April 12, 2009

Henry making push for starting receiver spot

For the past three years, all Will Henry has been waiting for is a chance.

Now going into fourth year at Nebraska, it looks like he's finally getting his wish. After patiently serving the role of a reserve wide receiver that rarely sees the field come game day, the junior has been regularly rotating in with the Huskers' first-team offense this spring.

Though many had assumed the starting X receiver job was senior Menelik Holt's for the taking, it appears Henry isn't handing over the spot that easily.

"I definitely see myself near the top (of the depth chart)," Henry said. "We're all great athletes - Meno is, (Chris Brooks) is, -- and we're all at the X, so it's a battle. One of us is going to take it, and hopefully I'd like for it to be me, but I know we're all out there competing."

At 6-foot-6, Henry stands as the tallest member of Nebraska's receiving corps - not counting redshirt freshman KC Hyland - by a solid two inches. Along with his height, the El Paso, Texas, native has shown exceptional leaping ability and a knack for out-jumping defensive backs and snagging catches out of midair.

But the problem has never been about physical ability for Henry. He's just an opportunity to prove himself.

Last year could have been that chance, as the competition behind then-seniors Nate Swift and Todd Peterson was essentially open to any receiver for the taking. However, an injury held him out of nearly all of spring practice, and as a result Henry said he spent the bulk of last season playing catch-up to the rest of the receiving corps in terms of learning new head coach Bo Pelini's schemes and expectations.

Now healthy and a year wiser in NU's offensive system, Henry is finally comfortable enough to show his ability without hesitation.

"When you don't get the chance to get those reps in (during the spring), you come into fall camp and you feel a bit rusty," Henry said. "That was the biggest deal for me, because mentally, I was like, OK, I have to catch up. I was so focused on trying to make strides and catch up with everyone else, and it just really messed up my game. It took me pretty much through the whole season to catch up.

"So getting the reps this spring has helped me with my confidence and just mentally being able to go out there and prepare."

Henry's newfound confidence and work ethic hasn't gone unnoticed by the coaching staff, either.

"Will has worked as hard on his game as anybody," receivers coach Ted Gilmore said. "His want-to and his attitude, all that's right. I have no issue with that. He has made more improvement than anybody at our position in the course of this past year. The last three weeks of last season, he practiced as good as anybody."

It's been a slow but gradual progression for Henry during the past three years, but it looks as if he's finally showing the potential expected from a former Texas Class 5A all-state selection.

He still has a long way to go before actually solidifying a place at the top of the depth chart, but if nothing else, Henry is at least acting like he belongs there.

"Near the end of last season, I just started being more comfortable," Henry said. "Being out there with the ones, being out there with Nate and Todd, it just felt more comfortable. It just became routine to me. Before when I went out with the ones, it was something new and coaches were watching, so it felt like a lot of pressure. But slowly I just got in a rhythm and just started playing like I know how."

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