Coach Speak: Ricky Henry

Nebraska had a dependency on junior college players under Bill Callahan, maybe to a fault, but there wasn't anyone that wasn't excited to get Ricky Henry back to Lincoln. A non-qualifier from the class of 2006, Henry was placed at Wahpeton (N.D.) North Dakota State College of Science and is set to once again become a Husker. Coach Mike Shafer, Henry's position coach, has high praise for Henry.

Coming out of Omaha (Nebr.) Burke, Ricky Henry received comparisons to Dave Rimington. High praise for a high school recruit, but there is something special about Henry. The problem was that Cornhusker fans were going to have to wait two more years to see it.

Out of high school, Henry failed to qualify and was placed at Wahpeton (N.D.) North Dakota State College of Science and was a two year starter for Coach Mike Shafer. What makes Henry special is more than just his own ability.

"It's been phenomenal to get a player like Ricky," Coach Mike Shafer said. "He's a great kid. He's definitely improved from where he was at when he was in high school.

"We knew that he was talented from high school, but he came up here and refined a lot of his skills. He raises the level of the other players around him. That's the type of players that you always dream of."

Coach Shafer was able to list some of those traits that makes Henry special. The most notable part of Henry's game has been visible since he was in high school. You take that one trait though and you need to refine some other things around it.

"He's a very physical kid. In high school, he had that trait. What we were able to do was to refine his technique and then use his aggressiveness to lean on people like he did in high school and out-leverage them."

What Henry needs to work on is a bit of a mystery. Really there is a mystery feeding the mystery. If it was certain where Henry was going to play along the offensive line then that would help out Coach Shafer.

"That's kind of tough. When Coach Barney Cotton and Bo Pelini were up here they weren't sure if they were going to put him at center or at guard. I know that he is very capable.

"I don't think that the level of competition is going to get to him, he's a physical player and I think that he is ready for that. I think that it's just going to be catching on to the schemes and what they are going to do offensively.

"Ricky is a smart player. He asks the right questions all of the time. Once he knows, he unleashes everything and he goes 100 miles per hour."

Ricky is one of those players that you never heard was wavering on his commitment to Nebraska. That isn't because other teams didn't ask about Henry. What closed the door, if there was any doubt, was how well the new staff got along with Ricky and Coach Shafer.

"Not necessarily. One of the things that happened was a lot of schools started calling and wanted to know if Ricky was 100% in to Nebraska. Ricky is going there because he loves Nebraska football. He knows what it's all about and he's a home-grown kid.

"When the new staff came in they came up here and spent about an hour with us. We just gelled. It was just like that. It was like we had known each other for many years. In just the short time they spent with Ricky, they thought the same of him."

There is a usual suspect in the list of schools that inquired about Ricky after the changes in the coaching staff at Nebraska. There are a couple of surprises though that give you an indication of how highly touted Ricky really was.

"Some of the schools that inquired about Ricky were Colorado, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisville, Wisconsin and Iowa were all some schools that were interested. A lot of schools just wanted to know what was going to happen.

"We talked about it. Other teams extended offers while he was up here and we sat down and asked if he could see himself there. He couldn't. Everything kept coming back to Nebraska and it was a done deal."

Coach Shafer has some high praise to give to Ricky. As of right now, Coach Shafer says that Ricky is the best offensive lineman to come through North Dakota State College of Science. That's for now.

"On the offensive line, he's the best that has been through there as of right now. That's just as far as athletic ability and aggressive play on the field. No doubt. At this point in time he's the best.

"We just signed a couple that will be able to come in here and compete for that top spot. It's funny, now when we look at a player we compare him to Ricky. We see something in a player and say ‘Hey, he's got a little Ricky in him'."

If there is the ultimate compliment, it's becoming the benchmark to what all others are compared. Coach Shafer says that two of the best ever at NDSC to ever play were there last year. There are still times doing highlights from last year that catches Coach Shafer at times.

"As far as all of the players that have come through here before, I would say that Ricky is in the top five. Of course there is Jarrett Crittenton who is going to Clemson. You can't help but watch those two in cut ups and you really can't believe how good of players those two actually were."

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