We’re less than two months away from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Hendricks has dealt with some injuries over the course of his career, but whenever he’s on the field, he puts on a clinic in the secondary. The hard-hitting redshirt senior had 90 tackles last year (despite missing one full game and parts of several others) and was integral to Pitt’s 4-2 run over the final six games of the regular season that earned them a postseason berth. On top of the strong tackle numbers (which included 17 in the season-ending bowl loss to Ole Miss), Hendricks also managed six interceptions — which would have been tops in the ACC last season.
What makes Hendricks such a lethal defender is his length (he stands at 6’1″ but possesses an even larger wingspan), which allows him to regularly get a hand on passes. He also has experience taking (and giving out) hits, as a former running back, which you’d think would make for more durability, but that’s before you account for his weight (just 180 pounds). Pitt’s pass rush should be its strong suit once again; something aided immensely Hendricks’s presence deep down the field. Plus, with some of the relative youth this team has at linebacker and cornerback, it’s a necessity there’s a second line of defense at the safety positions. Hendricks is one of two veterans — Ray Vinopal and
(converted linebacker) Eric Williams (Williams is no longer a member of the team, as pointed out by @JimHammett) is the other — who should make for a fine rotation at both the free safety and strong safety spots all season.
The only issue for Hendricks again, though, is injuries. Whether it’s the shoulder injury that knocked him out for half of 2011. Or the foot injury that kept him out of spring practice (opening the door for Williams to get more time at safety), he has not been an overly durable player for the Panthers. Adding some weight could help, but that’s also a tough line to toe without eventually reducing your speed. Hendricks has the potential to be one of the best safeties in the ACC this season — if he can stay healthy. That remains to be seen, however it’s tough to ignore the glimmers of fantastic play he’s showed off to-date either. Should he put together a senior year resembling his 2012 output, Hendricks could find himself a job in the NFL come this time next year.