- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There goes the family vacation. Alabama fans planning their annual pilgrimage to Tuscaloosa for the A-Day scrimmage this Saturday were hit with some disappointing news when it was learned that fab freshman tailback Derrick Henry would miss the remainder of spring because of a fractured leg.
A-Day had been built as Henry's opening act. For months, we had heard how talented the former five-star athlete was: A 6-foot-3, 238-pound man-child with the shoulders of a linebacker and the feet of a tailback. Much of signing day was devoted to what position he would play at Alabama: running back, H-back, linebacker, something in between?
Coaches settled on tailback, and Trent Richardson's clone was conjured. Henry wore the same No. 3 jersey, the same dreadlocks, even the same white gloves. UA senior linebacker C.J. Mosley stoked the flames, calling Henry a "bigger version" of Alabama's former Heisman Trophy finalist.
But Henry rushed the ball just 29 times in two scrimmages before the injury bug hit last week. Very few people were allowed to see those carries. The media was permitted to watch only pre-scrimmage drills.
Now, fans will have to wait for Week 1 of the football season to see Henry in a game environment. And even then there's no guarantee he'll see the field. After all, even though Henry's been Mr. Popular, he's not the only one capable of carrying the football at Alabama.
It's fair to be disappointed by Henry's injury, but it's unreasonable to think there will be any tangible repercussions on the football field. The wound, if anything, is superficial.
You can't say Alabama coach Nick Saban didn't prepare for situations like this. On signing day, he had to defend his taking three tailbacks not named Derrick Henry. He scowled at the reporter questioning his logic and scoffed at the notion of a crowded backfield, explaining that he hoped to have up to "five really good players" at the position.
Together with starter T.J. Yeldon, Saban stands to have at least that many backs capable of earning valuable reps. Rising sophomore Kenyan Drake, who was arguably the most explosive ball-carrier on the roster last season, is poised to become the primary backup. Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart make No. 3 and 4 on the depth chart. Assuming Henry comes back healthy by fall camp, as he's expected to, that makes five. And even if he doesn't, there's a good chance one of the three incoming backs will make an impact.
It's the coaching staff's ability to recruit that turned Henry into an instant star at Alabama, and it's the same ability that will right the ship in his absence. Three top-10 tailbacks are on their way this summer: Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny.
As one SEC West coordinator told ESPN.com's TideNation: "Alabama is always going to have really good backs. I don't care who they put in."
Saturday's scrimmage might have lost its luster with Henry gone, but the future is nothing if not bright. If nothing else, the show has only been delayed.
7dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough