One of the benefits of having created a recruiting machine like Nick Saban has at Alabama is that his depth is endless at just about every position and every star athlete can be replaced by another star athlete.
This is exactly what Saban has been doing at running back. Heisman winner Mark Ingram was replaced seamlessly with Trent Richardson. Eddie Lacy picked up where Richardson left of. Now, T.J. Yeldon is expected to take the lead role in the Tide backfield and will be spelled by freshman stud Derrick Henry.
Henry is expected to one day take the reins from Yeldon, possibly before Yeldon is even ready to give them up. In fact, Henry may end up being every bit as good as Richardson.
Richardson and Henry both hail from the state of Florida. Richardson attended the same Escambia High School that NFL legend Emmit Smith once set records for. Roughly 385 miles away, Henry is from Yulee, Florida.
While both standouts play the same position, looking at them side by side may lead one to a different conclusion. Richardson, although freakishly strong, has a short and stocky frame and entered college at 5'11", 210-pounds. Henry practically dwarfs him and carries 243 pounds on his 6'3" body.
Richardson would have had a hard time being anything other than a ball carrier at the collegiate level based on his height, while Henry could easily fill most linebacker roles as big as he is.
Richardson was a 2009 recruit for Saban and was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 6 overall prospect and second best running back behind former Tennessee bust Bryce Brown.
In high school, his numbers were comparatively modest. Richardson ran for just over 3,400 yards and 39 touchdowns before signing with the Tide.
Henry is the national record holder for total rushing yards by a high school student. He ended his high school career with over 9,500 rushing yards and a mesmerizing 127 touchdowns.
Rivals ranked him as the No. 36 prospect in the land and the fifth best among running backs.
Despite the difference in size, the two have very similar times in the 40 with Richardson carrying a .02 second edge over Henry.
As for running styles, Richardson was an ankle-breaker for the Tide with amazing balance and the ability to lower his head and hit defenders with more power than they hit him. Then, he often bounced to the outside and was gone in a blinding cloud of dust.
Henry tends to run more upright but, like Richardson, is an extremely difficult tackle with similar speed. He will not be brought down by arm tackles, but is probably a step behind Richardson off the jump.
To compare them to other star backs, Richardson runs similarly to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Henry is more comparable to an Eric Dickerson or a bulkier Shaun Alexander.
As a freshman at Alabama, Richardson played second fiddle to Ingram and carried the ball for 749 yards and eight touchdowns. To earn that time, he had to beat out the likes of Terry Grant and Roy Upchurch.
Henry may find it more difficult to get significant carries right away.
For one thing, the job is Yeldon's to lose. Secondly, Henry will have to outshine Dee Hart, Jalston Fowler and Kenyan Drake along with a trio of other incoming and highly touted freshman backs.
There is little doubt that Derrick Henry has the talent to become every bit of the back that Trent Richardson was at Alabama. With help from his early enrollment that will enable him to attend spring camp, Henry will likely find playing time as a freshman as well.
Exactly how much time he will get right away is the question that is burning in the minds of Tide fans everywhere.
Again, the simple fact that Alabama has the kind of talent that will make Saban struggle to find enough carries to go around is a tribute to the great Alabama coach.
Problems like this are the kind that lead to a national title. Or two. Or three. Or.....
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