Birthday: January 9, 1979
Strengths: 2000 Outland Trophy winner John Henderson is a freak of nature, a large, intimidating presence who has linebacker speed (he’s been clocked a 4.7/40). It’s one of the reasons scouts think he can play defensive end at the NFL level, and why he’s been compared so often to another Volunteer, Reggie White.
Henderson has the strength to control the line of scrimmage and the speed to blow by his man and into the offensive backfield. He’s a relentless pass rusher and a formidable run-stuffer who commands double teams whenever he’s on the field. Tennessee coaches have tinkered this spring with the idea of letting Henderson play end this year, in hopes it might free him up a bit to wreak a little more havoc. They even like to play him at tight end from time-to-time to take advantage of his enormous athleticism.
But for all his natural talent, what coaches love most about the guy is his leadership. A soft-spoken, humble man off the field, Henderson serves as a rallying point on it. Last year, he was team captain for the SEC’s best defense, leading the conference in sacks (12) and helping to anchor the nation’s third best defense against the run.
Areas of concern: Henderson isn’t technically sound. He relies too much on his overpowering physical advantage, something he won’t necessarily have in the bigger, faster NFL. But technique is something he can learn, and isn’t likely to play too much of a factor in his draft position. You’re not too concerned with technique when your defensive tackle can run down a back from behind.
Is he sponge-worthy?: CNN/SI, Fox Sports, Mel Kiper, Jr. — they all have Henderson at the top of their 2002 prospect list, and with good reason. The guy has all the S’s needed to be a force in the NFL: size, speed, strength and smarts. He can stop the run, he can rush the QB; he can play inside, he can play outside; he can overpower his man, he can blow by his man. In short, there’s not much Henderson can’t do, and he’ll have the 2001 season to polish his game.
Henderson’s a leader with plenty of desire. He, like another famous Vol, QB Peyton Manning, could have left school early and cashed in, but he wanted to bring an SEC title and national championship to Knoxville first. Henderson’s a humble, soft-spoken, well-mannered young man, the embodiment of the type of player Texans’ owner Bob McNair would like to have lead his franchise.
Get UR Neat Freak On Last year at this time, John Henderson was the consensus top prospect in football. Keith revisits the Volunteer’s status.
Pump Up The Vol ESPN The Magazine offers an insightful look into the world of John Henderson.
UT’s Henderson for Heisman? Worth a look Columnist John Adams of Knoxville News-Sentinel thinks it’s payback time for Charles Woodsen stealing Peyton Manning’s Heisman.