Spencer Tillman of CBS sees something special in Derrick Henry

Alabama Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban answered questions about Derrick Henry and Alabama's 2013 offense.

Alabama Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban answered questions about Derrick Henry and Alabama’s 2013 offense.

Alabama Football Update: Derrick Henry getting national attention

By Hunter Ford

Spencer Tillman of CBS Sports called in to Nick Saban’s Wednesday morning SEC coaches’ teleconference, asking about freshman running back Derrick Henry.

Henry, a 6-foot-3, 238 pound tailback, took a pitch late in last Saturday’s game against Arkansas, and turned it into something special. At least that’s what it looked like to Tillman, who played running back at Oklahoma, and several NFL seasons for the Houston Oilers and San Francisco 49ers.

Henry’s run was reminiscent of highlights from Bo Jackson or Marcus Allen. Henry took the pitch from back-up QB Blake Sims, started right, was stopped, turned left, and trucked down the sidelines for an 80-yard score that took 11.5 seconds.

Tillman said he knew Saban doesn’t often heap praise on young players. And Tillman said he agreed with that policy. But, Tillman had to ask: “Does (Henry) have a chance to be special?”

Basically, Saban answered in the affirmative, with the caveat that Henry has a lot yet to learn about college football.

“Well there’s no question he’s got great size and great speed,” Saban said. “I think the biggest thing for Derrick right now is…when we’re showing him pass protection and pass routes…he said: ‘Coach, in high school I never did any of this stuff. They just handed me the ball or tossed me the ball.’”

Saban said it is not uncommon for a gifted runner like Henry to come into college with limited experience in other facets of the game.

“He has the talent and ability to be a great player,” Saban said.

Tillman, using an analogy from his old 49ers coach Bill Walsh, said “The offensive process is about being creative and the defensive process is about being destructive.” Tillman said he thought it was easier to be destructive than creative and asked Saban to comment on that relative to the Tide this season.

“I think the offense has improved,” Saban responded. “It starts up front with the offensive line.” Saban said the Tide started the season with three new starters on the offensive line, and they have played together with more “consistency” and “confidence” as the season has progressed.

Saban said the backs “have always been good” and the quarterback and receiver play has also been good.

“They (the offensive line) has played together more and developed more confidence and trust and that has helped us,” Saban said.