MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Dravon Askew-Henry has made 26 career starts at safety for West Virginia University but he has always been in shadows of Karl Joseph and KJ Dillon.
The junior safety had 59 tackles, including 47 unassisted, a tackle for loss, an interception and four pass breakups in 13 starts as a sophomore in 2015.
With all eyes on the Aliquippa, Pa. native, the Mountaineers’ coaching staff is confident in Askew-Henry’s ability to be the next big thing.
“He was pretty steady last year,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “That first year he was hit and miss. There were some things that were concerning that first year. The fact that he was out there on the field as a freshman was impressive. Last year, he was much steadier. This year he’s much more confident, and he’s taken over the leadership role that Karl (Joseph) and KJ (Dillon) had.”
The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder greatly benefited from learning from his predecessors.
“The best thing for Dravon, what he went through the last two years with Karl and KJ,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. You know Dravon came here at 18 years old. As everybody knows, his first start was against Alabama in the Chic-fil-A Kickoff Classic. He’s been a kid that learned from some of the best guys I’ve ever had as far as KJ and Karl. And now he’s in that role.”
Askew-Henry is the one the young Mountaineers’ secondary looks up to. He is the one showing them the way and leading by example.
“He’s a guy that’s a leader on defense,” Gibson said. “He’s vocal. He works and a guy like him. He’s just taking off. If you remember two years ago when we recruited him, I said this is a kid that wants to be great. He’s doing all the right things to have that happen for him. Now we got a long way to go but he’s got all the qualities you want in a leader. He’s a good person, cares about the other guys. He helps the other guys. I really, really like him as a person, as a player. He’s very mature. He’s a special kid.”
“He is a guy that knows the defense, he knows all three positions,” safeties coach Matt Caponi added. “He knows what is going on in front of him, not only from a linebacker standpoint, but he understands what the defensive line is doing too. It helps him that much, and he is great with his eyes. He makes plays in the open field, and having him back there as a leader, the free safety does a lot, just from a communication standpoint between the three guys. It is good to have somebody with a ton of experience and is reliable and can make plays back there.”
The Mountaineers lost 12 members of the 2015 defense, four of whom were selected in the NFL Draft. With Askew-Henry being the veteran of this young defense, it is important that he is the one to fill the void left from last season.
“The leadership that we lost with KJ and Karl, I’ve been happy with where Dravon and (Jeremy Tyler) JT are at this point in time,” Holgorsen said. “The key is going to be when it gets real hard. When it got really hard you knew that Karl was going to say and what KJ was going to do. That’s what we have to make sure those guys understand, which they’re on track to do.”
“Those guys (Askew-Henry, Jarrod Harper and Tyler) have been here the longest, they know the expectations,” Caponi added. “Whether you are a freshman or a senior I expect everybody to take control and be leaders. The younger guys get to learn from some of the best in those guys. I challenge them every day to try to take on that leadership role.”
While fans may be skeptical of the WVU defense, Askew-Henry is ready to take over the reigns from Joseph and Dillon and lead be the backbone of the Mountaineers secondary.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS