Derrick Henry has rushed for 2,061 yards this season, the most in the SEC and an Alabama school record.
Given Henry’s size -- 6 feet, 3 inches and 242 pounds -- it might surprise some that he has gained most of his yards on runs outside the tackles. Consider that LSU’s Leonard Fournette, frequently characterized as a physical, bruising runner, is in fact smaller than Henry at 6 feet 1 and 230 pounds.
Although Henry was held to 75 rushing yards in the Cotton Bowl and the Crimson Tide were still able to swamp Michigan State, he is likely to be an important part of Alabama's offensive game plan in Monday’s championship game.
Here's a look at what challenges Henry poses to Clemson’s defense.
Gets to the outside
Henry has gained 1,119 rushing yards and scored 19 of his 25 rushing touchdowns on runs outside the tackles this season (both of those are the most among players on Power 5 teams). On those runs, he has averaged 6.4 yards per carry. He has averaged 5.1 yards per carry when running inside the tackles.
When Henry runs outside the tackles, he puts pressure on defenses. Among 41 Power 5 running backs with at least 75 carries outside the tackles this season, Henry is fourth in yards per rush after first contact (2.76 yards).
Henry’s strength matches a strong point of Clemson's defense. The Tigers rank eighth among Power 5 defenses in yards per rush outside the tackles, compared with 47th inside the tackles. Of the 22 20-yard rushes the Tigers have allowed this season, 15 have come inside the tackles; only Purdue, Indiana and Texas Tech have allowed more.
Tough to bring down overall
Henry has 900 rushing yards after contact this season and ranks 25th in the Power 5 in yards after contact per rush (minimum 75 carries). He has 14 rushes with at least 10 yards after contact, the most of any Power 5 player.
Henry averages 8.1 yards per rush when he makes it past the line of scrimmage without being contacted. His nine 20-yard touchdown runs are third-most in the FBS.
The Clemson defense ranks 18th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (124.4). Using defensive expected points added, which more completely captures what a unit does to contribute to its team's scoring margin, the Tigers rank 19th in the FBS.
The Tigers rank second in the FBS in percentage of opponents’ runs resulting in no gain or a loss.
But the Tigers are mildly susceptible to the big gain. The 22 20-yard runs they have allowed this season ranks 83rd in the FBS.
Henry is within sight of becoming the fifth running back to win a Heisman Trophy and a national title in the same season (not including Reggie Bush). The last was another player from Alabama, Mark Ingram, in 2009. The others are Bruce Smith (1941 Minnesota), Doc Blanchard (1945 Army) and Tony Dorsett (1976 Pittsburgh).
Henry has four 200-yard rushing games this season, tied with LSU’s Fournette and Wyoming’s Brian Hill for most in the FBS and tied with Fournette, Bo Jackson (1985) and Herschel Walker (1980) for the most in a season by an SEC player.