Three-star prospect Jaquan Henderson—a linebacker/safety from Newton HS in Covington, Ga.—originally committed to Tennessee in June 2016. He continued his recruitment, however, and he began taking official visits to other schools late in the season. Henderson made an official visit to Tech on January 20, and a day later, he announced that he was switching his commitment to Tech, giving the Jackets their 19th commit of the class, their ninth commit from the Greater Atlanta area, and a rare flip from an SEC school.
Henderson was rated a three-star recruit by both Rivals (5.7) and the 247Sports Composite (.8813). He was Tech’s second-highest-rated recruit according to the latter service, trailing only Bruce Jordan-Swilling. He chose Tech amid offers from Tennessee and several other Power 5 conference schools, including Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, North Carolina, and UCLA.
Henderson played all over the field as a high school defender, lining up at linebacker, safety, and even cornerback. To that end, in terms of coverage skills, his film suggests he’s about as advanced as any recent Tech linebacker recruit upon entering the program. He shows the speed to run with receivers in man coverage, and he’s good at tracking the ball in the air and positioning himself to get at least one hand on it. In zone coverage, he stays disciplined and is ready to make a play whenever the ball heads his way. At the college level, his speed should be more than sufficient for him to be a starting ACC linebacker or even safety.
Even though he’s listed at just under 200 pounds, Henderson gets off of blocks quickly and can deliver huge hits. He seems to gamble on the big hit semi-often, so the biggest thing he needs to work on this summer will be developing a consistent tendency to wrap up. However, when he does wrap up on film, he shows surprisingly good form in making rugby-style tackles where he goes low and pulls players down by their ankles.
What to Expect
Henderson is one of the most versatile prospects in the class—a true safety/linebacker hybrid. He’ll be at linebacker to start his Tech career, and his most likely destination is weakside linebacker, where his coverage abilities will be put to use the most. Going forward, he could enable Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof to stick with the team’s base 4-3 front more often against 3WR and 4WR formations.
Despite that versatility, Henderson’s immediate path to playing time is a bit muddled, as the top two players from last year’s roster at weakside linebacker (senior Terrell Lewis and redshirt sophomore David Curry) will be back in 2017. For that reason, redshirting is a strong possibility for Henderson. However, he should be a strong candidate to play on special teams as a true freshman, and it’s also conceivable that he gets some snaps at strongside or middle linebacker as a situational player on passing downs. Both Brant Mitchell and Victor Alexander have struggled in coverage at times, and Henderson could offer an immediate upgrade in that regard.
If Henderson does work his way onto the two-deep or the special teams unit as a true freshman, his debut will be an interesting one. Tech’s Week 1 opponent is none other than Tennessee.