Purdue’s former starting quarterback has seen his season completely change in a matter of two weeks.
Rob Henry has practiced at the safety position the last two weeks after losing his quarterback job to freshman Danny Etling.
“We weren’t scoring points as an offense and we weren’t winning games. I have to take responsibility for that,” Henry said. “It’s not easy; it’s tough to be moved. I respect the decision. I have to. (Hazell) is the head coach and he made the choice, so we’ll roll with it.”
Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell said he made the decision to go with Etling the Sunday following the Northern Illinois game and told Etling and Henry of the decision on Monday.
“I called in Rob second and I said we are going to make a change at quarterback,” Hazell said. “Rob’s a very unselfish guy; that’s why he’s our captain. He’s the one who said ‘Coach, can I help this team in another position?’”
Henry’s change to the secondary marks the senior’s second position change of his Purdue career. Last year under former head coach Danny Hope, Henry played wide receiver and caught 6 passes for 65 yards.
Henry told Hazell he had played running back, wide receiver and defensive back and Hazell decided defensive back would be best for the team going forward.
“I said ‘Rob, let’s look at you at defensive back, that’s where we are the thinnest right now.’ He says ‘I’m all in,’” Hazell said. “He was great about it. That’s what we need on this football team, more and more unselfish people who can help us win football games.”
Learning a new position presents obvious challenges, especially in the middle of a season. Henry spent the majority of his first practice since the position change standing in the end zone, talking to injured safety Landon Feitcher.
“It’s different, but I’m getting it down,” Henry said. “It’s not quite as mental as playing quarterback, for obvious reasons.”
Hazell said despite Henry’s inexperience in the secondary, the former quarterback doesn’t look out-of-place on defense.
“You watch him run around and obviously as a young player who hasn’t done it a whole lot, you’d think he would be out of position a lot of times, but I have not seen that,” Hazell said.
Senior defensive tackle Bruce Gaston said he has seen Henry put the work in defensively and is already impressed with the quarterback’s transition.
“My hat’s off to Rob...Rob has taken it very well,” Gaston said. “At safety, he’s very fast and athletic; some people might not realize that. My hat definitely goes off to him. He’s out there working and he’s definitely a team player.”
Henry’s biggest challenge defensively will come with tackling. The former quarterback’s athleticism and speed is unquestioned, but getting used to tackling, and not avoiding tackles, will take time.
“We’ve asked him to do some tackling; that’s going to be the big question, how well he’ll tackle,” Hazell said. “He roams around pretty well. He made a pick Monday in practice, which was good for his confidence as well as ours.”
While Henry might be eager to get on the field as soon as possible, Hazell said with defensive backs returning from injury, there is no rush for Henry to see the field.