Rising senior wide receiver A.J. Henning is entering the transfer portal. A class of 2020 signee, he still has two years of eligibility remaining.
I missed on Henning when I gave him a TTB Rating of 89 (LINK), making a comparison to Jeremy Gallon. The recruiting services also seem to have missed on him so far, ranking him as a 4-star, the #18 wide receiver, and #102 overall in the 247 Composite. He still has a couple seasons to reach that level, but he hasn’t shown a ton so far outside of a couple big plays against MAC-level teams. In fact, I wrote about him back in December as someone to look out for as a potential early departure (LINK).
Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, and others pursued Henning out of Frankfort (IL) Lincoln-Way East, but the Wolverines won that recruiting battle. He made a minimal impact in 2020 with just 9 touches, but he showed promise in 2021 when he ran 9 times for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns – including a memorable end around for a TD against Ohio State – and caught 10 passes for 79 yards. But his offensive usage tailed off in 2022, when he tallied just 12 offensive touches (9 catches, 3 carries); his most memorable moment of his final season was a punt return touchdown against UConn.
Where Henning’s departure will be felt most is on special teams, where he returned 28 punts for 201 yards (7.2 yards/return) and the 1 touchdown; he also returned 11 kickoffs for 241 yards (21.9 yards/return). But in general, that type of production is replaceable. In fact, no leading kick returner in the Jim Harbaugh era has had a lower average except Ambry Thomas in 2017-2018, and Henning had the lowest punt return average of anyone in that span, too.
So, in other words, I don’t think Henning is a terrible player . . . but this might end up being addition by subtraction overall. All other punt returners (Ronnie Bell, D.J. Turner II) are headed to the NFL, so somebody brand new will be returning punts. Meanwhile, Roman Wilson averaged 22.8 yards/return on kickoff returns, so he might be a candidate to return kicks, along with freshman running back Cole Cabana, sophomore running back C.J. Stokes, and others.
Henning is the ninth member of the 2020 class to depart, joining CB Darion Green-Warren (Nevada), DE Aaron Lewis (Rutgers), LB William Mohan (Tennessee), S Jordan Morant (Mississippi State), LB Osman Savage (Alabama A&M), CB Andre Seldon, Jr. (New Mexico State), QB Dan Villari (Syracuse), and LB Cornell Wheeler (Kansas)
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