Friday, November 10, 2006

Tucson Citizen: UA's Henry Hitting his Stride

University of Arizona tailback Chris Henry keeps insisting he's playing the right position. Some thought he should have remained a linebacker, but the junior carried a school record 35 times for 94 yards in a 27-17 upset victory over then-No. 24 Washington State last week. He also showed he doesn't tire easily.  "I don't think anything has been proven yet, because there are still a lot of people who look at me and don't see a running back," Henry said. "There is nothing proven yet. Slowly, hopefully, I am shutting people up."  Henry, one of the Pac-10's most muscular players, has the capabilities to hit anybody in his path. But he never wanted to play linebacker in college, and still doesn't, despite nearly every college looking at him to play defense.  One of many teams that recruited him solely as a linebacker out of Edison High School in Stockton, Calif., was No. 8 California. UA faces the Bears at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Arizona Stadium.  The junior bought into the idea of playing linebacker, at least temporarily, by originally committing to the Golden Bears. But after being told the Bears didn't want to even give him a chance at offense, he ran to Arizona. The Wildcats thought then, and still do today, that Henry can help them as a tailback.  "I think he can be a great tailback," UA running back coach Kasey Dunn said. "I think he has a lot of abilities to be a great tailback. One game is not going to do it. I want his run per carry to be higher. We want him to break some of those plays and pop the average to over five. That will be the mark for him."

Henry averaged only 2.7 yards per carry against WSU.  "He has protected well and he is taking care of the ball and doing everything we have asked him to do," Dunn said. "He still has some work to do."  Henry might not get 35 carries again, but he welcomes the chance to do it again.  At WSU, the 6-foot, 215-pound back had seven carries in the first quarter, nine in the second, six in the third and then 13 more in the fourth when the Wildcats milked the clock for the victory in a heavy rain storm.  Henry was the only UA tailback to carry the ball.

"We were winning, and he was playing good, and he had a great attitude, was making his blocks and he was intense," Dunn said. "He was playing his butt off." Henry's 35 carries was one more than the old mark shared by Trung Canidate, Bob McCall and Larry Heater.  "When I was walking off I heard the (public address) announcer say that was a record. That was cool," Henry said.  Not bad for a tailback in a linebacker's body.

Being able to plow through the line, force contact at the point of attack and have the speed to gain 17 yards and then 19 yards on crucial third downs late in the fourth quarter are reasons he is still running the ball at UA, despite gaining only 295 total yards this year.  "Chris is really starting to mature and is really starting to get a feel for a change of direction and in hitting holes," UA co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said. "He was a perimeter runner last year, but he is learning to run inside the tackle box with good vision and is running downhill."  Henry did not run at all during UA's third game of the season, when he was suspended for the Stephen F. Austin game for violating unspecified team rules.  That was the game in which Chris Jennings rushed for 201 yards and Henry lost his starting job for awhile.  Henry is back in the starting lineup party because he led the Wildcats with 91 yards on 16 carries against Stanford on Oct. 14 and caught eight passes for 87 yards Oct. 21 against Oregon State, but mostly because of his improved preparation.  "We take a written test before the games about plays, how to block, who to block, protections, etc.," Dunn said. "He not only passed it (before WSU), but he did it with great detail."  It's the special attention to the little things that has gotten Henry back on the field - a lot.


There are 4,000 tickets left for Saturday's game.

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