent trend at Bama of having two star running backs split the majority of the carries. They could very well be the best thus far. And that’s scary!
- Alabama’s Derrick Henry running a counter at Yulee High in Florida
Here I diagrammed that aforementioned 75 yard TD against the Buford Wolves. This was a pretty well designed play meant to get Henry in a one on one situation on the outside of the formation.
Henry is performing his fake, while the guard #74 is pulling to get the key outside block. These types of runs are vision intensive as holes open and close pretty rapidly. The fake draws a lot of attention by pulling taking the linebackers in the opposite direction.
Here’s where Henry’s vision and agility comes into play. The play was initially blocked well, but the linebacker beat his block and filled the gap where the play was originally designed to go.
Here Henry looks to be tackled as the outside defender is in the area where Henry tried to retreat to. A guy 6’3, 245 lbs – normally would be dead in the water so to speak.
Henry disposes of the first tackle by jab stepping him, now he must beat the linebacker who blew up the play originally. His wicked stiff-arm does the trick.
After the stiff arm, now it’s time to show off that dazzling speed. When you’re 6’3 and run a 4.5 forty yard dash – it can get really interesting really fast.
Henry has the speed to outrun the angle.
75 yards later, it’s a house call for Henry!
I surmise that Derrick Henry can be one of a few running backs to be a star in college as well as the pros, despite being over 6’2 and weighing close to 250 lbs. Backs like Brandon Jacobs (6’4, 264 lbs) and Eddie George (6’3, 235 lbs) were able to survive personnel people calling for a switch of positions. I fully expect similar results for Henry, due to his unique skill-set. His 12,122 yards (A national high school record) and 153 TD’s (5th all time) could just be a surface scratcher for where this kid is eventually headed.
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Twitter: @Uptown Murf