Getting the Job Done

Spur Mike Henshaw doesn't worry about being viewed as undersized for his position.

"I'm fourteen pounds heavier than I was last year," Henshaw said as he answered, for probably the 100th time, a question about his size. "I might not be as tall as other safeties, but it's not as big a problem as some people think."

At a ruler-straining five feet ten inches, Henshaw's size brings reminders of last year's player under the size microscope, middle linebacker Ben Collins. Collins, who was outstanding for the Mountaineers in the middle of the defense, was something of an inspiration to Henshaw, who was one of Collins closest friends on the team.

What's more important than size to Henshaw, who has worked his way into the playing rotation at the spur position, is gaining the trust of his coaches. Trust, in this case, being the belief that he can do the job on the field.

"I've worked since the spring to gain the confidence of the coaches," said the reserved Henshaw, who displays an entirely different persona on the field. "That's one thing I want to do, and I think I've done that."

Like many players, especially walkons, Henshaw has bounced up and down the depth chart. After not seeing any action in a redshirt campaign in 2000, Henshaw saw spot duty in 2001 before playing in all 13 games, mostly on special teams, in 2002.

Then, this past spring, Henshaw made his move.

"When spring started, I worked my way up to second team, and then I was working some with the first team with Mike Lorello. Then they moved Mike over to bandit and I became the first team at spur," Henshaw recounted. "I'm confident, and I'm familiar with the position. It's like an outside linebacker position, and I like to be physical, so it suits me."

As fall practice has progressed, Henshaw has seen more time with the second unit than the first, as the coaching staff has looked at linebacker Leandre Washington at the spur position. It's likely, however, that Washington could flip back and forth between linebacker and spur this year, depending on the style of team West Virginia is facing. While that might bother some players, Henshaw appears to take it in stride.

"My goal is to stay on the first team, but if it doesn't work out, then it doesn't."

What does work out for Henshaw is the odd stack defensive scheme, which provides more opportunites for players of his size to get on the field.

"I think the way the defense is set up, I couldn't ask for a better situation. With three safeties on the field, that gives me a better chance to play."

Whether it's in a starting or a reserve role, you can bet that Henshaw will make the most of his chances on the field this year.

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