Norvell: Malik Henry will start at quarterback for Nevada Wolf Pack
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack has a new starting quarterback.
Wolf Pack head coach Jay Norvell announced on Monday that junior Malik Henry will start at quarterback on Saturday at Mackay Stadium against San Jose State. Henry is the third starting quarterback for the 3-2 Wolf Pack this season after freshman Carson Strong and senior Cristian Solano.
“I said earlier in the season that I thought all three of our quarterbacks would play and win games for us,” Norvell said. “I guess we’re there. I just feel like at this point in the season Malik deserves an opportunity.”
Strong started four games, winning two of them and completing 80-of-134 passes for 729 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman from Vacaville, Calif., though was just 50-of-83 for 434 yards with no touchdowns and five interceptions over his final three appearances against Oregon, Weber State and Hawaii. The offense under Strong’s watch in his last three appearances produced just one touchdown, a rushing touchdown against Weber State.
Solano, a 6-2, 195-pound senior, started one game (a 37-21 win at UTEP) and is 24-of-36 this season for 241 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The 6-2, 195-pound Henry appeared briefly in one game, completing all three of his passes for 28 yards.
“Carson’s missed some throws and thrown some picks,” Norvell said. “I don’t know. We didn’t score. That’s a problem.”
Henry has had a controversial high school and college career. He has attended four high schools (three in Southern California and one in Florida) and three colleges (Florida State, Independence Community College, Nevada).
His only playing experience since leaving Long Beach Poly as a senior after the 2015 season was a dozen games at Independence, a junior college in Kansas, over two seasons. He played 10 games his freshman year at Independence, completing 132-of-245 passes for 1,383 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He played just two games his second year before getting dismissed from the team, completing just 19-of-43 passes for 237 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
He stayed just one year at Florida State (2016) without seeing the field. During his brief time in Tallahassee, Fla., he was suspended for one week for an unspecified violation of team rules.
“I really think Malik is a misunderstood guy,” Norvell said.
Henry took part in the Netflix television show “Last Chance U” for two seasons and was repeatedly shown clashing with his head coach and teammates as well as officials on the field.
The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post wrote a column about Henry last year that said, “After watching a full season of Last Chance U, or even just one episode, I imagine most Division I coaches wouldn’t want the former five-star recruit anywhere near their football team. Most FSU (Florida State) fans will never be able to comprehend how their former coach (Jimbo Fisher) actually thought Henry could be the future of the program.”
Norvell defended Henry’s character and ability to be a team leader.
“He has made tremendous progress,” Norvell said. “He just had to earn the trust and respect from everybody involved with him. It’s been a work in progress.”
Norvell said the decision to put Strong on the bench and start Henry, “was not difficult at all. We’ve been wanting to play Malik since he got here.”
THE TALENTED MR. HENRY: Norvell said that Henry is still as talented as the quarterback that Florida State signed as part of its 2016 recruiting class.
“Anybody that has seen him practice has been impressed with his talent,” Norvell said. “Malik is a very talented young man.”
“He has a great arm,” Wolf Pack offensive tackle Nate Brown said. “He makes throws that make you sit back and say, ‘Wow. That’s pretty.’”
STRONG IS NO. 2: Norvell said that Strong, who was taken out of the Hawaii game on Sept. 28 right before halftime and never returned, will be Henry’s backup this weekend.
“I really have confidence in all three of our quarterbacks,” Norvell said. “All three of them can win us some games and two already have. But we just need to settle down and let (Henry) get reps.
“It’s not musical chairs. We’re not looking to yank (the quarterback) after making one mistake.”
Norvell also said he is not worried that Strong’s development will be hindered by his new backup role and fewer reps in practice.
“I’m not worried,” Norvell said. “I read the Bible and the Bible tells me not to worry. Carson is fine. He’ll continue to get better. He’s the future of the program. I’m not worried.”
BEACH MOVES TO TACKLE: Norvell said that Miles Beach, a 6-4, 280-pound junior, will replace injured left tackle Jake Nelson in the starting lineup. Nelson suffered a broken arm in the 54-3 loss to Hawaii and will likely miss the remainder of the season. Beach had been starting at left guard.
“Losing Jake was tough,” Brown said. “But I have a lot of confidence with all our guys.”
The Wolf Pack might have a revolving door along the offensive line the rest of this season, especially at guard and center. Beach and Brown are by far the two most experienced tackles on the roster right now.
“He’s been out there before,” said Norvell of Beach’s move to left tackle. “He’s comfortable there. We just have to play better up front as a unit. We’re looking to make a step that way.”