Having finally found his confidence, Roberts is thriving at left tackle in Trey Adams' absence. Once the All-Pac-12 tackle returns, however, Roberts could play a significant role next season, perhaps as the versatile sixth man on the line.
Confidence, Henry Roberts says, has been the greatest factor in his breakthrough on the Huskies offensive line this spring. He believes he belongs among the best five linemen and, in turn, coaches are showing a strong belief in him.
“In the first three years I was here, I kind of identified with a high-school offensive lineman,” said Roberts, a 6-foot-6, 313-pound fourth-year junior. “Because when you come in and you have Kaleb McGary and Trey (Adams) and these guys who have come in and are starting right away and they’re just freaks in how big they are.
“You look at those guys like, ‘Man, these guys are crazy.’ But once you’re around them and you’re here for three and a half years you realize, ‘Hey, I can do this. I can play with these guys.’”
One of the most improved players on the UW offense, Roberts has taken all of the reps with the first-team offense at left tackle this spring. It is, he knows, a temporary job.
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Adams, a first-team all-conference selection in 2016, is on track to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament for the Sept. 1 season opener against Auburn. Roberts is eager to welcome Adams’ back at left tackle.
“How I look at it is, I think Trey’s a (future) first-round draft pick. He’s one of my best buds and I think if I was a coach … and you’ve got a first-round draft pick at left tackle, I would want him playing,” Roberts said. “That being said, I think this has been a great opportunity (for me) to learn and run with the ‘ones’ and get confidence and get experience running with them. But Trey’s the man, and I totally respect that.”
Even when Adams returns, Roberts has shown enough this spring to think he could play a significant role next season, perhaps as the versatile sixth man on the line.
“He’s really been playing at a pretty good level,” offensive line coach Scott Huff said. “He’s been consistently playing good football, and that’s really encouraging.”
One of the highest-ranked recruits in the 2015 recruiting class, Roberts had a stellar career in Bellevue wing-T offense, helping the Wolverines go 41-1 with two state titles in his three years on varsity.
Expectations were high for him to step in early and be a mainstay on the line. As he explained, it took him time to get comfortable in the Huskies’ system, and to build confidence in himself.
This winter, he added almost 20 pounds of bulk, and he’s ready to contribute wherever he’s needed.
“I’m most comfortable playing anywhere on the offensive line,” he said. “I like the left side, whether it’s left guard or left tackle, but like I told Coach Huff I will try to play and adapt to whatever he wants me to.”
Harris a natural at center
Junior Nick Harris, the Huskies’ starting right guard last season, has made a smooth transition this spring to center.
“I think he’s very natural at it,” Huff said. “He’s at 300 pounds now and he looks natural there. He’s really good.”
In 2016, Harris became just the second true freshman Chris Petersen has ever played on the offensive line (following Adams in 2015), and he lined up as a starting guard against Alabama in the Peach Bowl weighing just 270 pounds. He’s now closing in on 300 pounds — a big goal for him — and he’s growing also as the new voice of the line.
Huff has also singled out senior Matt James, another versatile linemen who gained weight this winter (he’s up to 300) and has been the regular right guard with the No. 1 offense this spring.
“He’s done a really good job, and Matt knows he’s going into his last (season),” Huff said. “Him and Henry, they are arguably both the most improved guys that we have. Matt’s weight is going to be a big thing for him and keeping it on.”