Alabama's Derrick Henry Has to Wait, but Is the Team's Next Great RB
"Tailback U" is a moniker that isn't easily earned in college football.
Miami (Fla.), USC, Auburn and several others all have legitimate arguments that could be made to claim the title of America's top college program for running backs.
But over the last five years, you'd be hard-pressed to find any program in America that deserves it more than the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Mark Ingram took home the first Heisman Trophy in program history in 2009, but Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy didn't seem to mind following in those rather large footsteps.
T.J. Yeldon is the heir to the throne in 2013, but the guy that everybody wants to see behind him is incoming freshman Derrick Henry.
Henry enrolled early at Alabama to get a jump start on the rather heated running back competition that already features Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Jalston Fowler; and will add in Alvin Kamara, Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones this summer.
The 6'3", 240-pounder, who boasts 4.54 speed, was rated as a 5-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite index coming out of Yulee (Fla.) High School, where he set the career national high school rushing record with 12,124 yards on the ground.
With Yeldon in the way, Henry will likely be relegated to a backup role at Alabama in 2013. But that backup role may look a little bit different than it has in years past.
Henry's size makes him a big-time asset in short-yardage situations, so expect him to come in and be the battering ram on goal-line and 3rd-and-short situations. He could also be used as a closer of sorts, coming in late in ball games to punish defenses that are already worn down.
Since joining the Crimson Tide this winter, Henry has already been called a "bigger Trent Richardson" by superstar linebacker C.J. Mosley, according to AL.com. Not bad company to be in, to say the least.
"We were talking about it on the sideline, me and a couple of the players, how Henry looked like a bigger version of Trent Richardson," Mosley said. "But you have to do what you have to do. So we've got to make him better and he's got to make us better."
However he's used in 2013, it will be clear that Henry has star written all over him at this level.
Some—myself included—assumed that his size and speed would force a switch to the defensive side of the ball in Tuscaloosa. I've changed my tune on that. Instead, he could be the one shaking up the roster.
The last time I checked, there's only one football allowed per play; and guys like Kamara, Tenpenny and Jones are far too talented to ride the pine for their entire careers.
How many rushing yards will Derrick Henry have in 2013?
Does that mean that those guys will transfer? That remains to be seen. However, it's going to be hard to crack the lineup at running back with Henry and Yeldon both in the mix for the foreseeable future.
That's why this year's running back corps is going to be a bit different in Tuscaloosa. It isn't going to be "1A" and "1B," it will be more of a by-committee approach with different players specializing in different areas.
Yeldon will be the feature back, Henry will be the battering ram and one of the other studs will take that "1B" role.
Henry is already known in recruiting circles as "the next big thing," but that doesn't always translate to success at the college level.
We'll see why he was so hyped up early in 2013 because he's already skilled enough to make an impact, but he will have to wait his turn before truly realizing his potential in Tuscaloosa.
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