Will Derrick Henry Beat out T.J. Yeldon for Alabama's Feature Back in 2014?

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIFebruary 12, 2014

Alabama running back Derrick Henry celebrates his touchdown during the second half of the NCAA college football Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma in New Orleans, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Behind every star Alabama Crimson Tide running back is another star runner waiting to take over.

Right now, running back No. 1 is junior T.J. Yeldon, and running back No. 2 is sophomore Derrick Henry. These are just the two current stud backs in the recent line that has included Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram.

Normally, that second guy has to wait his turn to become the guy, but this battle might be different.

It might sound crazy that Yeldon, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, could lose his job. But looking at Henry's staggering stature and skill set, it isn't out of the question.

Yeldon racked up 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, earning him All-SEC honors.

It looked like that effort would result in another SEC Championship and perhaps a third consecutive national title, but the Tide fell short of both goals.

Then, in their season finale in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, Yeldon ran for 72 yards and a score—but he was almost an afterthought.

Though the Tide lost 45-31, the big story in Tuscaloosa, Ala. was Alabama's new big back. Henry, at 6'3", 238 pounds, recorded a 61-yard receiving touchdown and took eight carries for 100 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown, showing off his lethal blend of power and speed.

He averaged just 2.3 carries per game during the regular season, but 'Bama head coach Nick Saban revealed that, before that contest, he decided that Henry was the clear No. 2, per Andrew Gribble, AL.com:

We decided that he was our second-best back going into this game, and we were going to give him an opportunity based on his performance in practice and what he had done and the confidence that he had gained throughout the course of the season in terms of knowing what to do and playing fast.
Certainly had an outstanding game tonight and did a really good job for us, and I think he has a bright future.

It might just be a matter of how quickly that future comes to fruition.

With two years of experience and more than 2,000 rushing yards under his belt, Yeldon will likely be the early favorite to win the starting job this spring.

However, Henry simply brings a physical presence that Yeldon doesn't. To put Henry's size in perspective, give Adrian Peterson two inches and 20 pounds, and that is Henry's frame.

His opportunities were limited last season because he broke his leg during spring practice. But Pat Dunlap, Henry's running backs coach from youth football through high school, believes that a full offseason will provide Henry the stage to prove he is the team's best backfield option, per Charlie Potter, The Crimson White:

He’s got a dynamic that nobody else has … You don’t generally see a kid that big, that strong and that fast.

Just let the boy carry the ball 10 times in a game and see what happens. But he never got 10 carries. Even in the Sugar Bowl he didn’t get 10 carries. I have no doubt, heading into the spring, that if they give him the football, there will be no doubt who’s going to be the best running back at Alabama.

Dunlap might be biased, but that doesn't make him wrong. It'll be tough for the Tide coaching staff to take the job away from Yeldon, a back who has excelled in his two years in the program.

However, after watching Henry do his thing for the next seven months, they might have no choice.