Antonio Henton made his college football debut last year in one of its grandest venues, throwing a 37-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to help Ohio State polish off Youngstown State, 38-6, before more than 105,000 at Ohio Stadium.
Henton will make another debut on another grand stage Saturday, but he is clearly the underdog this time around.
After going through spring practice at Ohio State, the 6-foot-2, 228-pound quarterback transferred to Georgia Southern, a Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) school much closer to his home in Fort Valley, Ga. Henton is sharing the first-team spot with Lee Chapple, and Eagles coach Chris Hatcher expects each to play against top-ranked Georgia before nearly 93,000 at Sanford Stadium.
“This is going to be really big, like one of the dreams you have when you are young,” Henton said. “I didn’t go to any games at Georgia, but I practiced up there in high school before we played on the Georgia Dome turf in Atlanta.”
Henton signed with the Buckeyes in 2006 as Rivals.com’s No. 9 dual-threat quarterback, ranking behind Florida signee Tim Tebow and ahead of Kansas signee Todd Reesing. He was hoping to supplant current senior Todd Boeckman as Ohio State’s starter next season, but that plan was altered earlier this year when the Buckeyes signed Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor was rated by Rivals.com as the top overall prospect in the 2008 class.
“It was a situation where I was thinking even before going into spring ball that I could have the opportunity to come down here and play,” Henton said. “It was nothing bad as far as why I left Ohio State. It was a great place, but I wanted to be back home with a decent chance of playing.”
Henton played in four games last season as a redshirt freshman, completing 3 of 6 passes for 57 yards and the 37-yard score.
As a Peach County High senior in 2005, Henton threw for 2,117 yards and 30 touchdowns and was named the state’s offensive player of the year. He missed the first three games and Peach County lost all three, but his return ignited a 12-0 run to the Class AAA title.
“He’s a big guy who runs pretty good,” Hatcher said. “He’s very mobile in the pocket and has a strong arm. He’s really improved each and every day and put himself in the position he’s in right now.”
It may be Saturday before Hatcher announces his starter. Chapple is a redshirt freshman, so neither has taken a snap for the Eagles.
Henton, however, has played sparingly before large audiences and is ready for his biggest game yet.
“We know they’re the No. 1 team, but we’ve got to play them like anybody else on our schedule,” he said. “I think it can be done if we go out there and do all the right things and limit our mistakes. I think we can do it.”
Odds and ends
Georgia practiced for two hours in full pads Monday, but Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said he was disappointed in the workout because players seemed distracted by a hard rain that lasted about 20 minutes. ... Returning to practice full speed were tailback Knowshon Moreno and defensive ends Roderick Battle, Jeremy Lomax and Demarcus Dobbs, and backup tailback Caleb King (hamstring) went through without limitations as well. ... Richt has helped organize an alcohol-free bowling league each Thursday night for UGA students. It will consist of 32 five-person teams over 12 weeks.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...