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Will AJ Henning Come Home to Illinois Football?

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Credit to @ajh3nning instagram page. https://www.instagram.com/p/CYNCOcGrM2f/

There is a chance that AJ Henning will come home to Illinois Football.

On April 24th, Michigan slot receiver, AJ Henning announced that he will be entering the transfer portal. Henning is an Illinois native who was ranked as a consensus top 150 recruit in the class of 2020. During Henning’s prep recruitment, there were plenty of rumors that the Illini led the recruitment for a period of time. Henning’s grandfather played basketball for the Illini from 1979-84 and his sister attended the University as well.

Henning ultimately chose to commit to the Michigan Wolverines. Henning played sparingly in Ann Arbor, and was mostly used as a return specialist. He will enter the transfer portal in pretty heavy demand.

His Time in Ann Arbor.

Henning mostly made his name in Ann Arbor returning kicks and punts. This past season for Michigan, he had 28 punt returns for a total of 201 yards. This total includes a 61 yard touchdown return. He additionally returned 11 kickoffs for 246 yards. Despite his athleticism and speed, AJ never cemented himself in the receiving corps,

In three years, Henning totaled 25 catches for 198 yards. AJ projects as a slot receiver at his next destination as he hopes to make the jump to the NFL.

The sell to come home to Illinois

Times are different during this second recruitment. Lovie Smith was still selling hope in Champaign and never seemed to grasp an offensive identity. It seemed he had a different mediocre QB at the reigns every single year. Barry Lunney and Bret Bielema can sell a year of proven offense. Isaiah Williams is projected to be one of the best slot receivers in the conference and is poised for a breakout season. There are similarities between Henning and Williams that can be shown. 82 receptions for 715 yards is quite the impressive stat-line that Lunney can show to AJ Henning.

However, there is urgency for AJ Henning. He will be entering his senior season and will likely not want to share the field with a heavy usage Receiver like Williams. Despite this, Illinois can sell the opportunity to play them together. Outside of Williams, Hank Beatty seems like the most likely option at the slot. Henning could easily slide in the roster and play a valuable role for Illinois football.

Players in this recruitment.

I expect AJ Henning to stay in the Big Ten. Midwest college programs are certainly familiar with Henning’s talent. Despite his lack of production in Ann-Arbor, Henning likely has relationships to all Big Ten schools in the Midwest. Iowa seems like an interesting destination given that former Wolverines, Cade McNamara and Erick Ali are now on the squad.

Additionally, Purdue can sell their history with Charlie Jones, David Bell and Rondale Moore. Additionally, I assume that Cory Patterson has a prior relationship with Henning that could certainly benefit the Boilermakers. Purdue and Iowa make the most sense for Henning from a football point of view, however I do hope that Illinois throws their hat into the ring.

Henning is a talented player who can form an impressive duo with Isaiah Williams. If Bret Bielema and Co. want AJ Henning to come home to Illinois Football, they certainly have the sell for it.

Alex is the Owner of Armchairillini.com, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is a Resident Physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Northwestern Medicine and has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS sports and more.

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