Lincoln Riley is not messing around. In the latest addition to his defensive staff, he plucked one of the bright young defensive minds in the NFL, and from within the confines of Los Angeles. It was just announced that Eric Henderson, Los Angeles Rams Defensive Line Coach, has been hired as the USC Trojans new defensive line coach, and Co-Defensive Coordinator.
Eric Henderson is one of the premier defensive line coaches in the entire NFL. Future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald has repeatedly sung the praises of Henderson, which should tell you all that you need to know. Coach Henny is also widely responsible for the emergence of rookie 3rd round defensive lineman Kobie Turner. Turner is in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
“I’m excited to welcome the final member of our defensive staff, Eric Henderson,” said Riley. “A Super Bowl Champion coach who has been recognized nationally for being the top in his field, Eric will bring immeasurable knowledge and experience to our program. We have put together a defensive staff that is second to none. We’re ready to get to work.”
Coach Henny has coined the phrase “DAWGWORK” which I’m sure will be coming with him from Thousand Oaks to Downtown LA. Expect the Trojans front to be much more physical than we have seen in years past.
USC Trojans Eric Henderson Coaching History
Henderson started his NFL coaching career with the Los Angeles Chargers as the assistant defensive line coach. In 2019, he moved to the Rams and became the defensive line coach and was given the title of Run Game Coordinator in 2021.
At the conclusion of the 2023 season, the Rams ranked 8th in run defense, earning a 70.2 overall grade per PFF. They finished with 41 sacks, and four players recorded 6+ sacks. Aaron Donald, per usual, was named a Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro. As mentioned, standout rookie Kobie Turner is a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year as he led the Rams with 9.0 sacks (tying Donald for a franchise record as a rookie).
In 2022, the Rams rush defense was one of the best in the NFL (even with a litany of injuries sustained). Henderson’s defensive line helped the Rams finish third in fewest missed tackles on rush plays (51), eighth in percentage of opponent rushes that resulted in first downs (23.3%), ninth in defensive total rush EPA (42.97), ninth in opponent rushes for touchdowns (37.92), tied for 10th in total rushing touchdowns allowed (12) and finished 12th in total rushing first downs allowed (106). This should be music to USC fans’ ears.
According to PFF, the Rams defense concluded the season with the highest grade against the rush (87.0) and only allowed two players to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark on the season. The Rams were 1 of 4 teams to enter Week 17 without allowing a 100-yard rusher, a very impressive feat and an indication of the defensive line being a strength.
After the 2021 season, Henderson was nationally recognized by winning the 2021 John Teerlinck Defensive Line Coach of the Year award, as voted by his peers. The award is given out annually at the NFL Combine and is named after John Teerlinck who is widely regarded as one of the top defensive line coaches in NFL history.
Lincoln Riley also announced that Shaun Nua is being retained on staff and will move to Defensive Ends Coach. The hire of Eric Henderson completes the defensive staff for USC.