Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Derrick Henry Shines in Finishing Role for the Tide

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Derrick Henry Shines in Finishing Role for the Tide

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS | Preparing for a game here that Alabama would soon want to forget, Alabama's coaches remember witnessing a change in Derrick Henry during pre-bowl practices a season ago.

"It was like, 'Whoa. He's starting to get it now. The light came on,' " Alabama running backs coach Burton Burns said."

That led to reps in last season's Sugar Bowl a couple weeks later, and 161 total yards and two scores later, the rest of the nation witnessed, too.

While he burst on the scene in New Orleans last year, Henry comes back more polished and with a defined role: When it's time to clinch a game, enter the 6-foot-3, 241-pound tailback who has become the Crimson Tide's closer.

"It's just like that. To have somebody that big, that fast and that isn't the starter, so by the time you get to the fourth quarter, he's not at 20-25 carries. It's closer, it's almost like baseball," offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. "It's like having the closer in the end that can come in that's fresh, but what's different in baseball than football, now you've got these tired guys that have been chasing T.J. around and chasing Amari Cooper all game."

Henry has averaged 5.6 yards per carry this season, but zoom in on crunch time: according to offensive metrics compiled by The Tuscaloosa News, he averages 6.9 yards per carry in the second half and 7.4 yards per carry in the fourth quarter.

And in SEC play, he's even better. Henry is averaging a gaudy 7.9 yards per carry in the fourth quarter of conference games.

"Whatever I can do to help the team win, that's what I'm for," Henry said. "I just like playing, really. It's a game I love when I get a chance to get out there, I just want to go out there and make plays."

After Henry's monster game in the loss to Oklahoma, many wondered why Henry, an elite recruit who seems too big to run that fast, backed up the hype with a huge game in his first significant playing time of the year.

Burns said he was asked about that constantly throughout the offseason. …

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