Could Henderson Be ACC Rookie of the Year

Nov. 20, 2010

By Rob Dunning

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In the 35 years the award has been handed out, there has never been an offensive lineman named Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year.

Miami’s Seantrel Henderson might be the first.

With just two weekends left in the regular season, the race for ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year is coming down to the wire. Henderson and Maryland’s redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien appear to be the front-runners for the award, with running backs Josh Harris (Wake Forest) and Mustafa Greene (NC State) also in the mix.

A case can even be made for two of Henderson’s teammates – quarterbacks Stephen Morris and running back Lamar Miller.

But ultimately, Henderson and O’Brien will likely garner most of the votes. Both have made significant contributions to their teams this season, as Henderson has been a noticeable force on the right side of Miami’s line while O’Brien has the Terrapins in the hunt for the Atlantic Division title after a 2-10 campaign a year ago.

Five of the last 10 freshmen that won the award were quarterbacks – Russell Wilson (2008), Riley Skinner (2006), Reggie Ball (2003), Chris Rix (2001) and Philip Rivers (2000).  O’Brien (1,571 yards passing, 16 TDs, 4 INTs) could be the sixth in the last 11. Quarterbacks have obviously been a popular choice among voters, but Henderson just might break that mold.

At 6’ 8”, 355 pounds, he is as imposing a figure as you’ll find on a football field. And as Miami’s starting right tackle, his game has matched his significant presence.

“He’s very smart and very competitive,” head coach Randy Shannon said. “If anybody wants to play at the University of Miami, we ask that you be physically and mentally sharp and be ready to handle the stress of it. If you’re able to handle it, you will play at the University of Miami.”

What he ultimately brings is production. In nine games and seven starts, Henderson has graded out at an average of 87.3 percent, with his top performances coming against North Carolina (92
percent, three pancakes), Virginia (91 percent, two pancakes, two lumberjacks) and Maryland (89 percent, six pancakes). Since Henderson began starting at Clemson on Oct. 2, the ‘Canes are averaging 450 yards per game offensively, including 212 on the ground with a big percentage of those runs called behind Henderson’s right side.

“He’s doing a great job, a tremendous job of working with the other guys on the football team,” Shannon said. “When we run the football, look to see if Seantrel is down the field on the pile. When you see big runs you see him down the field blocking.”

His age – 18 – makes what he has done even more impressive. Rarely does a true freshman on the offensive line play, let alone start and succeed right away. Add in the fact that Henderson reported to campus in the fall and was immediately thrown right into the mix and his story is even more astounding.

“Any coach will tell you it’s not easy to play as a true freshman, but that goes threefold for offensive linemen,” ESPN’s Heather Dinich said. “Somehow, Henderson has defied that logic and made an impact at one of the most difficult positions to play regardless of age.”

That impact obviously has him in serious contention for All-America honors as well, with so few newcomers nationally enjoying the type of season Henderson is having.

There are still a few more games left for Henderson to make a statement both in the conference and on the national stage, starting with Saturday’s home contest against Virginia Tech on ESPN.

Keep an eye on big No. 77 and take notice. He won’t be hard to miss.