In an era where high-flying, pass-happy spread offenses have dominated the college football landscape, Alabama has stayed the course with its hard-nosed, run-first attack.
And that’s perfectly fine with Derrick Henry. In fact, he wants the Crimson Tide to keep those carries coming his way.
“People make a big deal about all of these carries,” said Henry, who led the nation with 339 this season. “I want the ball. I want to make plays. So it’s not really a big deal to me.”
Henry was able to make the most of each carry this season, which is why the junior tailback is in New York as a Heisman finalist and why No. 2 Alabama is in the College Football Playoffs. He rushed for 1,986 yards — breaking Herschel Walker’s 31-year-old SEC single-season record of 1,891 in the process — and currently is tied for the conference record with 23 rushing touchdowns.
“That’s a blessing,” Henry said of breaking Walker’s record. “I was very thankful and very honored.”
The other finalists — Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson — had glowing praise for Henry and his tough between-the-tackles style.
“You turn on the TV and check out the highlights, he’s going to be there every week,” said McCaffrey, who added “he’s more of a downhill runner, but he’s so good at everything, too, and I think people take that for granted.”
“He’s a beast,” said Watson, who predicted that Henry would be a top-10 draft pick should he forego his senior season. “Everyone sees it.”
Henry already has won the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp National Player of the Year and the Doak Walker Award, so the Heisman would ensure a sweep of the top college football honors.
If he manages to do that, he’ll become the first running back to win the award since 2009, when another Alabama tailback — Mark Ingram — took home the trophy.
“Quarterbacks have dominated,” Henry said of the recent run of quarterbacks winning the Heisman. “But Christian and I, we’re very happy to be here.”