- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
What kind of player is Penn State getting in run-on linebacker Carter Henderson? And what can fans expect from the player who turned down an FCS offer?
NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows most what Henderson is capable of on the field -- Greg Botta, his high school coach at Murrysville (Pa.) Franklin Regional -- and asked what separates him as a player, how he first noticed Henderson's ability and when he especially showcased his potential.
LB Carter Henderson, Murrysville (Pa.) Franklin Regional
6-foot, 222 pounds
Botta, on what separates Henderson from others at his position: "You know that's a good question because he's not an overly big kid. He's about 6-foot, and he told me the other day he's at 222 now, so he has to rely on other things. And he is probably one of the top instinctive players I have ever had. He's like a coach on the field. He anticipates well, and then he reacts to it.
"One time a coach was looking at him getting to the quarterback and said, 'Coach. He's not even blitzing.' And it's like, yeah, that's just him reacting. That's what makes him excellent."
When he first knew Henderson would be special: "I knew his sophomore year how special he was. I had his two older brothers, they played for me and his dad -- God rest his soul -- played football. So I'm sure he played football all his life.
"So when he was a sophomore, he was on every special team and he just had a burst to the ball. I can remember, when we had him on, he was a second-teamer at the time and probably could've started. He just went to the football like no one I've ever seen. He was just relentless. ... It was just a coach's dream to have someone like him. A lot of times you can't teach those angles, it's instinctive. That's the best way you can put it."
When Henderson surprised him or really showcased his ability: "Oh, there wasn't just one time. There were countless times. There were times we looked at each other on the sideline and said, 'How'd he do that?' ... He broke our school record for tackles [145 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks] and was probably one of the state's top tacklers, and I don't know why he wasn't picked for the Big-33 Game or anything. I think that's an injustice.
"But we had a stunt called MIKE Choice; it wasn't really a stunt, but we would slant our nose tackle and would give Carter the freedom once he read the play to do what he wanted to do. And a lot of times that's where he excelled. What he would do is, well, it's just his angle to the ball that is amazing. He would get to the quarterback, and I don't know if you've seen film of him on HUDL -- but it'll blow you away.
"And IUP, too, which is a top Div. II school said, 'He's our top recruit.' And they told me, 'Greg, he is a MAC linebacker.' So I think a lot of schools kind of lost him, but Penn State gained him. He's optimistic about his chances."
7hBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer