One of the latest additions to Oklahoma’s running backs room wasn’t caught off guard when he was asked to change positions.
Mikey Henderson, an OU sophomore, switched from h-back to running back this offseason and knew his role might not always be the same when the Sooners recruited him out of Ranchview High School in Irving, Texas.
OU coach Lincoln Riley told Henderson, the hulking athlete that can make plays on the ground and through the air, he wouldn’t be limited to one position. The versatility he brings to the Sooners’ offense was too valuable not to use him at multiple spots.
“He can do a lot of things for us,” Riley said. “He played in the backfield a lot for us last year too, so in a lot of ways, what we’re doing with him right now is just an extension of that.”
Riley first brought up the move to Henderson after OU’s Cotton Bowl win over Florida.
Henderson was coming off of his freshman season, where he rushed for 81 yards on nine carries and caught 12 passes for 168 yards. He scored two touchdowns as well.
Snaps were hard to come by alongside a veteran h-backs group, which featured Jeremiah Hall, Brayden Willis and Austin Stogner. So, Henderson had to maximize his time on the field, which won’t be any different as a running back.
“I expect for Mikey is just to start dialing in on the little things,” Hall said. “Last year was more of him knowing what to do since he played so many roles. You guys saw it out there.
“So this year, I think he needs to take that next step to not only know what to do but to take advantage of when he sees opportunities on the field and to make every rep count as well.”
OU’s running backs unit lost Rhamondre Stevenson and returns Kennedy Brooks, Seth McGowan and Marcus Major. OU also added Tennessee transfer Eric Gray.
Henderson’s new room has helped him ease into the role. Having former OU and NFL running back DeMarco Murray as his position coach has been a major boost as well.
“My relationship with coach Murray is great,” Henderson said. “We had a great relationship before I even moved to his room, just being on the offensive side of the ball. ... He’s a good coach. He was a legend here, legend in the NFL. I just try to soak up all the information from him.”
Riley is seeing more consistency out of Henderson and said he is quickly picking up the position, which can be difficult within a no-huddle offense.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore still has room to adjust. His assignments will vary as a running back and he will need to continue to learn how to be effective with and without the ball.
“He’s doing a nice job,” Riley said. “We’re trying to push him to make that jump from being a guy that was a role player for us and did an outstanding job his first year but that jump from becoming a role player to becoming a guy that plays a bulk of snaps, is not an easy jump.”
Considering Henderson’s diverse skill set, one way or another, he will have multiple avenues to stay on the field.
“I think I’m in a great position,” Henderson said. “I feel like I have a lot more in the tank, a lot more to show. That will be on full display this year. I’m excited. I can’t wait.”