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July 6, 2012

Alabama backfield looks set for future

MORE OPENING: Nike events page

BEAVERTON, Ore. - There is a possibility that Alabama's future backfield was on display Friday at The Opening.

It was scary good.

North Little Rock (Ark.) four-star running back Altee Tenpenny is already committed and Yulee (Fla.) athlete Derrick Henry has the Crimson Tide on top. Both looked exceptional during the first day of workouts.

Four-star running back Tyren Jones from Marietta (Ga.) Walton is also committed but he's not at this event. He would only bring even more firepower if all three sign with Alabama.

The two - Tenpenny and Henry - have considered playing together and they're all smiles. Tenpenny, who also plans to take official visits to Arkansas, Tennessee and Notre Dame, said it would be a special combination.

"It would be great," Tenpenny said. "Every time Derrick and I are together we bring the best out of each other.

"I feel like if he goes there it would be like a Herschel Walker/Trent Richardson type of thing bringing the best of both worlds and going H.A.M., hopefully bringing more national championships to the team."

Henry, a former Georgia commit, is excited about the possibilities, too.

"If Altee and I go to Alabama together I'm sure it will be a good duo, good competition," he said. "A lot of people think just because they have Tyren and Altee committed I'm going to shy away from competition. That's the fun of the game, competing for a spot."

Alabama is the leader for Henry but he said Georgia is second, Tennessee third and USC fourth on his list. The 6-foot-3, 241-pounder said he wants to take official visits to those final two schools.

"Alabama is still the leader," Henry said. "I have them as my leader because they've had two championships in three years and my position is a success at running back. When I went down there and visited with coach (Nick) Saban and all the players and I saw it for myself I chose them as my leader."

Tenpenny, who committed to Alabama in January, missed all of his junior season with a ankle injury he sustained in preseason practice. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound standout admitted it was a difficult time standing on the sidelines, unable to help his team, unable to show off his immense talent.

Throughout the ordeal, Tenpenny talked extensively with Alabama associate head coach and running backs coach Burton Burns, who provided some keen advice to the North Little Rock running back.

"The only thing he said was, 'Don't rush it, it's going to come back,'" Tenpenny said. "The only thing I did was I pushed myself but once I felt I couldn't go anymore I gave it a rest and then the next day went even harder.

"That's a scary thought. Thinking you're at the peak of your game and it was taken away like that. All I could do was just pray."

There is a chance the stars could decide to go different routes. Both are being seriously pursued by other schools. Both are planning other official visits.

But both Henry and Tenpenny seem to admire Alabama's recent success at running back, with Richardson and Mark Ingram especially. It might be too much to overcome or could just be a consideration as their senior seasons approach and signing day inches closer.

"It's a great influence," Henry said.

"When you have a top program you have to see the players that go with it. Right now Alabama has been superior at the running back position with Mark and Trent. That's a big step up for their program and a big eye-catcher for me."

Tenpenny said: "The tradition became a big thing once I further started looking into the school and seeing what each school was talking about. It became a big thing through the process."

The tradition is a big thing. The program is as big as any in the country. And if Tenpenny and Henry sign there - with the addition of Jones as well - the Alabama backfield could be something special.

"It would be great," Henry said.

Not for any team but 'Bama.



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