Forty-four carries

I’m no football coach.  I never played the game.  I’ve never taught the game.  But I’ve watched plenty of football in my day.

One thing I know is that as much as the game may have modernized, as much as new players, coaches are concepts are constantly being introduced into the game, some things will never change.  Sometimes, a little old school goes a long way.  Pound the ball with a good, strong, talented back and you’re going to win yourself a lot of football games.  Three yards and a can of whoop-ass.

Last Saturday, in the SEC Championship game, the heavily favored University of Alabama Crimson Tide took on the underdog University of Florida Gators.  In fact, Alabama was such a heavy favorite that you had to lay 17 points if you wanted to place a wager on them.  There’s a reason for that.  Aside from being the more talented team, Alabama has a running back named Derrick Henry.

Gators try to tackle Henry

Derrick Henry is a freak.  He stands six-foot-three and weighs two hundred thirty-eight pounds.  He may not be the odds on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year but he’ll be at the ceremony, that’s for sure.

If he does take home the hardware, Henry will be the first running back to win it since Mark Ingram, another former Alabama player, who did so back in 2009. And while Ingram won a national championship, like Henry still might, and has had a successful NFL career, make no mistake about it, Henry is the better back.

Saturday night, Henry broke Herschel Walker’s single season rushing record, which stood for thirty years.  He leads the nation in rushing yardage (1,986), carries (339) and touchdowns (23).  I worked that night so I didn’t get to watch much of the game but every time I glanced up at the screen, I saw the same thing.  Derrick Henry, head down, running over defenders until he was finally brought down.  Then he was given the ball again.  And again.  And again.

Saturday night, Henry carried the ball 44 times for 189 yards.  Despite the loss, Florida defense’s actually played him well.  That doesn’t change the fact that he carried the ball 44 times, something that rarely happens in either college or the pros, unless you’re a back of Henry’s mettle.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Ohio State vs Alabama

I can see Nick Saban in his pre-game brainstorming session with the rest of his coaching staff, all sitting around and coming up with an ingenious game plan of how to beat their eastern rivals from the sunshine state.  They sit around in their crimson shirts scratching their heads until the evil genius finally suggests “Hey, why don’t we just run the ball?”

This isn’t rocket science.  If you have the best player on the field, you get him the ball.  That’s what Alabama did.  44 times.

Running backs aren’t taken high in the draft anymore.  In fact after yet another Alabama running back who turned out to be a bust, Trent Richardson, was taken third overall in the 2012 draft, teams are leery to mortgage their future on a back who might not work out.  Teams can find far better value, and pay players less, by finding steals in later rounds.  In fact, no running back has been selected first in the NFL draft since, wait for it, Ki-Jana Carter in 1995, which is amazing if you consider how important the position is to a team.

Derrick Henry won’t be selected number one.  Or he might.  There’s another running back in the SEC West who might also be selected number one.  His name is Leonard Fournette.  He was the leading candidate to win the Heisman before Henry proved to be the better, or at least more consistent, back.

Either way, two NFL teams that are likely in need of some backfield help are about to get it.  Henry’s only a junior.  Fournette’s a sophomore.  But make no mistake, these two gentlemen will go early and make two NFL teams very happy.

D Heny celebrates

Alabama is a traditional program.  It doesn’t get fancy.   There is no magic potion.  There are no bells and whistles.  Alabama simply says we are going to run Derrick Henry down your throat.  They will continue to do so on their way to a championship while two more teams will do their best to stop him.

Florida did its best.  It wasn’t enough.  Henry still got his.

And he will continue to do so as long as he’s handed the football.

18 thoughts on “Forty-four carries

  1. You nailed it – Alabama plays vanilla offense & even though people that don’t know football think they play exotic defense, it is vanilla too. They just rely on having more better players than their opponents. Just watch their defense – corners play man to man with safety help over the top on every down while the linebackers don’t blitz often and drop in the underneath zones on passes.

    That being said, if I’m Derrick Henry do I wish that Bama wouldn’t wear my body out before I go pro or thank them for getting me that big first contract from the NFL?

    Florida’s defense was stout!!! With any Florida offense at all, UA would have had some real trouble and that bothers me a whole lot going into the CFP.

  2. I had the sound down doing Christmas-related stuff while the game was on and didn’t even know he carried that many times until I read your post. It seemed like a lot watching off and on but geez, that’s a big number. There’s a lot to be said for controlling the clock and wearing the opposition down. I myself prefer a balanced attack to keep the opposition guessing but if they can’t stop the running game there’s really no need to worry about what they’re thinking is there? When Florida’s special teams scored I got a little excited there might be some “Gator-magic” in the air but alas, it was not to be.

  3. Hi Chump. Think maybe the reason backs like Henry aren’t taken in high rounds is because they’re already used up. Saban and his ilk could care less if their players have anything left for the pro ranks.

