Much like a baseball catcher, the free safety sees the entire field, with all its players, laid out in from of him on each snap. He can perhaps dissect and respond - the old read-and-react adage - better than any, and his viewpoint gives him a particular clarity about how the remainder of the defense is performing in front of him. So it became commonplace to ask the junior what his take is on some of the progressions throughout last spring. And while it's far too early to begin that line of inquiry - West Virginia enters just its third day of unpadded practices on Thursday - Askew-Henry 's status also affords him an informative and intuitive take on the leadership of the current Mountaineer defense,
The stats reveal much in terms of what was lost: Eight starters, the entire first-team linebacking corp, both starting corners and nose guard Kyle Rose. WVU lost four defensive players to the NFL draft, including two safeties in All-American Karl Joseph and KJ Dillon, along with corner Daryl Worley. Jarrod Harper returns after starting the final nine games in place of the injured Joseph, and Jeremy Tyler has played in 31 career games, with 38 tackles and an interception. Other than that, it's Askew-Henry and a multitude of largely untested prospects.
So it's worth asking the Aliquippa, Pa. native where - aside from himself, of course - exactly the secondary leadership will come? Coordinator Tony Gibson always insists leaders simply emerge, and usually do so after showcasing the ability to play. It's rare, he notes, that a personality will come forth that can lead without having the skillset respect of his peers. That would seem to back Askew-Henry's answer as well.
"Jeremy Tyler and Jarrod Harper, a lot of the people who have been here but were playing behind KJ and Karl, they are just as good, just as strong and just as fast," he said. "I feel like we will be all right. Jarrod Harper and Jeremy Tyler definitely stepped up, as well as me (in terms of) being a leader. (I'm) lead by example, but I will yell if I have to."
Askew-Henry also said he has been encouraged by the battles at the cornerback position. It might seem early in camp to predict much of anything, but Askew-Henry is basing his take on what he has seen throughout spring and the summer workout program.
"One thing I like is that they like to compete," Askew-Henry said of what expects to be an eight-way competition for the starting two corner slots. "That's a big deal playing in the Big 12. If you're willing to compete out there on that island, then I feel like you will be all right. It's different going from JuCo to DI, but after camp they should be all right, caught up to speed."
In getting them there, West Virginia opened its initial practice session with intense focus on creating turnovers. In the footage below, safeties coach Matt Caponi oversees a strip-and-recover drill. Included are Dante Bonamico (21), Jovanni Stewart (9), Osman Kamara (25), Kody Shearer (15), Shane Commodore (38), Marvin Gross (18), Kyzir White (8), Deamonte Lindsay (26), Toyous Avery (16), Dylan Tonkery (10), Tyler (2), and Askew-Henry (6).