West Virginia’s Askew-Henry Is Ready for 2018

MORGANTOWN — Redshirt senior Dravon Askew-Henry wants to end his tenure at West Virginia University the way he began it — as one of the nation’s best defensive backs.

“This year,” said Askew-Henry, “we want the total opposite of everything you saw last year.”

Which includes the play of the former Aliquippa High School standout’s play.

After starting his first 26 games for the Mountaineers — earning ESPN.com True Freshman All-American in 2014 — Askew-Henry was forced to sit out the 2016 campaign due to a season-ending knee injury during preseason camp.

The two-time Pennsylvania Class 2A all-state first teamer came back last season, starting all 13 games — the final five at bandit safety — and earning Big 12 Conference honorable mention status, but the results were far from what the hard-hitting defensive back wanted them to be.

“I’m looking at plays I missed out there and assignments I blew, and I didn’t like it at all. This year, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder,” Askew-Henry said. ”I wasn’t leading the way I was supposed to lead.”

Like fellow seniors Will Grier, David Sills V and Yodny Cajuste, Askew-Henry considered entering his name into the NFL Draft. However, numbers like 57 tackles (42 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss an interception and four pass breakups were far from eye-popping and a return to Morgantown for one final go around was too appealing to be turned down.

“Getting one more chance to play with Will, David and Yodny as well as with my teammates on defense, especially with the chances we have ahead of us with this team, it was too much to pass up on.”

But, the questions surrounding the Mountaineers defense, despite Askew-Henry’s return, remain and have been the topic of considerable discussion all summer.

“We simply weren’t as good as we should have been. Everybody on that defense wasn’t all in,” Askew-Henry said. ”This year is completely the opposite. Everybody’s all in and willing to put in the work.”

Whether or not that ‘work’ will be enough to improve upon a unit that ranked No. 90 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in points allowed (31.5) and No. 107 in yards allowed (445.5) and lost starters Al Rasheed Benton, Lamonte McDougle and Adam Shuler won’t be known until the Mountaineers take on the University of Tennessee at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, Sept. 1.

“We want relentless players, people that will tackle and get turnovers. I feel that’s something we’ve been really working on this whole offseason,” Askew-Henry said.

And, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff hit the recruiting trail to find players who could immediately help with that change. Graduate transfers Kenny Bigelow (USC) and Jabril Robinson (Clemson) as well as Fairmont Senior three-time Class AA all-state performer Dante Stills will go a long way in shoring up a defensive front that returns starters Ezekiel Rose and Reese Donahue at defensive end and promising sophomore Darius Stills at nose tackle.

The staff also brought in a pair of transfers to help out the secondary in WVU’s 3-3-5 alignment — Josh Norwood and Keith Washington.

“They (Josh and Keith) are both nice players,” Askew-Henry said. “And, I’m sure they will really help us out. They’ve bought into our system and I expect them to see a lot of time out there for us.”

How much time will depend on the play of Askew-Henry and other returning starters Kenny Robinson, Derreck Pitts and Toyous Avery.

“We know we have the players,” Askew-Henry said. “We know we have the talent. It’s time for that talent to play like it is capable of playing and that’s my job to make sure it does, and I plan on doing that through my example.”