Recruiting: Notre Dame Fit For Ramon Henderson
There are many opinions about Notre Dame prospect Ramon Henderson. Some people like the Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty athlete on offense, others on defense, and some simply do not know. Others, quite frankly, think Notre Dame should pass on Henderson altogether. Here's my opinion of the California prospect.
Over the years, Notre Dame signed many ‘athletes’ and hoped to develop them into good football players. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. In the case of Henderson, there’s much to like, yet much to question.
When looking at a track athlete like Henderson, the first thing to consider, does he enjoy contact? If the answer is no, defense will not be an option, and offense is not a guarantee. To place things into perspective, a little history lesson via a scouting trip from the fall of 2016.
I went to watch Jordan Pouncey play. At the time he was committed to Notre Dame, and the Winter Park (Fla.) standout faced good competition in the Orlando area. In fact, I went to watch him play versus West Orange High School, which is the high school where former Notre Dame running back Dexter Williams played. That program always possesses good speed, so I went to watch Pouncey play. I learned a valuable lesson.
Despite Pouncey taking three plays to the end zone with fantastic speed, I quickly found myself questioning why Notre Dame or any other big-time program would want him. Why? While Pouncey could blow by high school players, make a few moves in the process and score, he absolutely avoided contact at all costs. It was blatant. He played safety on defense, and that’s where the truth was revealed.
He would certainly get near the ball carrier, but literally pull up if any other defender was in the process of tackling the player with the ball, or only run around the tackling area altogether. I’m not kidding. He could fly downhill to the ball carrier, but it did not matter because I did not record him making a tackle through three quarters of play.
I left the game early and felt there would be no way Pouncey would play a meaningful down of football for the Irish. Of course, Pouncey ended up signing with Texas (he just transferred to Florida). While in Austin, Pouncey never cracked the depth chart.
Why bring this up? Henderson is not afraid of contact. After watching his junior film, I was lukewarm on whether or not Notre Dame should go after him. I did not see anything definitive about his defensive film that led me to believe he would be a contributor for Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea. Further, I liked him much better as a wide receiver prospect.
If nothing else, Henderson could be a big-play wide receiver, or at least that was my original thought process. Henderson’s senior film continues to display his fantastic speed, but he also improved on defense. While I believe he’s still a high-level risk as a defensive back, there are categories to like. That leads to the first category.
Most importantly, and unlike Pouncey, Henderson will strike a ball carrier. His senior film proved he will make tackles. That’s the bottom line. Whether against the run or in coverage, Henderson makes tackles. That gives hope that he can play defense for the Irish, should he actually pick Notre Dame.
As an added bonus, there were a few senior tape plays where Henderson attacked the football with an opposing player next to him. This trait excites me. The desire to go after the ball is not usually taught, it is instinctive. I had not seen this aspect of his game quite like that before.
Henderson has plenty of speed. He’s absolutely a track athlete in terms of blowing by defenders or playing catch up as a defensive back. There’s simply no reason to discuss it further, as Henderson can absolutely fly.
The first thing to notice when Henderson runs, is notice long his arms are. He runs with his arms very low, sort of an unusual motion for such a fast player.
With some coaching about generating speed and acceleration, Henderson will increase his explosiveness. Henderson is not even close to maximizing his speed from stride-to-stride. That’s a considerable positive.
His length could serve Henderson well, much like it did for a former Irish defensive back (see below) that played cornerback and safety before moving onto the National Football League.
Being able to deflect passes simply due to length is something every defensive coach loves to have. Why wouldn’t they? Henderson is somewhat similar to current Irish commitment Caleb Offord in that regard. Offord provides 34-inch arms. That’s elite. Henderson may not quite reach that length, but his arms are truly long.
CHANGE OF DIRECTION
No, he’s not your typical quick-twitch cornerback. Henderson does move well in and out of breaks, but not elite by any means. To me, he’s still not a true cornerback yet. He could end up at boundary cornerback, mind you, but more likely he’d play safety (for Notre Dame, anyway). I just do not see enough stop and start change-of-direction speed to project Henderson at cornerback.
Still, just basing future position based on a player’s frame, and yes boundary cornerback could be an option. Size is something Coach Lea covets. Perhaps a shot at cornerback for Henderson, and then a move to safety if cornerback does not work out? Maybe that’s what Coach Lea would truly like to do? Something to consider.