As the coronavirus pandemic forced Americans indoors in 2020, Walton defensive lineman Cason Henry used his extra time to bulk up in preparation for a football season that seemed to be in doubt.
After lifting twice a day, and eating often, Henry gained 60 pounds over the course of six months. He stepped onto the field against Kell for the first game of his junior season as a 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive tackle. Now, heading into this senior season, Henry will prepare himself to compete for a starting tackle spot at South Carolina in 2022. He made the announcement of his commitment on Twitter just before the holiday weekend.
“I think I surprised a lot of people because a lot of people watched my d-line film, and then I came into my junior season probably 60 or 65 pounds heavier, but I didn’t lose any speed,” Henry said. “That was a very good quarantine for me. I did it right.”
Henry’s prototypical size helped him dominate defenders in his first season on the offensive side of the ball, and it was not long before college coaches took interest. It can be risky to scout high school linemen on size alone, as many massive high schoolers have failed to produce once they get to the college level, but Henry’s strength, size and athleticism earned him offers from football powers like North Carolina, West Virginia and Michigan State.
“He’s just got an athletic ability that most guys his size don’t have,” Walton coach Daniel Brunner said. “It’s size and athleticism combined together. You’ve got to have that, and what piqued the interest (of college scouts) and what created the offers and the opportunities are what the film shows. He’s a finisher and he’s nasty, and that’s what they want to see for sure.”
Brunner said Henry received interest from Power Five conference coaches because of his violent demeanor at the point of contact. However, Henry also uses the athletic skills he learned as a defensive lineman, wrestler and basketball player to win in the trenches.
“I haven’t found a lot of people that are more athletic than me that are my size,” Henry said. “I’m definitely really good out in space, which is what colleges are looking for nowadays, someone that can run outside zone really well, and that’s one of my strong suits. . . I think I have really quick hands, which helps me. My get-off is really good because I’ve used to play defensive end. I kind of transferred a lot of defensive line stuff over to offensive line, and that made me a more effective player”
Though Henry is a rare package of size, strength and athleticism at the tackle position, 247Sports and Rivals have ranked him as a 3-star lineman. He said college coaches told him college rankings do not matter, as only the best players at each position see the field on college game days. The senior still has another year of experience on a high school line ahead of him, so he may well see playing time at South Carolina in 2022.
Henry did not mention football, though, while speaking about his commitment to the Gamecocks, Instead, he said South Carolina felt like a perfect fit because of the family environment that is housed in the school’s fantastic facilities.
“I really felt the family environment there, and that’s kind of what I’m looking for. The coaches are the most approachable coaching staff and the most disarming coaching staff I’ve ever been around,” Henry said. “The players were very inclusive. They weren’t too good to come talk to me or whatever, even though I’m only a recruit going in there and they’re doing their workout. The entire line came over and shook hands with me.”