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AJ Henning has plenty of ability but a few obstacles to playing time

The freshman receiver should see the field in 2020, but how much is anyone’s guess.

There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.

AJ Henning, true FR

247 Composite Ranking: 4 stars (WR 18, Overall 101)
2019 Stats: n/a

The recruiting profiles of AJ Henning read exactly how you would build a slot receiver. His speed is electric, his athleticism is pure, and he knows how to get himself open. Combine that with an offense wanting to get its quickest players into space and you get a receiver with the potential to be something special during his time in Ann Arbor.

Henning is just outside the top 100 of his recruiting year and is a clear talent. Like Blake Corum, his raw ability probably gets him onto the field in year one, even if that does not translate into much production. Michigan has some other bodies capable of filling the slot role, but just as the trio of Cornelius Johnson, Mike Sainristil, and Giles Jackson all saw plenty of game action last year, Henning should expect to get on the field as a rookie.

Can Henning make an impact as a true freshman?

While there are some talented bodies throughout the wide receiver corps, Henning could find a path to playing time due to his versatility. Sainristil and Jackson are ahead of him on the depth chart at the slot position, but both are still fairly young. Michigan likes to rotate its receivers, and there will be enough snaps for the freshman to see some time in the role.

Furthermore, Henning has some experience out of the backfield and can potentially emulate some of Jackson’s utilization. We know that Josh Gattis is looking to build around these speedy, shifty weapons, and there is always room for more options that can be scattered throughout the formation. Henning has the versatility to fit a few different roles, and that should be enough to get him some looks in his first season, possibly in combination with some of the other slot options.

Henning is likely to impress right away. A lot of receivers have speed, but his is truly elite. There is a reason why he was ranked so highly as a recruit, and pure athleticism should help him get integrated into the offense quickly, even if he does not fully have a grasp on everything there is to learn at first. Good coaches will always find a way to get talent on the field, and the late season surge of Jackson last fall could be a good model for his playing time if things go well.

Michigan probably does not need Henning to succeed this year, but having another weapon like him never hurts. The reality is that his overall production numbers are unlikely to be flashy, but that does not mean he will not have a solid introduction in 2020. Henning is a top prospect and could very well turn into a star on this team. He should see enough action this fall to get fans excited about the future.