Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #15 Willie Henry

Willie Henry
Name: Willie Henry
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 293 lbs.
High school: Cleveland (OH) Glenville
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #69
Last year: I ranked Henry #36 and said he would be a backup defensive tackle. He started six games and made 32 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and half a sack.

Henry was an unknown factor coming into 2013 after redshirting as a freshman. It didn't take him long to establish himself as being ready to play at the Big Ten level. With a quick first step and a low center of gravity, he turned out to be difficult to handle for opposing offensive guards. He had 3 tackles and half a sack against UConn, 3 tackles and 1 TFL against Minnesota, and 5 tackles against both Northwestern and Iowa. On the defensive line, he finished second only to end Frank Clark (43) in tackles. That was the product of an ability to not only disrupt things in the middle, but to chase down plays from behind. At the end of the season, he was named Freshman All-Big Ten by ESPN.

Something odd happened this spring, though. Henry supposedly took his success for granted, and he found himself sent back to third string. With strong competition at defensive tackle, guys like Chris Wormley, Maurice Hurst Jr., and even freshman Bryan Mone seemed to get more reps. My guess is that Henry will work his way back into the good graces of the coaches, although the beginning of the season may not reflect that. Henry might find himself coming off the bench at the beginning of the year, but from what I saw last season, he should be starting at nose tackle at some point this year with a chance of being Michigan's best defensive tackle since Mike Martin.

Prediction: Part-time starting defensive tackle


  1. really curious to see what happened here. really hoping that he pans out.

  2. "Michigan's best defensive tackle since Mike Martin" could be considered the definition of damnation by faint praise. Still, I thought he was our best interior defensive lineman last year ..... another real good example when you think about it.

    But once again, the real good news here is the wealth of big, athletic, maturing kids on the defensive line who having been beat up some, now know what it takes to compete at this level and hopefully are a little pissed off about how things went last year.

    1. I'm usually arguing against overvaluing size, but on the DL I believe it can matter a great deal.

      Pipkins, Mone, Wormley, Charlton - these are big boys and the other guys aren't far behind. We're still small at DE because of Beyer, but I think the guys inside will help offset that.

      The thing is that none of them are proven all-big 10 players, but basically each time you get a 4-star DL type of guy he is a lottery ticket with something like a 20-30% chance of being the kind of impact starter you want. We now hold a lot of those lottery tickets, so our chances of success are high.

  3. The spring stuff seems like a motivational blip, but competition seems to legitimately be increasing. He looked like a future star last year, but with Pipkins healthy, Mone on the roster, and Hurst coming up, it seems like his best fit may be at the 3-tech spot. I don't know if he'll start, but he's in the top 3 DLmen who will rotate heavily.

  4. FWIW, my list has Henry about the same spot. This is my top 20.

    1. Gardner
    2. Ryan – LB is deep but playmaking is unmatched
    3. Funchess – Will any other target demand D’s attention?
    4. Clark
    5. Magnuson – stabilizing LT would ease concerns across the line
    6. Wilson
    7. Butt – only two-way TE
    8. G.Glasgow – versatility is huge
    9. Kalis
    10. Pipkins – need his mass

    11. Countess – CB is even deeper than LB, but he’s legit
    12. Henry
    13. Beyer
    14. Bosch
    15. Ross
    16. Canteen – best complement to Funchess (on paper)
    17. Taylor
    18. Morgan
    19. Wile
    20. Wormley

    I did this before all the fall camp info started coming out. As of now I'd reshuffle the OL in the following order:

    1. Magnuson
    2. Glasgow
    3. Bosch
    4. Cole
    5. Kalis
    6. Braden
    7. Kugler
    8. Miller
    9. Dawson

    With Cole seeming to emerge, and the coaches interested in maintaining stability inside, I would not be surprised to see Kalis bump out to RT. Still don't know who the top 5 are and Braden remains a wildcard. The scheme change only enhances the uncertainty across the board.

    1. I would switch R. Taylor and J. Lewis. I think the new aggressive D makes Lewis more important as he is better at press/man-to-man coverage than Taylor.

      Also, I might split the difference between Ross and RJS (i.e., if Ross is 15 and RJS is 27, then they would both be closer to 21-ish ((15 + 27)/2) as I view them as close to interchangeable, although they might have different strengths/weaknesses.

      Also also, Darboh has got to be higher. He is going to be very good and Chesson could not replace him as well as Canteen could be replaced by a combination of Chesson/Norfleet.

    2. Even including my small revisions, very good list. Thanks for posting.

    3. @TriFloyd

      You could be right about Lewis, but I don't think Taylor is going to ride the pine. Whoever, the 3rd CB is will get a ton of action, especially if they move the aggressive physical style everyone is talking about.

      I'm not sold on the hype for Darboh and RJS. Until they actually show it on the field, I'll stick with the proven guys ahead of them 9 times out of 10. I've seen too much spring/summer hype dissolve into nothing as soon as the season starts to buy into the insider practice reports.

      I don't know why everyone is giving up on Ross. He still seems like he's on track to be an all-conference player to me.

      I think Canteen is going to be a superstar. He hasn't proven it yet (obviously), but I expect him to out produce Darboh, Chesson, Norfleet and all the other #2 WR. I think he wears #1 next year. My expectations are reasonable.

  5. Hopefully the off-season stuff was just a maturity thing that will get fixed. I thought Henry looked more comfortable at 3-tech than NG last year. He was not the stoutest against double-teams and it was clear that he tired as the '13 season wore on. Not surprising for a young guy learning his stuff. But man, he knows how to disengage from a single-block. At times, he would just club the OG out of the way. The guy is going to play a lot of snaps this year, even if he has a foot in the doghouse.

  6. yeah well see how it shakes out on DL, hopefully the best players play as much as possible only rotating when they really need a blow. henry is quick with violent hands though, hes impressive coming off the ball. i also think hes best at 3T