Battle of the backs
Florida prep stars Derrick Henry and Kelvin Taylor meet up on ESPNU
When Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day meets Yulee (Fla.) High School on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPNU and WatchESPN.com, it will be a matchup between two of the nation's top running backs and two of the best in Florida high school history.
Glades Day is led by senior Kelvin Taylor, a Florida commit and the nation's No. 1 running back in the ESPN 150. Meanwhile, Derrick Henry, a recent Alabama commit who's rated the nation's No. 4 athlete and No. 48 recruit in the ESPN 150, powers Yulee.
So rather than give you a player-by-player breakdown of each squad, we thought we'd give you all you need to know about these two backs heading into tonight's matchup.
Glades Day head coach Pete Walker has been there for every carry of Kelvin Taylor's storied high school career. Since 2008, Taylor has amassed more than10,000 yards from scrimmage and been part of two state championship teams. The son of former NFL Pro Bowler Fred Taylor has carried on the family name while carving out a legacy of his own.
"Right away you could tell he was a difference maker," said Walker. "We put him out there in eighth grade and there's was something special happening when he touched the football."
For the last five years, defenses have tried to stop the 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior but very few have been successful. Taylor became the state's career rushing leader, passing Emmitt Smith's mark of 8,804 yards, in last season's regular season finale against Stuart (Fla.) South Fork. He has 884 yards and 15 touchdowns through four games this season according to The Palm Beach Post.
"I'd be a bad coach if I didn't try to get him the ball as much as possible," Walker said. "So every team we face knows what our game plan is going to be. It's worked out pretty well so far."
Taylor will be looking at his closest competitor across the field this Friday. Preparing for Yulee's Derrick Henry has given Walker and his Glades Day team a chance to see what their opposition usually deals with. Still Walker can't contain his excitement.
"It's going to be a fun, competitive game and I'm sure the atmosphere up there is going to be pretty electric," Walker said. "It's great for these programs, these communities and hopefully the young men involved will enjoy the moment."
Sure there will be other prospects, such as 2014 linebacker Brycen Cagnon, playing in the game for Yulee, but let's face it, all eyes will be on record-breaking running back Derrick Henry on Friday night.
Henry surpassed Emmitt Smith last week as the state of Florida's second all-time leading rusher behind only Glades Day running back Kelvin Taylor. In Yulee's 45-28 victory over Jacksonville (Fla.) Jackson last Friday, Henry set the Florida single-game rushing record with 502 rushing yards on 45 carries and added six touchdowns.
Yulee head coach Bobby Ramsay said he has never seen or coached a player with Henry's physical abilities.
"He has such a unique size and speed combination," Ramsay said. "At 6-foot-3, 243 pounds and he can take something that should be a 2-yard gain, get to the next level, and turn in to a 70- or 80-yard touchdown. He's just a rare player with rare abilities. I've never seen anything like it."
Ramsay said he is looking forward to not only coaching in the game Friday against Glades Day but is looking forward to just being a spectator and watching Henry and Taylor go at it.
"It's a historical game really," Ramsay said. "When you look at it as there are two running backs that are top five or so in the history of high school football in rushing yards playing in the same football game. It's really a historical game. It will be exciting to watch."
According to MaxPreps.com, in only four games this year Henry has rushed for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns.