Ready To Get Back At It

Mississippi State coaches, players and fans alike are anxious to get back on the field, as in giddy about spring practice. But probably nobody can match Mike Henig's anticipation for spring drills that starts up late this month. And who can blame the Bulldog quarterback?

The rising junior is coming off an injury-riddled season, one that had Henig on the sidelines with, not one, but two separate broken collarbones.

Not to mention Henig will see a lot of familiar faces back on his side of the football.

"This is the year we feel confidence about," said Michael Henig, a native of Montgomery, Ala. "I know my role and my duties and what I have to improve on. The other guys feel very confident, too. We only lose Will Prosser and Brian Anderson so it's great to see all of us back for once.

"In our games at the end of last season, we had a chance to win all of them, just one play away in all of them. We proved to ourselves that we could compete and now it's time to compete and win. Going into the spring, all of the guys want it bad and know how to win, unlike other seasons where everyone was unsure of how to win."

The spring will present Henig his first live action on the field since suffering his second broken collarbone, which was against Arkansas on November 18.

"I was told to do nothing over the Christmas break," said Henig, who suffered his first broken collarbone in the first half of the season opener versus South Carolina. "But when I came back for school, they cleared me to start throwing again. I talked to the coaches and they are installing some things to prevent (more injuries). Their are some drills I can do and more importantly, just play smarter."

Concerning the injuries, Henig also got some advice and tutoring from former Auburn standout and fellow Montgomery native Fred Beasley.

"One of my friends, Fred Beasley, who plays with the ( San Francisco) 49'ers, told me about how the NFL quarterbacks train and practice (not getting hurt). This might sound crazy, but they go through a lot of power drills. But it only takes eight pounds of pressure to break your collarbone."

Henig also had to undergo the mental roller-coaster with the setbacks but he admits his emotions could linger very long.

"It was tough to sit out, come back and then get hurt again," said Henig. "I was very upset at first. But I couldn't let my teammates see all of that and see my frustrations. They still had to finish up the Arkansas game and go play Ole Miss. So I just helped Omarr (Conner) get ready and I had to hide my emotions."

Despite the precautionary drills to prevent future injuries, Henig plans to leave all that mental stuff on the sidelines and more importantly, out of his head.

"After I broke it the first time, I just told myself it was one of those things," said Henig. "When I came back against West Virginia, I wasn't worried about getting hurt at all.

"Then in the Jacksonville State game, I thought about it again. Omarr was out and Tray was out and that's when I started babying it out on the field.

"But I learned you can't play scared of injuries because that's when you always get hurt. Now I just want to go out there and play and leave the rest in God's hands."

With Rutland (knee surgery) also cleared for spring practice, the quarterback depth chart will add an ingredient in junior college signee Josh Riddell. The mid-year transfer and Henig have already formed a relationship.

"I have met Josh and we had already thrown a couple of times," said Henig of State's newest quarterback. "He is a cool guy and we have hung out a lot.

"We need someone to learn this offense and be solid in case something does go wrong again like last year with all the injuries. And I think Josh can do that and be that guy.""

Henig got just six starts last year due to injuries, but was instrumental in State's road win at Alabama and the passing game was clicking late in the year. Henig finished with 1,201 passing yards with seven touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

And the guys that were making the plays late last year - Tony Burks, Aubrey Bell, Jamayel Smith and Lance Long - are all back.

"It's going to be fun," said Henig of the quantity of returning receivers. "In the past, you had to wonder how this guy was going to catch the ball and how he was going to run the routes. But with Lance, Tony, Smith and Bell back, I already know what they like and what routes they are going to run.

"And it's up to us to get everybody ready to play and let them know what they have to do. Our receivers and quarterbacks have to step up as leaders. We have to show (the way to young) guys like (Morehead State transfer) Brandon McCray, who I think is going to be a big part of the offense next year."

And he can say the same thing about the big bodies protecting him.

"I've been working with most of these offensive linemen for two and three years now," said Henig. "I know what their reads are and how they will do those reads. But we also have some young offensive linemen that will step up and be a big part of our line."

But Henig isn't waiting until spring practice to 're-gain' last season's offensive rhythm that picked up significantly starting with the road loss at Georgia.

"I don't have any worries about picking that rhythm back up again," said Henig. "I have thrown a lot already to our receivers and we've found time to do that. And these guys want to do that and that is the biggest difference. Everyone wants to be working overtime in order to get better.

"We were rolling at the end of last year. It was like snap, throw and catch. And we will pick that right back up."

As Henig heads into his third career spring session, he understands that a lot of eyes will be on No. 7. He wants to prove that he's back to his old self, directing the offense with the only worries involving getting to the end zone.

"I just want us to all go out there and have fun," said Henig. "That's what it is all about. When I came back after my first injury, it was a different atmosphere on the team. We were more in sync with each other.

"Now it's my job to get these guys very confident in what they are doing and keep that confidence going."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at

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