  4. Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette , two of the best college running backs in the game at the moment.

    Dropped two new pieces on the site if interested ?

  5. Well written Chris, but not totally surprising. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a GATOR fo’ sho’, but take a moment to think about it. The GATORS rely heavily on Taylor, Calloway and McGee as it’s primary arsenal. for any defense, that’s not hard to manage of the course of a game. Ergo, with a less then stellar offense not producing yards, let alone points, it directly co-relates to time of possession. It keeps the defense on the field longer than they need to be. If you consider the first half, Henry we pretty well kept in check. However, when Florida’s offense consisted of what had to be a record number of 3/outs, total time of possession less than 17 minute, do you really have to ask about an outcome? We’ve got some work to do offensively, but I’m encouraged at the turnaround this team had from the previous 5 years with Big Willy, (who can’t seem to find a place to stay). We’re headed in the right direction and I suspect that when we make it back to the championship game next year, it will be a different outcome. Go GATORS!!!

  6. Moose and Nancysid spot on…excuse the English expression. We know that a heavily worked running back’s average longevity(nfl) is approximately 4-5 years. With the current speed and tenacity of Ronnie Lott type dbacks cutting those knees, Saban’s getting his money’s worth now. No doubt Henry is the Heismann chalk, but I was really impressed with McCaffery.

  7. Still waiting on a team to put 8 or 9 in the box and make Bama’s QB beat them through the air.

    Henry is a beast. He played little league baseball with my youngest brother, and was a living legend at Yulee (FL) High. Wishing the best for him, but no human body is designed for that many full speed collisions during a three hour period every week.

  8. Moose…

    Nick Saban’s job is to win football games, just like John Calipari at Kentucky.

    I believe these two coach’s have their players best interests at heart but are those interests going to come at the expense of the program?

    Most definitely not.

    Saban is going to give Henry the ball. And trust me, Henry wants it. Look, there have been backs before him who have carried the ball more. And he’s a kid. He’ll be fine.

    But Saban is going to do what it takes to win ball games and if that means giving Henry the ball one hundred times the next two games, that’s what he’s going to do.

  9. Burnsy…

    I didn’t give the Gators much of a shot in that game. Had Grier continued to play and progress as a quarterback like many of us thought he would, we might have seen a better game.

    But yeah, the Gators couldn’t move the ball with any consistency and that’s what Alabama’s all about.

    Henry’s presence makes their AJ McCarron-like quarterback do things he probably wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do in his absence.

  10. That’s a fair question, Nans. I think the fact that RBs are no longer taken early involves a number of factors.

    First of all, the NFL has become such a QB-oriented league. You basically need a good, if not great, one to succeed.

    And even then, taking a QB high is a risk, i.e, RGIII.

    In the NFL, you can’t JUST run the ball so while having a good back is important, it’s not necessarily paramount to winning ball games.

    Look at the Bucs and Doug Martin. Late first round pick. He’s second in the league in rushing.

    Jonathan Stewart, third in the league in rushing, mid first round pick.

    Latavius Murray of the Raiders, fourth in the league in rushing was drafted in the sixth round.

    I honestly think when Henry and Fournette come out, they’ll both be top ten picks. Chubb probably would have been too before he blew out his knee, which by the way was on a fluke play not because of excessive contact.

    Listen, any player can suffer injury on any play. And running backs were maxing out their lifespan at thirty years old long before any of these guys were ever around.

  11. Speaking of good backs, Al.

    How early do you think that McCaffrey kid goes in the draft?

    Any time you’re mentioned in the same breath as Barry Sanders, well, you’re doing something right.

  12. Mony…

    As the ink was drying on your comment, Muschamp’s John Hancock was drying on a new deal in South Carolina.

    Guess they like themselves some ex-Gator coaches up there.

    And I’m with you on the right direction the Gators are taking although I think McGee’s time is up if I’m not mistaken.

    Sounds like we’ll have an interesting race for quarterback headed into next season.

  13. Bets…

    I’ve heard a few knowledgeable football fans suggest they think McCaffrey should win the award. I’m just not so sure that’s going to happen.

    Have you seen any odds of them yet?

  14. So Han, we can only assume Henry will come out this year, yes?

    Looking at the bottom six teams as they currently stand, either Cleveland, Tennessee, San Diego, Dallas, Detroit or New Orleans could take a stab at him?

    Pretty much all six of those teams need running backs, don’t they?

  15. Head on over to Dubsism where you can cast your own Heisman ballot!

    As an old O-lineman, there’s NOTHING better than running the ball, because you get to beat up the guy in front of you.

  16. Heisman Odds as of 12/11

    Henry 1/15

    McCaffery +5-1

    Watson +15-1

    I think the results leaked out and DHenry won it.

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