The off-season is a boring time for just about everyone. Saturdays, once full of tailgates and excitement, have turned into days to run errands. Every week is a bye week. Baseball is great and everything, but watching 162 games does come with its stints of boredom. These days, I find myself watching a lot of Netflix — re-watching Friends for the 100th time as I rip the days off my tearaway calendar, patiently waiting for August 31st.
In my Netflix infatuation, I came across my first glimpse of real football since the NFL Draft. The show Last Chance U is a documentary series that follows Junior College Football and presents the stories of Division I bounce backs and kids who were stars for their small town high school, looking for a shot at playing for a Division I program.
The show is now in its fourth season; Seasons 1 and 2 followed East Mississippi Community College (EMCC), and the latter two seasons have followed Independence Community College in Kansas. Season 1 largely followed former Texas Tech linebacker and Los Angeles Rams draft pick Dakota Allen. EMCC may also sound familiar to dedicated Duck fans because that school was a quick pit stop for LeGarrette Blount on his way to Eugene. The show has recently been in the spotlight for Indy’s fiery, take-no-prisoners-style coach, Jason Brown.
One of the controversial stars of Seasons 3 and 4, which focused on Indy, was a kid named Malik Henry. Henry is a former five-star recruit, and an ESPN.com No. 17 prospect in 2016 who committed to Florida State on live television. He is described as having a quick release, possesses dual threat qualities, and is listed at 6’3, 185 pounds. As he is a baseball player as well, Henry’s arm and quickness were not questioned by many schools.
Early in his Florida State career, Henry was suspended for violation of team rules, though Coach Jimbo Fisher never elaborated. That was the beginning and end of his tenure at Florida State. After a couple months in flux, Henry decided to call Independence, Kansas his home for the 2017 season.
Fast forward to 2019 and Henry is in a quarterback battle for the starting job for the Nevada Wolf Pack. Considering fifth-year senior Cristian Solano broke his throwing hand only a few days ago, the race got a whole lot easier for the walk-on. Rumors are swirling that Henry is most likely going to be the one under center for their opening match-up against Purdue.
If Henry impresses or the Solano injury lingers, the Autzen Zoo could get a first-hand look at the Netflix quarterback. If that’s the case, it raises an interesting question: could Mario Cristobal and the Ducks use the documentary series to prepare for Henry?
In the show, Henry’s background at Florida State and IMG Academy is documented thoroughly. The show also documents every game, before, after and during. Viewers get a real inside look at JUCO football and a sense of the on-field action because the players are mic’d up.
Henry’s behavior on the show did not go unnoticed by viewers and recruiters. In Season 3, Henry was portrayed as a bit of a hot head who would complain when things didn’t go his way. When he was occasionally pulled for poor play or to get the backup quarterback some playing time, Henry would sit on the bench, displeased and unsupportive of his teammates.
He also did not like to be hit, as he was seen avoiding a tackle or avoiding taking a hit to make a play. Because of this, he was rated a three-star dual-threat JUCO quarterback when 2018 recruiting came around. He was not offered and had to return to Independence for a second season, not to the delight of some of the Indy players. In his second year, the plan was to place Henry in a supportive role, mentoring the current quarterbacks. Because of injury and poor play, he was called into action for two games. He was later asked to leave Independence.
The thing is, Henry is a very talented and motivated individual. In practices, he was seen helping fellow quarterbacks work on their release and focusing on more than one receiver. He has the tools to be a solid quarterback; he wasn’t a five-star recruit by accident, but his talents just have not translated to the college game yet. In a total of 12 games with Independence, he threw for 1,620 yards, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Henry’s most recent performance came in the Nevada spring game, where he showed a lot of promise and commanded the offense efficiently. He was 16 of 28, and passed for 211 yards and one touchdown. This could be a turning of the corner for Henry now that he’s surrounded by Division I receivers as opposed to junior college players.
To answer the question — yes, I would say the Ducks could use the show as a way to prepare for Henry if need be. Through the study of this film, Ducks’ coaches will discover Henry is easily rattled and does not do well when he is pressured. It can be difficult to prepare for dual-threat quarterbacks because if the defense takes away the run, then it opens up the pass, and vise-versa. Playing devil’s advocate, Henry could be an initial test for the Ducks to see how they can handle a true dual-threat; however, the Ducks should be able to contain the Inglewood native and come out with a Week 2 victory.
If Henry is indeed under center for this tilt, it will be interesting to see the Ducks’ plan of attack against a well-documented and widely known player.
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo from Twitter
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.
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