In the case of Willie Henry, getting slapped with a freshman redshirt was probably the best possible scenario.
Although talented, the former Cleveland Glenville star simply wasn't ready for a prominent role on Michigan's defensive line. Nine out of 10 times, getting that little bit of extra experience helps.
And Henry reaped a few benefits from his time on the sidelines.
As a special teamer for Team 134, he came up with 15 tackles--at that point, it was "get in where you fit in" for Henry, whose overall athleticism wasn't going to be bottled for long.
On to the next assignment...
As a DT, he recorded 17 tackles, including three for losses--and don't forget about a blocked kick vs. Iowa and 11 total appearances.
Not bad for a first year of work.
Yes, Henry is on the rise. His stock is soaring, his value far exceeding initial predictions.
OK, so maybe that's going overboard. But put it this way: Henry has--here comes the "p" word--potential to do great things for Team 135 this fall.
The success of Greg Mattison's defense may rest on the shoulders of senior MIKE Jake Ryan, however, the D-Line will also have a say. There really isn't an option this time around. This past fall, the defense was anything but impressive.
And other than Henry, there weren't really any guys who stood out from the crowd.
What to Expect
Depth on the line isn't a strong suit for Mattison, who'll likely call on Henry quite often in 2014. That being said, expect to see Henry play a ton of downs.
Difficult to move, the 6'2," 302-pound mountain of Maize and Blue is a potential cornerstone. Consistency was his main issue, but experience can drown out that problem rather quickly. He's a phenomenal blocker but needs to improve stamina.
He played 11 games this past year, so expect to see him in every game this year. Couple that with a handful of starts, too--if not all of them. Due to injuries to Chris Wormley and Ondre Pipkins, Mattison will require more of Henry, not to mention the rest of the underclassmen waiting for their chance to debut.
As is the case with everyone else, Henry just wants to get the call, per Matt Pargoff of Maize and Blue News:
"You get excited, but I'm just here to compete," Henry said. prior to the start of Team 134's season. "I didn't play last year, so that gave me time to study the pays. I'm going out there and competing, giving everything my all, and just getting ready for Aug. 31 against Central Michigan.
"[I want] to do as much as possible this team to win all the games we can and help all the seniors go out on a strong note."
For all intents and purposes, let's say that Henry made good on his forecast. He indeed gave his "all" to the line and special teams.
Picking up Steam
The following video interview was conducted at 2013 media day by Matt Pargoff of Maize Blue News:)
Quick refresher: Per 247Sports, Henry was a 3-star recruit (OK?!) and the No. 64 DT of 2012. Needless to say, on paper, Henry wasn't celebrated.
He comes from a solid prep program, so he's not exactly an underdog. Don't let the rating fool you--he could play just about anywhere.
In 2013, growing pains were common for the defense. Henry had his share, too. Sadly, there wasn't really anything Michigan could do to help. Mistakes are necessary--how else does one learn and develop?
That being said, Henry scored more than half of his tackles in the final four games of 2013. Saying that he's among the defense's rising stars would be an understatement.
Check out Henry's Twitter--"born to hate Ohio State."
Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81