MADISON - Since bursting onto the scene as a true freshman, Aaron Henry has had anything but a smooth road to where he currently finds himself. Now, though, with a new position (safety) and new position coach, Henry seems to have a fresh start at his disposal.
With a couple of weeks gone by in spring camp, Henry has been looking decent at his new position. At the conclusion of a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the redshirt junior.
The following is a question and answer with Henry.
How did winter conditioning go for you?
Henry: It went pretty good man. All in all, it went real well. I had a chance to gain a little weight. Coach Ben Herbert had us doing some different things dynamically, but it went real, real well as far as a gaining weight and being able to run aspect.
How much weight did you add?
Henry: Probably about 10, possibly 15 pounds. I was about 190 pounds, now I'm about 202 pounds. I got up to 205, but now I'm down to 200. So about 10 pounds.
Is that where you want to be or are you trying to bulk up more by the season?
Henry: I'm trying to be in a position to where I can go out there and feel comfortable. However I'm able to go out there and feel comfortable, I mean, I want to come down and have a little weight to come down hill and hit people. Overall I just want to be at a comfortable weight whether it's 195 or 205.
Also talking about comfort, how is the knee doing?
Henry: Oh, the knee feels great. I'm doing some extra things this season that I didn't do last season. I'm meeting with some people back home. I'm doing a whole lot of strengthening. You can never stop. Like I continue to tell you guys, rehab is a daily thing. I'm doing a whole lot more strengthening than I was previously.
Does it get sore?
Henry: Yeah, I mean it gets sore and it will probably get sore for the rest of my life. That's just something that comes with it. It's not my opposite knee, but all in all it gets pretty sore after practices. I've just got to take precaution and ice it and do the things necessary.
Mentally, do you feel like you're strong?
Henry: Mentally, I'm great. I just want to come out here. I know I have the playing ability. I just want to come out here, make plays and be in a position to put my team in a position to go out there to do well and win games.
I don't want to keep talking about the knee, but I'm just going to ask one more question. Did it affect you last year during the season?
Henry: Yeah, it was kind of bothersome. After a while when I wasn't in the rotation or what not, I didn't have the same mindset as far as strengthening it and doing extra things that I needed to do to elevate my game. Now I'm ready, back in action at a new position and new year. I'm just ready to go out there and play the game of football, the game I love so much and bring some new things to the table.
Is it kind of a fresh start for you with a new coach and a new position?
Henry: It is. Often times people always say when new coaches come in that they're able to see things that other coaches don't see. I really like coach Chris Ash. He brings a different dynamic to the secondary. He's very, very fundamentally sound and a great, great coach.
What's his style?
Henry: His style? Old school, hard nosed. He's kind of like a miniature version of coach Dave Doeren. He's a loud guy and fiery guy. He's a little shorter than him, that's why I call him miniature.
So he'll let you know if something is not right?
Henry: Oh yes sir, straight up. He's a cutthroat guy and that's what we need back there. I don't need a guy who is going to tell me how good I can be. I need a guy who is going to push me to that level.
Is that the best way to do it. If a guy is continually praising you and telling you how good you can be, it's easier to get there if somebody is there critiquing you, right?
Henry: Definitely. I mean, all in all you have to be your worst critic, but I think when you have other people's feedback, especially a guy who has been around, anytime a coach can come in and critique my game when he hasn't even been here there's definitely an upside to that.
Talk about moving to safety specifically. Is it going pretty well, now four practices into the spring (at the time of the interview)?
Henry: All in all, it's more mentally. It's a lot more mentally. Physically, corner demands so much. I was talking to Jimmy (Leonhard) the other day and he said at cornerback you can't have an off day. I thought about it and he's right. You can't have an off day because and off day could be a deep ball or an off day could be looking at the cornerback too long. He's like, at safety, there's a little more leeway for that. It's going out there every day and approaching every day like it's your last. It's just putting yourself in a position.
You might not get as much action as you would expect, but if you continue to just put yourself in the right position, after a while they are going to start throwing you the ball as opposed to wide receivers.
Are you excited about the safety position?
Henry: I am. I'm more excited just to be back on the field and being able to play. It's a new position so I'm real, real excited. With Jay Valai back there, he's helping me. Chris Maragos, he's really critiquing me as well. When you've got guys like that, especially like Jimmy and Chris who can come back and always help, it definitely sheds some light on your situation and definitely has me looking forward to the future.
Is the playbook coming along?
Henry: Oh, the playbook is great. Schematically we've pretty much been the same thing throughout the years. I mean, we've changed the terminology and we're doing some things different, but all in all I started it last year
It's coming along pretty smooth. I'm really liking the playbook. It's nothing challenging at all.
I remember talking to you when you were still at corner and you always talked about getting your eyes right, getting your eyes better. Do you still have to do that at safety, or is it more about anticipation?
Henry: Well, you do have to have your eyes right. If your eyes do wander at safety as opposed to cornerback it may not necessarily be seen. It is a little bit of anticipation at corner, just reading the eyes of the quarterback. You have the chance to look in the backfield, to look at the quarterback in the backfield, when you're playing free safety.
It definitely gives you a chance to kind of like freelance in a sense. That's why they call it free safety. You can be free and just roam and just read the quarterback.
Is that where they have you at free safety? Are you going to be pretty set there?
Henry: Yes sir.
Are you fine with that?
Henry: I'm perfectly fine with that. As long as I can be on the field in the defensive secondary and playing. I know what I'm capable of. I know what my abilities are so I'm just presented an opportunity to go out there and play. Granted I may make some mistakes from time to time, but I know what kind of player I can potentially be.
Is your speed fully back?
Henry: Oh yeah, my speed is back 100 percent. I may not be a 4.3 guy, but I'm fast enough to go out there and cover someone and fast enough to run to the ball and fast enough to make plays. All in all, like I said, Herb has us doing some things lower body wise that is definitely pushing us and definitely going to get us right
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