After welcoming in a dozen early enrollees in January, the rest of Alabama’s 2022 class is set to arrive on campus at the end of the month. The Crimson Tide will be joined by 11 freshmen summer arrivals as well as junior college transfer Miles Kitselman, who committed to Alabama earlier this month.
Over the next two weeks, BamaCentral will break down the arrivals one by one. Next up is the top high school running back in the state of Alabama, Emmanuel Henderson.
According to Sports Illustrated All-American, Henderson was the second best in-state prospect in the class of 2022 behind fellow Alabama signee and early enrollee Jeremiah Alexander out of Thompson. He was ranked as the 23rd overall player in the SI99.
Out of Hartford, Alabama, Henderson had over 5,000 career rushing yards and 80 touchdowns for Geneva County. He is a super athletic guy that played three sports throughout high school, continuing to play basketball his senior season after committing to play football for the Crimson Tide.
How he fits into Alabama
As Nick Saban pointed out on signing day, Henderson has displayed the willingness to do whatever it takes to get on the field his freshman year whether that be at running back, receiver or a special teams role. Saban said they would have to wait until he got on campus before they full decided where he would fit.
He has the athleticism and skill for Alabama to be able to plug him at multiple different positions on offense. Henderson has dynamic speed, but at 6-1, 185 pounds, he will need some time in the Alabama strength and conditioning program to bulk up his size. (Every scholarship running back on the Alabama roster is listed as at least 200 pounds with all being shorter than Henderson.)
Before his injury last season, Jase McClellan was one of Bryce Young's favorite receiving targets out of the backfield with three receiving touchdowns in the first four games, and Brian Robinson Jr. became one by the end of the season. Henderson could also fit in that role as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield.
What to expect next year
Henderson joins a stacked running back room with McClellan, Trey Sanders and Roydell Williams returning along with new faces in Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs and fellow freshman Jamarion Miller. However, this does not mean that he won't get any playing time.
Last season showed how much Alabama's depth at running back was tested as McClellan and Williams were both lost to season-ending injuries, and Sanders and Robinson also dealt with injuries throughout the season. Running back has also been one of the positions under Saban where freshmen have gotten a considerable amount of playing time with guys like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry. There have also been a fair share of guys that have had to wait their turn like Damien Harris, Najee Harris and Robinson.
Henderson has the talent to contribute right away, but will likely be more in line with the latter group, getting some playing time in a backup role, but spending more time waiting his turn behind a talented slew of running backs during his freshman season. He could also see the field on special teams, particularly at kick returner, a position where he had a lot of success in high school.
"Emmanuel is a great athlete," Saban said on Signing Day. "He played a lot of positions in high school. I’ve asked him on numerous occasions, ‘What do you want to play?’ And he just says, ‘I’ll play whatever you need me to play. Whatever I can do to help the team.’ I think the guy has special athletic ability. Probably could be a receiver, probably could be a running back. Where he fits the best, we’ll probably be able to figure out better once he gets here and once we start working with him and can actually evaluate his skill set first hand. We think he’s an outstanding young man and an outstanding young player who’s got great potential."