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Derrick Henry's durability makes him the perfect running back for Alabama

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He doesn't have the best stats, but he fits the Crimson Tide perfectly.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy, he did it without leading the country in yards per game, and he did it without being incredibly efficient, finishing 53rd in rushing average of players with at least 100 carries.

It's true that Henry might not be the running back you'd call on if you need one really good game. Florida State's Dalvin Cook and LSU's Leonard Fournette could explode for more big plays, and Cook has proved to be more efficient. But over the course of a season, Henry has been a star, and he leads the country in one area coaches love: durability.

In 14 games, Henry has run the ball 359 times. That's more than anyone since 2012, when Le'Veon Bell ran the ball 382 times, and Henry could pass that by getting to his single-game average of 25.64 attempts.

Getting more carries doesn't simply mean being able to take more handoffs than other players. It means being ultra-strong, and being able to fling defenders off like they're nothing.


It means putting up crazy strength numbers in the weight room that transfer to powerful speed on the field:

At more than 240 pounds, Henry posted one of the top 40-yard dash times during the Tide's spring testing (4.50) while recording the second-best power clean on the team (345 pounds), a 440-pound bench press, a 500-pound squat and a 35-inch vertical jump.

Three hundred carries isn't ideal for any running back, but Henry has the strength to do it, and it's what the Crimson Tide needed. Alabama's passing game went through some rough stretches, meaning the solution has simply been to ride Henry through the meat of the season. His five highest rushing totals all came after the midpoint, and he was dominant in all of them.

Opponent Week Attempts Yards Percentage of team yards Average Touchdowns
Texas A&M 7 32 236 64% 7.38 2
Tennessee 8 28 143 39% 5.11 2
LSU 9 38 210 48% 5.53 3
Auburn 12 46 271 58% 5.89 1
Florida 13 44 189 43% 4.3 1

The consecutive games against Auburn and Florida were particularly impressive. Alabama knew that the only way the Tigers and Gators could stay in the game was if they took advantage of mistakes in the Tide's inconsistent passing game. So they handed the ball to Henry.

"He did as much for his team as anybody could have done," Alabama coach Nick Saban said, "or ever has done for any of our teams."

That sounds like hyperbole, but it might be true. The Crimson Tide's last Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, worked with quarterback Greg McElroy, who had similar game manager-type numbers to Coker. However, Ingram only had 271 rushing attempts. Henry has 88 more carries through the same number of games, and he'll finish with over 100 more overall.


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