Now At Bandit, Askew-Henry Tries To Bounce Back From Mediocre Season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Dravon Askew-Henry is trying to find something he always have in droves in the past.
His confidence. The Aliquippa, Pa., native spent the better part of his first two seasons patrolling the field as a free safety and making the type of plays which saw him earn a starting spot as a true freshman in 2014 and be named to the All-Big 12 freshman team. Askew-Henry made 45 tackles that season, then backed that with a 59-tackle season in 2015.
He was the anchor of the defense, and a player coordinator Tony Gibson used on most every snap. Askew-Henry, in fact, played a team-high 1,105 snaps – including 952 on defense – as a sophomore and was primed to do the same as a junior before an ACL tear in fall camp sidelined him for the season. He worked back onto the field this past season after a lengthy rehab, but struggled at times at free and was eventually asked to slide to the bandit spot when a series of injuries, including one to Toyous Avery, forced the issue.
Mediocre tackling, bad angles and an overall malaise of play made last season Askew-Henry’s worst, and the fifth-year senior-to-be understands both that he has just one more go around, and that he can fully trust his body to make the plays needed from a veteran stalwart.
“No. 1, I feel like my confidence,” Askew-Henry said of how he thought he improved during the offseason thus far. “If you go from my freshman year to my sophomore year I was out there playing with confidence. My junior year coming back from that injury, I feel like I didn’t have as much confidence as I wanted to. The first half of the season playing with a brace. This season I am looking forward to it. I am ready to give it all I got.
“This is my last year here playing football for West Virginia and the great fans here. I am just ready to put on a show and play football. It’s every day waking up and grinding and it will come naturally. I don’t even think about anything from last year or coming back from my injury. (Director for Strength & Conditioning) Mike Joseph, I have to give a lot of credit to him because he did most of my rehab with me. He pushed me and wouldn’t let me let up. Every day he was challenging me to get better.”
Having entered the same season as Tony Gibson was named defensive coordinator, Askew-Henry has extensive familiarity with the odd stack, and can slide between all three safety slots. He was moved to spur this spring in an effort to replace Kyzir White, who expects to spend the coming season on an NFL roster. Askew-Henry’s 6-0, 200-pound frame gives up two inches and 18 pounds to White, but his athleticism should offset part of that disadvantage, and moving him to spur allows WVU to keep Avery at bandit and emerging second-year player Kenny Robinson at free.
“Since I was a freshman, wherever they needed me to play, I played,” said Askew-Henry, who enters his final season with 161 tackles and four interceptions. “I came here as a corner, moved to free safety, then moved to bandit and now I’m playing spur. It helps me a lot because I know the defense; I know where everyone has to be. If coach needs me to play a certain position, then I will be able to play. I like spur because it’s to the field. I like playing more to the field rather than the boundary. But whatever works for me and the defense.”
The flexibility has been a boon for Gibson, who needs to find greater depth along the line, a starting strongside linebacker and a pair of dependable corners. Not having to fill a safety slot is simply one less thing on a defense which looks t vastly improve upon its performance a season ago.
“Dravon has played a lot of football,” Gibson said. “He has more starts than anyone else in the program. I think he has a good understanding of the defense. We can move him anywhere really, spur, bandit, free, but he gives us that cover guy that we need in the slot as well.”