Every night before bed, Derrick Henry does pushups. He’s had this nighttime ritual ever since he was a little kid and doesn’t know why.
“It’s just a habit,” he said.
So how many does Henry do each night?
“A lot,” he said. “I do ‘em til I can’t do ‘em anymore.”
Henry, who weighs in at 6-foot-3, 242 lbs., is one of four highly touted running backs that signed with the Crimson Tide on National Signing Day. Henry, a five-star recruit, is joined by four-stars Altee Tenpenny, Tyren Jones and Alvin Kamara. Add in veterans T.J. Yeldon, Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and Kenyan Drake and that’s one crowded backfield.
But Alabama head coach Nick Saban scoffs at the assumption that the Tide is “stacked” at the position.
“I don’t really see how we have a stacked group at running back,” he said, irritated at a reporter’s question. “We have one guy coming back that gained 1,000 yards. We have another guy who carried the ball a few times as a freshman, and two guys that got hurt, that may or may not be able to come back and play the position well.
“To me, to have really good depth at running back, you need five really good players. Three usually play a lot. Several of these guys we recruited are going to have lots of opportunity to contribute this year.”
When Fowler and Hart got hurt (torn ACLs), the timetable on their return was between four and five months. Before the BCS National Championship, Saban mentioned that those two would be able to practice in the spring “to some degree.” But his aforementioned comments make you wonder if they’re going to be healthy enough to contribute.
Regardless, Alabama now has eight scholarship players at the position, and there will be an intriguing battle for playing time.
But if there’s one guy in particular who could make a contribution quickly, it’s Henry. The only running back of the 2013 class who decided to enroll early, Henry set the national career rushing yards record his senior year at Yulee (Fla.) High School with 12,124 yards, breaking a 51-year-old record held by Ken Hall of Sugar Land, Texas.
In high school, Henry got roughly 40 carries per game, but understands that will change at Alabama. Last year, for example, Eddie Lacy (204 touches) and Yeldon (175) shared the ball and combined to rush for 2,430 yards.
“It’s not high school anymore,” Henry said. “In high school, you can win about fives games with one athlete. That’s basically what we did, because I really was the only D-I guy on my team. On the collegiate level, everybody’s good. I’m just ready to get to work and hopefully get some carries this season.”
Henry said he watched Yeldon last year and hopes he can come in and take on a role like he did as a freshman.
Henry’s excited to get going and continue the traditions set by the great Alabama running backs before him, like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Lacy.
“I’m going to come here and carry on the legacy,” he said. “Every day I come and try to learn. I try to learn some plays, doing some drills, catching the ball, just so I can be ready for the spring and next season.”
Watch Henry give a pre-game pep talk in the video below.
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