The Wolverine

August 2022*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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10 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2022   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Junior A.J. Henning played 14 games at wide receiver last year, and he returned punts in 12 and kickoffs in two. He caught 10 passes for 79 yards and carried 9 times for 162 yards with 2 touchdowns, adding 1 kickoff return touchdown. His reverse for Michigan's first touchdown set the tone in the 42-27 win over Ohio State last November. This year, he'll be asked to do even more. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said Hen- ning would be playing some out of the back- field, as well, to add another rushing threat on offense. Henning sat down with us recently for this Q&A. The Wolverine: You had to wait your turn in 2020 behind some talented receivers. How different was that for you after years of being featured in high school? Henning: "It was kind of difficult my fresh- man year because COVID was a big factor. Last year I just really saw an opportunity to take a step forward in the offense, especially my role as far as special teams — being able to be a kick and punt returner toward the end of the season. My biggest goal is to keep building on that, keep helping the team any way I can." The Wolverine: How excited are you for the added respon- sibility of playing out of the backfield on offense? Does it suit you? Henning: "For sure. My background as far as playing foot- ball — I played running back in the past. In high school I did a little bit of both, causing mismatches, getting everybody in the best opportunity to help the team. That's really important. That's really what it's all about. Me being put in that role is going to cause mismatches and is going to increase my chances in the offense as well to make plays." The Wolverine: You made huge strides in the return game last year. What goes into be- ing a good return man? Henning: "Focus … [guts] is a big one. Working your craft every day. It's something I work on every time I'm on the field. Even being home at this time [for a camp near Chicago], my friend is a kicker at Miami (Ohio) and he's kicking to me. I'm just focusing on the little details and trying to be as good as I can." The Wolverine: Some believe this offense can be better than last year's. Do you agree, and why? Henning: "We have the ability. We have the playmakers to do it, we have the coaches to make it happen, and I think we'll take that step." The Wolverine: The team has a quarterback competition materializing between Cade Mc- Namara and J.J. McCarthy. Your thoughts on that battle? Henning: "Two great quarterbacks. But honestly, we have a great quarterback room as a whole. Those guys, the way they are so intertwined and the way they just compete every day, it brings out the best every day. It just brings out the best in everybody on the team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. "The top two are great competitors, and they battle every day." — Chris Balas H e n n i n g p l a y e d 1 4 g a m e s a t wide receiver last year, catch- ing 10 passes for 79 yards, carry- ing 9 times for 162 yards with 2 touchdowns and adding 1 kickoff return touchdown. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Texas took home its second straight Learfield Directors' Cup title. With 1,449.50 total points, the Longhorns, who won four national titles during the 2021-22 academic year, edged out second-place Stanford, which posted 1,352.25 points, and the third-place Wolverines (1,245.25). The Directors' Cup is awarded annually to the colleges and universities with the most success in intercollegiate athletics. A first- place finish in a sport earns 100 points, sec- ond place 90 points, third place 85 points, and lesser values for lower finishes. Michi- gan tallied 14 top-10 finishes among the 19 total sports that it scored in. Overall, 19 sports are counted in the final Division I standings, four of which must be women's volleyball and basketball and men's basketball and baseball. The next highest (maximum of 15) sports scored for each institution, regardless of gender, are used in the standings. The Wolverines totaled 305.00 points in the fall, 590.25 points in the winter and 350.00 points in the spring. Ohio State finished fourth in the national standings with 1,183.50 points, and Florida rounded out the top five with 1,180.75 points. The Wolverines and Buckeyes were the only two Big Ten schools in the top 20. Wis- consin was the next-highest ranked institu- tion from the league at No. 24, followed by Minnesota (28), Northwestern (36), Michi- gan State (41), Penn State (43), Maryland (46), Rutgers (48), Nebraska (49), Illinois (52), Purdue (53), Iowa (55) and Indiana (64). The Wolverines now have placed in the top 10 in 22 of the past 28 rankings, includ- ing three straight top-three finishes. Texas and Michigan are tied for the fifth-most top-10 finishes. Only Stanford (28), Florida (28), UCLA (23) and North Carolina (23) have wound up in the top 10 more. — Clayton Sayfie Michigan's Last 10 Finishes In The Director's Cup Standings Here's a look at Michigan's fin- ishes in the Learfield Directors' Cup rankings during the last 10 years, which have included eight top-10 placements (the award was not handed out in 2019-20). Year Place 2021-22 3rd 2020-21 3rd 2018-19 2nd 2017-18 6th 2016-17 6th 2015-16 3rd 2014-15 19th 2013-14 13th 2012-13 4th 2011-12 10th Sitting Down With Michigan Receiver/Return Man A.J. Henning MICHIGAN FINISHES THIRD IN DIRECTORS' CUP STANDINGS

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