Almon Gunter, the speed coach at Yulee High School, sums up his running back Derrick Henry in four words.
“He is Eddie George.“
That is high praise coming from a coach who competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials and knows a thing or two about speed. But the praise doesn’t stop there.
“I like the fact the fact that he can run the football so I would put him in space,” Gunter said. “He has breakaway speed. He has very deceptive speed because of his size. You think you have him and then you look up and he is 5 yards ahead of you. “
Henry’s size causes a lot of people to question whether the talented junior from Yulee, Fla., will still carry the ball in college. There are not a lot of 6-foot-3, 225-pound running backs in the SEC. The speculation among analysts is that Henry will play on defense at the next level.
“He is so strong and has great stiff-arms,” Gunter said, “I think his best football is going to come at the next level. He is an offensive player. And he likes to punish players, and that is the bottom line. He can catch the ball and throw the ball. He is a better offensive threat than a defensive threat.”
Yulee running backs coach Pat Dunlap works with Henry almost every day and has heard the speculation about moving him to linebacker.
“He is a running back,” Dunlap said. “He has been a running back his whole life. He has had too much success to move him. He does play defense sometimes, but we don’t want to wear him out. He is too valuable where he is at. Nick Saban said it the best. After watching the kid he said, ‘Why would I move him anywhere else?’”
The college coaches who speak with his father, Derrick Henry Sr., say the same thing.
“The coaches I talk to say they are going to let him play running back,” the elder Henry said. “They don’t see why to change him when he is doing all this at running back.”
Henry is committed to Georgia although he grew up a fan of the Florida Gators. With more than 16 months until signing day for the class of 2013, college coaches are not letting up on their recruitment of Henry despite his commitment.
“Yeah, they call me all the time,” Henry said. “But I am still committed. I saw Bryan McClendon here tonight.”
McClendon, the running backs coach at Georgia, is getting help with Henry’s recruitment from a member of Georgia’s 2012 class in offensive tackle John Theus.
“I tell him to come to Georgia and run behind me,” Theus told DawgNation.
Apparently that message is coming through loud and clear.
“That is my best friend, that is my boy,” Henry said of Theus. “That is my big teddy bear.”