Henry back in the fold

Chris Henry is running his way back into the fold with an improved attitude and work ethic that has translated into his improved performance on the field.

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Henry, a junior tailback, is a physical specimen, the kind of imposing figure that wows scouts at NFL combines. He is athletic, explosive, and strong as an ox; three reasons why coaches, teammates and fans were mystified earlier this season when Henry's lack of on field production stymied the Wildcats' running game.

For the season, Henry has yet to reach the 300 yard mark in rushing. Against teams like LSU and USC, Henry was completely ineffective. Against UCLA, Henry only gained 10 yards on nine carries. For a running back slated to replace the departed Mike Bell, a near 1,000-yard rusher last season, Henry was drastically underachieving and leaving a huge void in the Arizona offense. After the game, Henry was faced with three choices.

He could sulk, give up, or try harder.

Fans began to doubt his abilities and instincts as a running back. Perhaps Henry should move to receiver, or even tight end they asked. After all, Henry does have outstanding hands. Or maybe Henry should move to defense and play linebacker. His size and speed would make him the perfect MIKE linebacker in Arizona's defensive scheme. People also began to question his heart. Was Henry committing himself to this football team?

Henry has answered a lot of questions during the last four weeks since the UCLA game. Most of the questions, at least the important ones, have been answered on the football field.

The coaches noticed his change in attitude and rewarded him with the start against WSU.

In the last three games, Henry has showed marked improvement. Against Stanford, Henry carried the ball 16 times for 92 yards and a score. Versus Oregon State, Henry only rushed for 19 yards on nine carries. However, he showed his versatility by grabbing eight passes for 87 yards. In last week's win over Washington State, Henry had a school record 35 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns.

Henry's yards per carry average will not win him the Heisman Trophy this season, or even get him on the All-Pac-10 list. What matters, though, is Henry is learning what it takes to be an effective running back for the Wildcats.

In years past, and especially early on this season, Henry was tip toeing in the backfield, always looking to break off the big run. For a player with 4.30 forty speed, Henry actually looked slow because he was so hesitant in hitting the holes.

In the last three contests Henry is using his 6-2, 233 pound frame to bull into, rather than dance around, would-be tacklers. Instead of losing yards and creating difficult second and third and long situations for the offense, Henry is gaining two and three yards a pop and putting the Wildcats in much more manageable down and distances.

With Henry's size and speed, and his new aggressive running style, it's only a matter of time before he bounces off a tackler and breaks a big one. Against both Stanford and Washington State, Henry had gains of 18 and 19 yards, respectively.

Even if the long gains don't come, Henry now seems committed to gaining positive yardage at all costs.

The great news is that it appears as if Henry's best football as a Wildcat is still to come.

Gary Randazzo is Basketball Editor and Co-Publisher of Wildcat Sports Report Magazine as well as Basketball Editor of Wildcat Insider. He also writes about football more than most 'basketball guys' ever do.

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