Derrick Henry is a five-star running back out of Yulee, Fla, but he's arguably one of the better athletes in the 2013 college football recruiting class as well.
Standing at an imposing 6'3'', 240 pounds, Henry has the body of a linebacker but the speed and agility of an elite running back. According to 247Sports, he runs a 4.54 40-yard dash.
This is a player that will undoubtedly be a stud running back at the next level, but he's also talented enough and has the intangibles to be a solid defensive player as well.
Here's my scouting report on Henry for both offense and defense:
Henry's size makes him almost impossible to take down when he has the ball on offense. He can line up at running back or quarterback (as an option runner), and he's able to go the distance from anywhere on the field.
His size allows him to be physical, but his speed makes him a homerun threat. He also has great feet and field vision that allows him to make defenders miss. He's just hard to take down by yourself, and I don't see that changing at the next level.
He runs very confidently and isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and deliver the hit on a defender, rather than the other way around.
He may be the most effective when finding cutback lanes and reversing field. Check out in this picture how the run is going to the right, thus the flow of the defense is going to the right, but Henry makes a decision to plant his foot, cut back and reverse field. Notice how his eyes are immediately on his running lane.
Next, you can see how he set up his blocks by reversing field. The defense was pursuing him to the right, but by cutting back to the left he's given his blockers a very good angle.
Finally, he gets the edge, turns it up field and turns what should have been a loss into a huge gain.
This is the skillset Henry will bring to the football field at the college level. He's big enough to be a bruiser, but quick and agile enough to run his way out of trouble and into the endzone.
The same intangibles that apply on offense for Henry work on defense. He's got the size of a linebacker, but the speed of an elite running back, so he can be extremely effective on defense—especially as an edge rusher.
He's physical enough to hold his own against the run, but it's his speed and athleticism that make him a capable defender.
Notice at the 14:01 mark of this highlight video how Yulee has Henry coming off the edge as a pass rusher. He's quick enough to get after the quarterback and he's eventually the reason he goes down for a sack.
There's no doubt in my mind that Henry is an incredible runner, but some see him playing defense. According to quotes via Chet Fussman of Jacksonville.com, the ESPN national recruiting director doesn't feel he's a natural running back:
Because of his bulky 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame, recruiters, who always stress size over talent, envision Henry as an “athlete” or outside linebacker. “He’s going to be more of a fit at another position,” ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill told the Times-Union in August, “We just don’t feel that he’s a natural running back.”
While I don't agree with Luginbill's assessment of Henry as a running back, this just goes to show you that he literally can do anything on the football field because of his size and athleticism.
Should Henry play offense or defense?
Depending on where he ends up—he's expected to choose between Alabama and Tennessee this Friday—he just may be used on the defensive side of the ball in college football.
The good news is that he's more than skilled enough to be an impact player on defense, even though I do feel he's got all the tools to be an elite running back at the next level.
Either way, Henry is going to be a college football star.