Gophers' lone fullback works without carries

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 7, 2012 - 12:29 PM

Mike Henry, the lone fullback on the Gophers roster, knows his value to the team lies in blocking, not ball-carrying.

Gophers fullback Mike Henry

Photo: Jerry E Lee, Jerry E. Lee

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Mike Henry practices on a field named for one of the greatest fullbacks in college football history, but if Bronko Nagurski were here to watch the Gophers prepare for the 2012 season, he might not recognize the position Henry plays.

The junior from Mahtomedi is the only fullback listed on Minnesota's roster this year, a pretty good indication of the position's prominence in the Gophers offense. Henry understands he'll never have the opportunity to lead the nation in rushing, as Nagurski once did for the Gophers, or drag would-be tacklers with him into the end zone.

That's because fullback is no longer a ball-carrying position in modern offenses. Henry lined up in the Gophers' backfield a few times during his sophomore season, but never took a handoff. He swung wide into the flat on occasion, but never was thrown a pass.

Didn't he ever feel like waving his arms and demanding the quarterback throw him the ball? "Nah," Henry said with a smile. "I'd probably be too short for MarQueis [Gray] to see me."

Yes, Henry's 6-1 height and tractor-trailer build -- he's up to 245 pounds after a summer in the weight room -- make him uniquely suited for what the fullback position has become. He's not tall enough to be a tight end, but he's too heavy to be a ball-carrier.

"I guess I'm kind of a hybrid," Henry said. "If I'm a fullback, it's more of a blocking fullback."

Great, except Jerry Kill's offense last year favored one-back setups with three wideouts, or occasionally an extra tight end, but rarely a blocking back. Which must make Henry feel like the best designated hitter in the National League, right?

"No, I like my role," he said. "Third- and-goal, maybe fourth-and-short if we're going for it, I'm typically in a power stack. Get me in there on the strength side and let me do my job. I'll block 100 plays in a row if they want, and if I get the ball once, that's great."

And if he doesn't, that's great, too. Henry, who is on track to graduate a year early with a degree in business and marketing education, is occasionally utilized as an H-back, too -- the positions are almost interchangeable, Kill said, though the bigger tight ends usually handle those duties. Still, Henry is optimistic he'll be on the field frequently this fall; mostly, he's happy to be on it at all, after a concussion kept him out of all but a handful of spring practices.

His coach sees the value in having a fullback around, too, even if he's not going to be used like a workhorse.

"He gives us more looks, more options," Kill said. "It's like a tight end going out and playing receiver -- the more flexibility you have [and] the more diverse your personnel, the more deceiving your offense can be."

But don't they want the ball every once in awhile? "I've been coaching for 30 years," Kill said, "and we've never had one complain yet."

Etc.

•The Gophers were in shorts and shoulder pads Monday, their third day of practice, but will be in full uniform and ready to add hitting and tackling to their workouts by Wednesday.

•Kill spent virtually all of Monday's practice working with the freshmen and newcomers, leaving the starters to his staff.

•After wearing their new no-gloss helmets over the weekend, to get them broken in for the season, the Gophers went back to their practice helmets -- which are actually last year's game model -- Monday. A sticker reading "GT51," honoring late linebacker Gary Tinsley, is on the back of each helmet.

  • SEASON OPENER GOPHERS AT UNLV 10 p.m. Aug. 30 • TV: CBS Sports Network (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 6 Bottom 8th Inning
Miami 7
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston 3 Top 10th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh 4 Bottom 7th Inning
St. Louis 2
Milwaukee 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Chicago Cubs 3
Detroit 2 Bottom 1st Inning
Cleveland 0
Seattle 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Oakland 2
San Francisco 2 Suspended
Colorado 2
Arizona 0 Bottom 1st Inning
San Diego 0
San Francisco - T. Hudson 4:40 PM
Colorado - F. Morales
Washington - G. Gonzalez 7:10 PM
Los Angeles - R. Hernandez
Texas - C. Lewis 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Calgary
Indiana 18 2nd Qtr 10:00
Chicago 16
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close