Derrick Henry became the third Alabama running back commit in the class of 2013 when he announced on Friday. While there will be considerable competition at the position once the trio of Henry, Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny get on campus next season – the Yulee (Fla.) senior back brings something a bit different to the table at 6-foot-3, 241 pounds.
Henry wasn't always that big, says Hornets coach Bobby Ramsay – but he was always bigger than most. And he was always productive in the backfield on the way to nearly 10,000 career rushing yards at the high school level.
"I didn't think he could get much better from his freshman year, he had like 2,500 yards that year," admitted Ramsay. "I was like ‘what else can he do better? How much better can he get?'"
The answer was a lot. Henry is now a five-star prospect and the No. 5 running back prospect in the class of 2013.
"He's so much bigger now, he's so much more filled-out," said the coach. "He understands blocking schemes better; he's a more patient runner. He's getting knocked for running tall, but he's 6-foot-3, he's not going to look like Maurice Jones-Drew coming through the hole. He's got to work on that a little bit."
Staying low isn't all Henry has to tweak as he prepares for SEC play, but he is ready to take on new challenges on the way to college football.
"He's got room to grow; he's not a finished product by any means," said Ramsay. "His hands have gotten a lot better, his lateral quickness can improve. But I know this, he'll work. He'll do what he's got to do to be successful.
"He's one of those guys who always asks, ‘what do I need to do….I'll do it."
Make no mistake, Henry already does so many things well – including his breakaway speed in the open field despite his great size.
"He's got the speed to run away from people, he's never been wopped-down (caught from behind)," added Ramsay. "He's got good vision; he can get to the second-level and see where he needs to go. He can run into space and get into open grass.
"He protects the ball very well; I can count on one hand the amount of times he's fumbled – which is insane. He's carried it about 1,000 times for me, literally."
And don't tell Henry he projects better at a position other than at running back. The notion was a deal-breaker for several other schools that offered him a scholarship. Instead, says the coach, his size should be used as an advantage in the gritty SEC.
Said Ramsay, "At the next level, schools look at him like a great closer. We get ahead, we give him the football. He's going to move the sticks, but he's also fast enough to get to the second-level and go score."
"One thing people need to understand…they're not going to put the time and resources into recruiting a kid and then bring him in and make him unhappy right away," he continued. "Nick Saban doesn't need to tell Derrick ‘you're going to play running back,' and then play him someplace else.
"If Saban wants an outside linebacker, he'll go get an outside linebacker."
Henry has always dreamed of running the ball in college and beyond, often wanting to follow the footsteps of bigger backs like Eric Dickerson, Marcus Dupree and Eddie George.
"Derrick's heat is on offense," said the coach that has led Henry throughout his high school career.
Off the field, the big-time prospect is on the more reserved side.
"He's really just one of the guys. When he wants his voice heard, he'll be vocal," said Ramsay. "When he got the record (502 yards, six touchdowns), he was like ‘Okay I got the record, let's go do something else.' He's always looking forward.
"Me and him have never had a conversation about his career statistics, it's never come up. He doesn't go around and tell everybody, ‘look what I did.'"