Askew-Henry Expected To Provide The Mountaineers With Leadership
Senior safety Dravon Askew-Henry is more experienced than any of his current Mountaineer teammates.
In fact, of WVU’s eight other returning defensive players with starting experience, no two combine for more career starts than Askew-Henry’s 39.
With such experience comes the expectation of leadership. After all, Askew-Henry is one of just three projected senior starters for this year’s defense. And the other two – Toyous Avery and Ezekiel Rose – are junior college transfers who have only been at WVU for a couple years, unlike Dravon, who has been in Morgantown since 2014.
“Coach Gibson told me right after the last game last year against Utah that it is time for me to step up and be that leader,” explained Askew-Henry “It’s my last go-round.”
Dravon is somewhat of rarity in today’s world – a fifth-year senior.
His path to that status came a bit differently than most. He was a starter from the moment he arrived on West Virginia’s campus in the summer of 2014, opening the season as WVU’s No. 1 free safety as the Mountaineers kicked off the campaign against Alabama in Atlanta. Askew-Henry started every game over the next two seasons, recording 45 tackles and two interceptions as a true freshman and another 59 stops and one pick as a second-year sophomore. But then heading in to the 2016 season, he severely injured his knee in August. He was sidelined the ensuing fall, taking a medical redshirt. He returned to the starting lineup in 2017 as a fourth-year junior, and finished with 57 tackles and an interception. But he wasn’t quite the same force he had been previously.
“Dravon was up and down at times last year,” noted WVU safeties coach Matt Caponi. “But this spring he’s been locked in, and he’s starting to get back to the point where he was a couple years ago.”
After starting the first 34 games of his career at free safety, Askew-Henry has bounced around some since. An injury to Avery left an opening at the bandit safety midway through last fall, so Dravon started the final five games of the 2017 season at that position.
Now with the graduation of Kyzir White, West Virginia is looking for a replacement at the spur, and the 6-foot, 200-pound Askew-Henry spent the spring working at that new spot.
“At first, I thought maybe the transition would be tough for him,” stated Caponi. “But he’s such a smart football player and such a good athlete that it’s almost been a seamless transition.”
Askew-Henry hopes that both he and the entire Mountaineer defense rediscover their aggressive nature, which was missing at times last year.
“We are going to do more attacking,” the senior safety stated. “We are going to get after it this year. We were hesitant last year, a little laid back, lackadaisical. This year we want to get after it.
“It’s hard to explain why we were a kind of lackadaisical last year,” he added. “I would say it was because of the way we into the season, the way we practiced, it wasn’t there. This year the coaches have really emphasized that we have to get better on that.”
Askew-Henry will be counted on to provide the leadership to make sure the Mountaineers are pointed in the right direction. On a roster that will feature over 120 players in the fall, Dravon not only has the most career start but he is just one of four who has been in the program the past five years, as he’s joined by Bill Kinney, Yodny Cajuste and William Crest. Kinney was a walk-on, while the other three were scholarship signees for 21-player Class of 2014. Five of those classmates used up their eligibility prior to this season, but the 14 others dropped by the wayside for various reasons.
That leaves just a handful of Mountaineers who have been at WVU for five years. And those veterans, like Askew-Henry, are going to be counted on for guidance.
“I just have to be that leader out there this year,” exclaimed Dravon, who could finish his college days with upwards of 52 career starts, which would surpass West Virginia’s current all-time leader, Joe Madsen (50: 2009-12). “I can’t just talk about it; I just have to do it. I have to lead by example on and off the field, in the film room, in practice, in meetings, just all around.”
Offseason team bonding…who ya got on your team? pic.twitter.com/7IpNoinu7f
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) April 23, 2018