Next up in our 2023 UW Recruiting Profile series is Zachary Henning out of Colorado. Having a firm belief that the lines are the foundation of any team, I decided that our next couple of breakdowns should focus on Scott Huff’s eye popping offensive line class. Check out my breakdown of fellow ‘23 OL commit Elishah Jackett here.
It really seems like Scott Huff and Courtney Morgan have their eyes set on a certain type of offensive lineman in the 2023 recruiting cycle. Zachary Henning, much like fellow UW commit Elishah Jackett, is a big and tall lineman with athleticism and room to grow. Standing at 6-6 and a relatively lean 275 lbs, Henning has prototypical OT size and pretty light feet, but while his size doesn’t stand out on tape as much as Jackett’s, he’s still a legitimately big guy. He’s a little more stoutly built with his weight carried more in the torso and legs, and he just has a more “lineman” look. However, that shouldn’t be taken as a knock on Henning’s upside as an OL (even though it deviates from a few of the comments I made about Jackett), he’s just a different type of lineman.
Where Henning really stands out in comparison to a more widely touted recruit like Jackett is in his style of play. Henning plays with a physical, mauling mentality in both run blocking and pass protection that you really can’t instill in a player. Even though hudl clips are typically just highlights, the sheer number of plays in which he is driving guys off the ball and into the ground right to the whistle is an indication of a high-end motor and a desire to physically dominate outside of pure talent. Even on passing plays, Henning routinely turned pass protection reps into a scrappy street fight where he’s locking guys up and then driving them into the turf. There’s simply no plays off for opposing defenders opposite of Henning.
On a more technical level, Henning is still pretty raw in pass protection and run blocking. Where he shines brightest is in blocking assignments at the LOS. If he’s tasked with down blocking a 3-tech DT and widening a gap, Henning will roll the DT right down the LOS and leave a gaping hole for the RB. If you need him to solo block a head-up DE, he’ll actually root him out and dump him in the grass. And if you need him to scoop block up to an ILB, he’s your guy. The kicker is that he’s doing this while still playing with fairly unrefined blocking techniques. Often times hes fighting against his own stature to get good pad level, on a majority of plays, he’s engaging defenders with zero pop from his legs through his hips and arms and instead is just driving defenders with leg churn. Once he figures that out, watch out for the pancakes.
While he’s gotten reps working on the pull blocking that Huff always likes to see out his offensive linemen, he doesn’t look as comfortable making lead blocks out in space as you’d like to see in a starting caliber P5 offensive lineman. Overall he moves well, but he’s a tad stiff when opening his hips down the LOS, and his feet get away from him a bit, which leads to him hitting the hole slightly off balance and needing an extra catch step prior to laying his block at the second level. This half second of deceleration will cause issues in college when the game speeds up and a LB flying downhill could very well stone a hesitant or off-balance OL in the hole and blow up the entire play. Huff will have to drill him on his footwork to get this tightened up.
On another rep later in his hudl film, he’s again pulling on a GT counter play where he’s the lead blocker through the hole. However, this time, he’s meeting a deep safety 10 yards off the LOS, and although his footwork doesn’t get away from him behind the LOS, he again needs to throttle back to get back under control prior to engaging his defender. Body control and playing in-control out in space is always tricky for big offensive linemen, but drilling proper angles and strike zones on a defender will be important on pulling plays and in the screen game. Again, these aren’t knocks on him, but it’ll be something for him to work on.
On the pass protection end of things, Henning is similarly raw yet effective in his technique. From the limited pass protection plays he had on his hudl tape, he hasn’t really been tested by speed or wide rush angles in HS. Most times, DEs were either aligned on his body or just off his shoulder and would try to run through him rather than around him, which is why his jump sets or flat sets were so effective. That’ won’t cut it in college when defenders are bigger and way faster, so like Jackett, he’ll need to work on expanding his sets and work on utilizing the space on the perimeter to his advantage.
Another specific piece of technique that he’ll need to work on is resetting his feet while absorbing impact. There were plays where a DE was lined up off his outside shoulder and would feign an outside speed rush to bait him into over setting. In a flat or short 45-set, Henning doesn’t have the lateral agility and change of direction athleticism to fully recover for the inside counter move. His long arms mean he’ll still be able to engage the DE, but he won’t be in a fully braced position when engaging. This is pretty common at all levels, but what Henning needs to work on is resetting his feet into the proper stance and sinking his hips. What he does now is he tries to plant his feet instead of giving up a little ground by resetting his feet in order to catch his balance. He does this by dropping his inside foot and planting, which opens a soft inside shoulder that a savvy DE will rip through for an easy sack. These types of outside-inside pass rush moves will get more common at the next level when more athletic DEs have a solid speed-to-power move as their base move.
Fit & Position
In my opinion, Henning has some potential as an inside-outside OL candidate. Similar to Jaxson Kirkland, Henning has the strength and physicality to compensate for being an atypically tall iOL early in his career as he refines his technique and works through the S&C program. Like Kirkland, an early stint at iOL will help to highlight his run blocking strengths, hide his raw pass protection technique, and help him get early career reps that’ll accelerate his development later in his career.
He’s not quite up to P5 starting-caliber playing weight just yet, but its not unrealistic to think he could be near 290 by the time he shows up on campus, which is on the light side but close enough that he won’t be on a multi-year bulking/cutting program like some others. Alternatively, Huff could try him at OT first to see if his agility can hold up on the perimeter and then decide from there if it’s worth him cross training between OT and iOL. Regardless of where he ends up, it’ll be nice to see him bring some grit to the OL room that needs to find its groove again under Huff.
Henning will be a fun player to watch grow and develop within the program. He has tremendous upside and valuable position flexibility. If it goes as well as I think it could, we might have a multi-year starter at multiple positions on our hands.
Let me know what you think in the comments below and on Twitter @Coach_808