PROVO — Several new names will be on the BYU football roster this fall, although none may be more anticipated than Devonta’e Henry-Cole.
And for good reason.
First and foremost is BYU’s need at the running back position, where the Cougars will enter the season thin in numbers and experience, with Henry-Cole likely a prime candidate to not only supply depth but perhaps start.
Second would be his apparent credentials — joining Utah as a three-star prospect from national powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida back in 2016 before embarking on an up-and-down career for the Utes. Many of his downs came by virtue of injury, with the 5-foot-8, 195-pound running back sitting out the entire 2018 season before sitting behind Zack Moss, who is considered one of the top backs in Ute history.
Henry-Cole opted to join BYU as a graduate transfer for his final year.
“One, I am LDS, so just being around people that are the same religion as me was a plus,” he told the Deseret News when asked why he chose a rival school. “And coach (Aaron) Roderick used to be one of my coaches at Utah, and he’s a great coach. I played for him for one year and learned that. … Second, I just went on my official visit and I loved everything about it, and knew it would be a good fit. That weekend, I committed.”
So what can fans expect from Henry-Cole this season? Former Cougar player and current radio host of Cougar Sports on ESPN960 Ben Criddle broke down his film and offered his insights.
Criddle on his overall impressions of Henry-Cole’s film:
“Devonta’e is a very shifty running back with great top-end speed. I wouldn’t say ‘elite-level’ top-end speed, necessarily, but great speed, which should excite most fans. He has good vision but is typically an off-tackle running back who is good in open space.
“He comes from a very successful program in high school, and then again was coached well at Utah. I’ve watched his film at Utah, where he averaged over 5 yards a carry in limited backup work.
“He’s compact, but he’s physical enough. I wouldn’t define him as a physical back, necessarily, but he’s physical enough, especially considering his stature and speed. He has great start and stop ability, but I see him as primarily an off-tackle-type running back, who may show some ability up the middle, although his film doesn’t show much of that.”
How Henry-Cole compares with Ty’Son Williams, BYU’s graduate transfer running back last season?
“The only commonality between Henry-Cole and Ty’Son is they’re graduate transfers to BYU. They’re completely different running backs.
“They have similar top-end speed, but Ty’Son is quite a bit bigger than Devonta’e, so no, no one should expect Devonta’e to be Ty’Son in any way. There’s no comparison, although I do believe Devonta’e is a very good running back who can be a very productive running back. I believe he’ll be a very good running back, but I’m not certain he’ll show to be an NFL running back, like Ty’Son showed.
“Devonta’e needs to work to become a Jacquizz Rodgers-type to make it to the next level. Rodgers was someone we played against when he was at Oregon State before he went on to play for a few years in the NFL.”
Can Henry-Cole prove to be an every-down back?
“I don’t believe he can be an every-down back simply because I don’t think that type of back really exists anymore. The position can be so physically devastating, and BYU fans have seen that in just about every year over the last decade.
“So I think 10 to 15 carries is what you’ll see from Devonta’e. I know he’ll want to prove able to get more touches than that, but I know coaches will want to manage the workload, in light of what happened with Ty’Son last year. So you don’t want him to be an every-down back. You want the position to be talented enough so that he doesn’t have to carry a heavy load and stay healthy the entire year.”