January 8, 2014

Analysis: Adding Henderson a big plus for A&M

Back in the spring, I had rated Longview defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson as the number two defensive tackle in the state of Texas. It was not considered a deep year in the state at the position (at the time, DeShawn Washington was the only four star rated interior defensive prospect in Texas. In my analysis, I wrote the following:

"Henderson is a little short but he's got a compact stance and as result can stay low and get leverage on people in a hurry. He's already pretty good at using his hands to get inside and escape blockers. He has good coordination so he can also absorb blocks, stay upright, and not go to the ground. Henderson does not have Washington's first step but he can run people down and moves well laterally."

That analysis was based on Henderson's junior film and since then we've got plenty of film to look at. Henderson plays in both three and four man fronts and he'll move into what looks like a three tech at times in the four man front or even at defensive end at times. In the three man front, he'll line up as a defensive end.

The main thing that you notice about him (as in the spring) is how low he comes off of the ball. He's got great flexibility in his hips and knees like Washington but he's more powerfully built. He has a low center of gravity and it's hard to keep him from getting penetration even though he doesn't have as quick of a first step as Washington. He comes off the line into people and just pushes them backwards, stalemates them, or he's strong enough to grab them and throw them around. In addition, that center of gravity, balance, and strength means that he can hold up against double teams.

It's very difficult to pull linemen that are opposite him. He'll follow them and chase the play down to the outside. If you leave him unblocked, he's fast enough to make plays in the backfield. On one play at defensive end, he chases down a back on a screen pass to the outside. When he attacks a shoulder or across an offensive lineman's face and wins pad level, he's going to get into the backfield and start chasing people. Because of his mobility, relentlessness, and awareness, you have to account for him and have to get someone on him.

Henderson is more of a nosteackle than three technique. In addition, although he has a good first step, he's more liable to run people down as opposed to getting penetration. He does move well laterally which helps him make plays up and down the line of scrimmage and also enables him to corral people in the backfield. The one thing that Henderson (like a lot of young defensive linemen) could do better is use his hands…he lets people get into him too easily but he's so strong and low slung that that it just doesn't matter at this level.

Overall, he is probably more in the mold of a Isaiah Golden because he has a frame that will enable him to get bigger like his fellow east Texan who started about half of his freshman season for the Aggies. I thought he was a take back then even though A&M was after bigger fish such as Arkansas' Josh Frazier (who committed to Alabama) not just because he was in state but also because he compared well with A&M's big three in the 2013 class (Golden, Hardreck Walker, and Justin Manning). He and Washington should become a fine duo out of the class and only improve A&M's depth at a position that is so key in being able to build the elite defenses needed to dominate at the SEC. In addition, Sumlin and defensive line coach Terry Price have sent a clear signal to new Texas head coach Charlie Strong that he's going to need an excellent hire at defensive line coach to compete head to head with A&M for the elite prospects now and in the future.



 

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