In his final game as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Derrick Henry did what he does best: run. In helping Nick Saban secure his fourth national championship in seven years, the Heisman Trophy winner ran over the Clemson Tigers for 158 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his season total to a ridiculous 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns. He now holds Alabama’s all-time rushing record with 3,565 career rushing yards.
Henry scored every which way, speeding through the line of scrimmage and outrunning Clemson defensive backs for a 50-yard touchdown—incredibly impressive for a guy who measures in in at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds; plowing through the goal line; leaping above the defensive line and torpedoing into the end zone like he was shot out of a crimson-colored cannon.
Henry is the ultimate combination of finesse and power, which should serve him well at the next level. But we’ve said the same thing about other Alabama running backs. We said it about Trent Richardson, who barely lasted three seasons in the NFL. We said it about Eddie Lacey, who struggled even to see the field at times this season for the Green Bay Packers. Glen Coffee. Kenneth Darby. Both successful ‘Bama running backs whose abilities never translated to the NFL.
In the past, especially with Richardson, there was talk about overuse in an Alabama offense that emphasized the running game. Richardson carried the rock 540 times in his three years under Saban. Darby 702 times. Coffee 410 times. Henry’s carries clock in at a similar rate. After rushing just 35 times as a freshman, he racked up 567 carries over the past two seasons, including 395 this season, more than Lacy’s entire career. But his grand total of 602 carries in three years at Alabama is only good enough for fifth all time. Former Seattle Seahawks running back Sean Alexander commands first place on that list, with 727 carries. T. J. Yeldon, who just finished his rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, lands just behind Henry with 576 carries.
The point is, Alabama works their running backs really hard. Whether that’s why so many flounder when they get to the pros is still debatable. Whether Henry flourishes or fails at the next level might tell us more about the physical toll that playing at Alabama takes on a running back. For now, it’s just an interesting piece of the puzzle as the Tide continues to churn out some of the best college running backs the game has ever seen.