Alabama tailback Derrick Henry is the presumptive Heisman Trophy favorite.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound battering ram has steamrolled opponents for 1,797 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, so Florida coach Jim McElwain shudders at the thought of stopping Henry in this weekend’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta (4 p.m., CBS).
“I don’t know if fast-moving semi is a good visual,” McElwain said, chuckling.
“There was this movie one time about this train that was like out of control, going really fast and they have to stop it before it blew up the city.”
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McElwain never named the movie, but he might as well have been describing Denzel Washington’s flick Unstoppable because that’s exactly what Henry has been this season.
The junior is nicknamed El Tractorcito, and he has been plowing opponents into the ground all year. Henry has four games over 200 yards, needs just 95 more to break Georgia legend Herschel Walker’s single-season SEC rushing record (1,891 yards), and stands to become only the 25th player in NCAA history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau.
“He’s the real deal,” McElwain said.
“Hopefully we’re not just a speed bump in the road.”
Henry certainly leaves a mark. And unfortunately for the Gators (10-2), so did two other Heisman hopefuls.
While UF’s salty defense ranks No. 5 overall and No. 7 against the run (111.3 yards per game), two sophomore sensations ran roughshod over the Gators — spearheading both of Florida’s losses in 2015.
LSU’s Leonard Fournette racked up 180 yards and two touchdowns in UF’s 35-28 defeat, and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook was bottled up for three quarters before exploding late and finishing with 183 yards and two scores in a 27-2 win.
If Florida has any hope of springing the upset over No. 2 Alabama (11-1), it must figure out a way to stop Henry — for the whole game.
“It’s not fun [tackling] him,” said All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who saw Henry rack up 111 yards and a touchdown in Alabama’s 42-21 win over Florida last season.
“It’s not fun. When he has a head full of steam coming at you? He’s a big back. He can make you miss. He can run you over. You’ve got to hold on and wait for the boys to get there.”
Henry is bigger than most linebackers, and he delivered a Herculean-performance in the Tide’s 29-13 win against Auburn last weekend. In Alabama’s SEC West-clincher, he rushed for 271 yards on an astounding 46 carries.
And he’s not finished.
The Yulee native, who grew up a Florida fan, dismissed a long-standing rumor that former UF coach Will Muschamp recruited the five-star prospect to play defense and said he’s not focused on the past, the postseason awards or the fact he’s playing his childhood team.
“I’m just trying to get my team a win,” Henry said.
“Not worried about any of that. I’m worried about Florida.”
And the Gators are certainly worried about him.