Aaron Henry corners in on switch to free safety

first_imgAfter struggling at cornerback, Henry is switching to free safety to back up Maragos.[/media-credit]Aaron Henry is not new to adversity.A torn ACL from late 2007 earned him two surgeries and forced him to redshirt for the 2008 campaign. Henry went from setting the school defensive back records for sacks one year to sitting out injured the next. In 2009, Henry is healthy and back on the field.However, a new challenge has been put before him.Head coach Bret Bielema has made the decision to switch Henry, who has been “in a little bump in the road” according to the coach, to free safety. The move places him behind starter Chris Maragos on the depth chart.“One thing that we think he can do is help us out on third down,” defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said. “That was kind of one of the reasons we wanted to move him in (to safety). We wanted to get a guy in there with some range … and some cover ability.”Henry has not registered more than a tackle since his three against Michigan State and has yet to break up more than one pass in a game. Bielema’s decision became official during the weekly press conference Monday. The Badgers hope Henry will be more effective in his new role, allowing other players at the corner positions playing time.Although Henry is switching to safety, his sensibility and experience as a corner are what appeals to the coaching staff.“What this does is it changes us on third down,” Cooks said. “Now we’re feeling confident out there with four corners and one safety, you know, with Henry being the fourth corner and Chris Maragos the safety. You feel good about matchups.”Henry has had limited experience outside of his natural cornerback position.“I played (safety) a little bit in high school,” Henry said. “I think my sophomore year of high school I moved around, from strong safety to corner to free safety. I played a little bit of everything, but that’s about it. High school was the last time I played safety.”Henry was gradually introduced to the position.“Initially, I didn’t really take heed to it,” Henry admitted. “I didn’t really like it at all, I won’t sit here and lie to you. But whether it’s safety or cornerback, at the end of the day, you still have to come up and tackle, you still have to cover.”The move has taken place over three weeks. Prior to the Purdue game, Henry said he had begun taking a few reps in the new position in addition to his normal practice at cornerback. During the week before Indiana, he received a much higher workload there.The toughest portion of the position switch for Henry has been changing his mindset from a cornerback’s to a safety’s. The responsibilities of the safety, as a last line of defense, extend beyond those of a cornerback.“You have to do a whole lot more at safety than cornerback,” Henry said. “You’re the eraser guy. If the ball breaks past you, it’s more likely it’s going to be a touchdown. At free safety, you have to know what everybody is doing. You have to do your job, but you have to know all the calls. It’s just knowing everything.”Asked if he feels more pressure at his new position, Henry answered immediately, “No.”“I still don’t have it down pat at all,” he acknowledged. “But Chris Maragos has been helping me out. I’m definitely starting to learn more about the schemes of our defenses and our weakness.”“I think (moving to safety) has been good for Aaron,” Maragos added. “He understands the defense (and) he’s a great athlete. Just from what I’ve been seeing, from early on, what he’s been doing, he’s transferred pretty well.”Henry brings extra speed to the safety position that Maragos doesn’t quite have. He also has close coverage abilities safeties normally don’t have.“He’s got really good ball skills,” Maragos said. “He’s really rangy. He can cover a lot of field.”Maragos also voiced confidence that the biggest part of the transition, the mental aspect, will go Henry’s way.“I thought it might be a little much for him,” said Maragos. “But he’s really right along with it. He understands everything.”Henry cited Maragos as a great help and resource for him in the move.“[Maragos] has been huge,” Henry said. “He knows I can play. He’s been helping me with all the calls. … It’s more the pre-snap (part).”Henry’s coaches have taken notice of his play at his new position in practice. They have especially noted his ability to understand the intricacies of the defense.“He’s got an awesome mind,” Cooks said. “He’s real savvy. Having played corner, seeing the field from the safety’s side, it’s tremendous what he’s been able to do.”On top of everything, Maragos is enjoying the extra time he gets to spend with Henry.“It’s been fun because Aaron and I are best friends,” Maragos said. “We’ve been lockermates for the past three years, so it’s fun because he’s playing safety now and I can hang out with him at practice.”Henry didn’t make an appearance in the Indiana game last week. With Michigan coming Saturday and Henry fully integrated into the safety position, things will likely change.“We’re rolling him,” Cooks said. “He’s part of the package now.”This season has been frustrating for Henry, but it isn’t as if he hasn’t experienced some difficulties before.“It’s been rough,” Henry said. “But this is definitely a test, but I’ll just take it and roll with it. Sometimes we go through things to, in the future, make us realize what we went through. I can’t do anything about it but go out there and continue to play.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *