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February 11, 2013

Henry aims to watch, learn, contribute

TUSCALOOSA | Derrick Henry doesn't know what it's like to sit on a bench in football. In fact, he's never been anything but the centerpiece of any offense he's ever played in.

The University of Alabama freshman running back would like to be a big factor in the Crimson Tide's offense this fall, but after enrolling at UA in January and working out with his teammates for a few weeks, he knows that challenge will be a tough one.

"Everybody here was the best player for their high school," Henry said.

Alabama signed four running backs last week, but none as decorated on the prep level as Henry. With 12,243 career rushing yards, he broke the high school national record of Ken Hall of Sugar Land, Texas, which stood for 59 years. Henry ran for at least 2,000 yards each season at Yulee (Fla.) High, more than 4,000 as a senior, and was never held under 100 yards in nearly 50 career games.

But while Henry recognizes his competition for carries this fall has special talent of its own, history shows there is room for freshman running backs at Alabama.

Three times in the last five years, from Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and T.J. Yeldon, Alabama has gotten significant contributions from a true freshman at the position. And UA coach Nick Saban indicated that Alabama's returning depth at running back can't be measured before two of four rushers (Dee Hart, Jalston Fowler) return from injury.

"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 that position well," Saban said. "Several of these guys we recruited are going to have lots of opportunity to contribute this year."

Henry said he has kept a close eye on Yeldon, the most recent freshman success, who gained 1,000 yards last season.

"I definitely did pay a lot of attention to him. When I talked to him when I committed, I started watching him more, talking to him about the style that they run," Henry said. "Alabama is known for big, physical backs, blocking and running the ball physical."

Henry's roommate for the spring is fellow early enrollee O.J. Howard, a tight end from Autauga Academy and, like Henry, one of the signing class' most highly regarded recruits.

"On recruiting visits, he was pretty quiet, but when you get to know him, he's definitely a good guy," Henry said.

Howard said Henry goes beyond just the team workouts, working to stay in shape on his own.

"He's just a freak. He's my roommate and he scares me sometimes just walking around," Howard said. "I think he's going to do some crazy things this year. He's a guy that works really hard. He gets up at night and does push-ups."

Henry said staying humble and showing patience will be important in his development at the college level.

But that doesn't change his goal of making an early difference.

"I'm going to come here and carry on the legacy. Every day I come and try to learn," he said. "I try to learn some plays, doing some drills, catching the ball, just so I can be ready for the spring and next season."

TideSports.com Recruiting: Henry's coach talked in-depth of the recruiting process

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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