Henry Ready For Bigger Role

Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry had a freshman All-American campaign as a rookie and now is ready for a bigger role on and off the field this spring and next season.

The Hunter Henry that strode into Arkansas' interview room on Tuesday after the Razorbacks' second spring practice was a different one than the player that did the same last fall.

It was a confident one, a player who knows he can get things done on a college football field as a tight end instead of thinking he might.

Such is the mindset after Henry (6-6, 250), who caught 28 passes for 409 yards and four touchdowns, was named an AP second-team All-SEC selection, a FWAA Freshman All-American and was one of only two freshmen among 29 players named to the Mackey Award Midseason Watch List.

"I have been here, I have a little more confidence, a little more of the offense down," Henry said. "It's easier. I know what I am doing out there and not just kind of lost like I was last year.

"And as I team, I think we are kind of driven right now," Henry added. "I think we have kind of put everything behind us and we are just looking forward to the future. I think we are just excited and glad to be back on the field."

After being a top reserve last season, Henry is the established starter going into this season.

"I have to be more of a leader at my position out on the field," Henry said. "I am a starter now, running with the ones all the time now. That is different than when I first came in.

"When I was out there last year, I just kind of did my role, but I think I have to step up as a leader and kind of lead a little bit," Henry said.

Henry has been putting his time in both the weight room and the film room while watching tape of some NFL tight ends – Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten, retired Atlanta Falcon Tony Gonzalez, New Orleans Saint Jimmy Graham and New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski.

"I have been watching a lot of NFL guys and I am trying to learn from them," Henry said. "When I come down to the film room, I am trying to learn from them, what they do and how they run their routes, how they run their routes off people.

"They are the best that do it in the world so I am just just trying to watch them and learn," Henry added.

While Henry is about the same weight as last season, his frame is definitely redefined while adding strength to where he could bench press 225 some 22 times in a row.

"This winter conditioning, we did so many pull-ups and all that stuff that I have improved so much on that," Henry said, "and my body weight strength is just carrying over to my bench press…My bench has gone up a ton. All my lifts have gone up a ton." Henry, a former Pulaski Academy standout whose dad Mark lettered for the Razorbacks from 1988-91 and was a team captain as a senior, believes Arkansas is better in March than it was in November.

"I think we have improved a lot from last year until today," Henry said. "We've got bigger, stronger, faster and I think we are just excited and we are looking forward to the opportunity this spring to get better and carry that into the summer."

Arkansas is down a couple of tight ends this spring due to injuries.

"We are definitely running one after the other, but it is good for us," Henry said. "We are going to be in shape. The tight end position is asked to do a lot and we are going to do a lot."

One tight end that Henry thinks is going to take a big step forward is redshirt sophomore Jeremy Sprinkle.

Sprinkle (6-6, 237) had 4 catches for 68 yards including a 44-yard reception against Mississippi State that set up a potential game-winning touchdown deep in Bulldog territory that didn't occur because of a fumble later in the drive.

"He looks great," Henry said. "He looks big, he's gotten stronger. He's fast, he's long, he can go up and get the ball and he is definitely a big threat that we are going to be able to use next year. I think we are going to take advantage of him. He has looked good these first two practices."

Hunter Henry looks for yardage against LSU.

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