Crimson Tide duo ready to flash talent

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's Derrick Henry and O.J. Howard each produced flashy moments as much-hyped freshmen. Now, Howard says the two talk "all the time" about how much more they can accomplish in the fall.

Henry is a 6-foot-3, 238-pound tailback who turned the Crimson Tide's otherwise forgettable Sugar Bowl into a personal showcase that left fans salivating about his future. The 6-6, 242-pound Howard's eye-catching play came with a display of impressive speed for a tight end against LSU on a long touchdown.

"We always push each other," Howard said recently. "We both had our flashes, but this year we can become an all-around player at both our positions and be consistent with our play."

On an offense loaded with playmakers such as tailback T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper, they're two of the more intriguing youngsters even if they probably won't be starters.

Henry had a breakout performance in a Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, running for a 43-yard touchdown and turning his first career catch into a 61-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He has drawn rave reviews from Alabama coach Nick Saban this spring, and joins T.J. Yeldon in the Tide's latest talented tailback tandem.

"Derrick Henry has had a fabulous spring," Saban said. "He picked up right where he left off at bowl practice last year. He works really hard. He runs really hard. He plays with a lot of toughness. He gets it. Very conscientious guy. He sets a great example. "

Howard didn't have a game like that but outran much of LSU's defense for a 52-yard touchdown. He's still a work in progress in becoming the kind of physical, blocking tight end that Alabama has typically fielded like returning starter Brian Vogler.

"O.J. is a very talented guy," Saban said. "I think he needs to continue to improve in some of those areas because he's a great pass receiver, but we continue to work with him and try to improve him as a blocker and get him to pay attention to detail and the importance of that part of the game as well."

Henry used the bowl practices to climb over Kenyan Drake on the depth chart behind Yeldon, who has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of his first two seasons. The bruiser who was so big there was speculation that he might move to another position for Alabama also had an 80-yard touchdown against Arkansas. He gained 100 yards against the Sooners.

"During the Oklahoma game, I could tell that they didn't want to tackle me," Henry said.

That doesn't surprise teammate Reggie Ragland.

"He's 6-4, 240 and runs like a 5-10 guy," the 259-pound Tide linebacker said. "So he's a big guy. A lot of people are scared to tackle him."

Henry arrived after breaking Ken Hall's 51-year national high school rushing record with 12,124 yards. That included a whopping 4,261 yards as a senior.


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