FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis isn’t much for bragging on individual players. He very obviously will try to avoid doing so when speaking with the media.
Chavis couldn’t help himself, though, when he was recently asked about standout performers in the Hogs’ spring game. He had to bring up sophomore Hayden Henry.
The reserve linebacker from Little Rock proved his potential worth when thrown into a game-like situation. He led the Hogs defense with 8 tackles — 3 solo and 5 assisted — in the game.
“I saw a lot of good plays [in the spring game], but I thought Henry played really well after watching the film,” Chavis said. “He did some good things. We’ve got a lot of work to do with him in terms of getting him ready to play multiple positions for us. But I guess you could say when they turned on the lights he showed up in a good way.”
Though he’s still projected to be a reserve in the fall, Henry is an important piece to Arkansas’ defensive puzzle. The Hogs have had very little linebacker depth the past two seasons. The same is true of safety. A lack of reliable performers at those spots played a significant role in Arkansas’ defense being one of the worst in the SEC over that time. That’s where Henry can make a difference, potentially helping provide depth at both spots.
Henry was known as a hard-hitting safety in high school at Pulaski Academy. The Razorbacks’ previous coaching staff brought him in to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 system. But with the Hogs reverting back to a four-man front on a more regular basis, Henry is shifting into more of a linebacker/safety hybrid role.
That’s a perfect fit for him, too, because he gets to do a lot of what he enjoys most — hit people. When Henry committed to Arkansas just before National Signing Day in 2017, he told SEC Country his mission as a player was pretty simple: “I’m going to knock someone’s head off.”
His willingness to do just that was evident in the spring game. Early in the third quarter, he rushed in from covering a slot receiver to make a big hit on running back T.J. Hammonds. The hit was heard even in the press box, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd at War Memorial Stadium.
“Henry’s done a really good job for us,” Razorbacks coach Chad Morris said. “That was a guy that really, really shined during the spring game. I was excited to see that with Hayden.”