To be sure, Alabama junior tailback Derrick Henry is well known to football people. Certainly he is known to those who play with an against the Crimson Tide. He’s on watch lists for major awards, including the Doak Walker for nation’s best running back.
The problems for Henry are twofold: 1.) He did not become Alabama’s featured back until this season, playing the last two years behind T.J. Yeldon. 2.) He plays in the same league with Nick Chubb at Georgia and Leonard Fournette at LSU, who are regarded by many as among the best running backs in the nation.
For this week, though, Henry, a 6-3, 242-pound native of Yulee, Fla., is getting some recognition. He was selected as one of the Alabama players of the week by the Crimson Tide coaching staff, and also selected as the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
Against Wisconsin, Henry rushed for a career high 147 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 carries against the Badgers. He averaged 11.3 yards per carry and scored on runs of 37, 56, and 2 yards. He also caught two passes for 12 yards and had plays that accounted for five first downs in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Henry acknowledged that he considered it a great honor to be the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, but quickly deflected credit to his offensive line. “Offensive line did a great job,” he said. “They work hard all season and they work hard in camp, and they did a great job in that game, and I thank them for it, and I know as the season goes on they’ll get better and better.”
Henry’s first touchdown against Wisconsin came on a fourth-and-one play from the Badgers’ 37-yard line. Henry hit the line, broke through an arm tackle, and burst past the defensive backs to the end zone. He said, “The offensive line did a great job for me to have a hole and I just wanted to burst through it, and then after that it was off to the races and I just tried to score.”
One of the more interesting aspects of Alabama’s game against Wisconsin was the Badgers star safety, Michael Caputo, being hit in the head by Henry’s knee on an inside running play on Bama’s first possession. Caputo was dazed, ended up near the Alabama huddle, and was removed from the game.
He has since been ruled as not seriously injured.
Henry said he was not aware of the situation until after the game and hoped that Caputo was not seriously injured.
Henry was one of eight Alabama players recognized by the coaching staff following third-ranked Bama’s win over No. 20 Wisconsin.
Also on offense were center Ryan Kelly and tight end O.J. Howard. On defense, the staff selected linebacker Reggie Ragland, defensive end Jonathan Allen, and defensive end Jarran Reed. Special teams picks were punt return man Cyrus Jones and Tony Brown, a gunner on kick coverage.
Kelly, a senior from West Chester, Ohio, was a game captain and anchored the Alabama offense at center while helping to open holes for 238 rushing yards and 502 yards of total offense. He did not allow a sack or a pressure or commit a penalty. Howard, from Prattville, caught three passes for 37 yards and two first downs.
Ragland led the Tide with 12 tackles, including five solo stops. The game captain from Madison also accounted for one quarterback hurry while helping limit Wisconsin’s powerful rushing attack to just 40 yards in the game or 1.9 yards per carry. Allen, from Leesburg, Va., accounted for two sacks (15 yards) to set a career high. He finished with four total tackles and a broken up pass. Reed, from Goldsboro, N.C., made five tackles along the defensive line as the Tide limited Wisconsin to just 268 total yards.
Jones, a senior from Baltimore, Md., took over as the starting punt returner and finished with 25 yards on four returns, including an 18-yard burst. Brown, a sophomore from Beaumont, Texas, recorded one tackle on punt coverage, which he limited to just three yards.