Ann Arbor, Michigan – In a rare off-season reveal, this spring Jim Harpo reviewed his plans for a wide receiver. A.J. Henning: The Michigan football team wanted to use it a bit like San Francisco 49ers star Debo Samuel.
“We’re trying AJ Henning running backwards,” Harbaugh said at the time. “It’s not really the beta phase; he has the skills to do that. We’re kind of imagining the role of Deebo Samuel – ways to spice him up.”
Against UConn in Week 3, the Wolverines finally showed parts of those efforts. Henning returned kicks and took one home to score 61 yards. He grabbed all four of his targets for 37 yards, including 28 after the catch. For the first time this season, line up to sprint back to hold a red zone.
It’s not about the accelerating workload on Samuel, who got 59 loads with the 49ers in 2021. But the versatility is kind of Deebo-esque, and Henning is enjoying it.
“I hug her a lot,” he said on Tuesday. “I’ve seen this previous game, just playing a little running back, just being all over the place – the running back position and the wide receiving position. Just the versatility and matches, that’s what it’s like. Being in the best position to succeed on the offensive side of the ball is It is up to him.”
Everything Michigan has done so far this season on offense has been successful. The team boasts the #1 attack in college football (55.3 points per game) – albeit against a noticeably weaker competition.
With the start of the Big Ten play, Henning may be getting more and more out of the backcourt, as he teased last Saturday night on UM radio broadcasts.
“Yes, without a doubt,” he replied when asked by Jason Avant about playing more in running this season. “You can definitely look forward to seeing more of that.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, Henning was a little more discreet about Michigan’s strategy. But Luke Schonmaker hinted that the abuse would be “Starting to incorporate things that we might have been falling behind in the first three games.”
“I like to say ‘expect the unexpected,’” Henning said of his role. “So you never know with the creative minds we had in the offensive training room, you never know what could be at stake here. But I am ready for anything – no matter where they want to throw me, I am ready to do everything.”
Henning has a background for that. The former four-star recruit from Lincoln Way East (Illinois) demonstrated his blazing speed and exploded from the background, slot and wide positions in high school. That carried over to his Michigan role, where he impressed on special teams, was a credible target as a receiver and eventually became a threat.
“He is only able to do so much,” Harbow said on Saturday. “And just try to find ways – keep looking for ways, as we always did – to try to get the ball.”
Read on to see what Henning also said on Tuesday in his press conference: