Eric Henderson Named Co-Defensive Coordinator / Run Game Coordinator / Defensive Line Coach

Photo by Jevone Moore

LOS ANGELES—Eric Henderson, a Super Bowl Champion and award-winning coach, has been named USC’s co-defensive coordinator/run game coordinator/defensive line coach, head coach Lincoln Riley announced today (Jan. 15). 
“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.”
Henderson most recently served as the defensive line coach/run game coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. 

In the 2023 season, the Rams finished the season ranked No. 8 in run defense with a 70.2 grade per PFF. The Rams finished the regular season with 41.0 sacks with 4 players recording 6.0+ sacks. This was the first time since 1985 that the Rams have had 4 players with 6.0+ sacks on the season. DT Aaron Donald was named a Pro Bowler and earned First Team All-Pro. This marks his 10th Pro Bowl appearance and eighth First Team All-Pro recognition. In 2023, Donald tallied 56 tackles, including 8 sacks, and 3 PBUs. Henderson tutored DT Kobie Turner, who was arguably the best rookie pass rusher in the NFL in 2023 and is a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He led the Rams with 9 sacks. Turner recorded 58 tackles, including 9.5 sacks on the season. That sack total tied Donald’s mark for the franchise’s rookie record. Turner won NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month for January. He recorded 5 sacks, 15 tackles and 4 TFLsin the final 6 games of the year, helping elevate the performance of the entire defense.

In 2022, the Rams rush defense ranked among the best in the NFL. 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). 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 due to strong performances on the defensive line. The Rams defense also finished 13th in total rush yards allowed (1,956), opponent rush yards per game (115.1), and successful play rate on defensive rushes (61.5%).
In 2021, the Rams defense ranked third in sacks (50.0) and fifth in tackles for loss (85) during the regular season. Henderson also helped the Rams’ defense finish fifth in yards per rush (3.96) and sixth in opponent rushing yards per game (103.2). The Rams’ defense held opponents to a 51.8% red zone efficiency rate, which ranked eighth-best in the NFL. In the playoffs, the Rams tied a Super Bowl record with seven sacks in their 23-20 win over the Bengals at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13 and had 12 overall during that postseason run.Henderson’s leadership allowed perennial All-Pro DT Aaron Donald to continue stacking career accolades while also helping players such as Greg Gaines, A’Shawn Robinson and Marquise Copeland emerge as steady contributors. Gaines had a career season in 2021 with 13 starts and 55 tackles, 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits and 34 pressures (including postseason). Henderson also elevated the play of A’Shawn Robinson, who had a stellar performance in Super Bowl LVI with six tackles (five solo), 1.0 sack, one tackle for loss, three pressures and one quarterback hit. Robinson finished the 2021 regular season with 89 tackles (45 solo), 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and 17 pressures. 
After the 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.
In his second season in 2020, the Rams finished second in the league in sacks (53.0). The defensive front helped the No. 1 ranked defense finish third in the NFL in rush defense, while giving up the fewest points per game (18.5), passing yards per game (190.7) and total yards per game (281.9).
Under Henderson’s tutelage, the Rams ranked top 5 in sacks back-to-back years (2019 and 2020). DT Aaron Donald became the third player in league history to win Defensive Player of the Year three times. He was also named the PFWA Defensive Player of the Year award for the second time. Donald finished the season with a team-high 13.5 sacks, his fourth-straight season with at least 11.0 sacks. 
In Henderson’s debut season in 2019, the Rams rushing defense allowed only 3.74 yards per rush, the sixth-best average in the league. This improvement marked a more than 1.0 yard per rush improvement from the 4.86 yards per rush allowed during the 2018 season, prior to Henderson’s arrival. The defensive front tallied 50.0 sacks, the fourth-highest in the league. The unit also featured Donald, who recorded double-digit sacks (12.5) for the third-consecutive season and earned Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors.
Prior to coaching with the Rams, Henderson served as an assistant defensive line coach for the Chargers for 2 seasons (2017-2018). In 2018, the defense finished with 38.0 total sacks and DE Melvin Ingram led the team with (7.0). Ingram was selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl marking his second consecutive appearance.
During Henderson’s first season with the Chargers in 2017, the defense finished fifth in the NFL in total sacks with 43.0. DE Joey Bosa ended the season with a career-high 12.5 sacks, which ranked seventh in the league. 
Henderson spent the 2016 season at the University of Texas – San Antonio as the defensive line coach. The Roadrunners went on to play in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl against New Mexico. Henderson coached junior DE Marcus Davenport, who recorded a team-high 6.5 sacks and a program-record 8 QBHs during the 2016 season. Davenport went on to be the 2017 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and was selected No. 14 overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 2018 NFL Draft, the highest Roadrunner ever drafted and just the second draft selection ever from UTSA.
Prior to joining the Roadrunners, Henderson spent three seasons at Oklahoma State from 2013-15. He spent his first two years in Stillwater working as a graduate assistant before transitioning to a defensive quality control coach in 2015. He was regarded as one of the Cowboys’ top recruiters during his tenure. During his three years at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys posted a combined 27-12 record and made three bowl appearances. Henderson helped tutor DE Emmanuel Ogbah, who earned All-American accolades, was named 2015 Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was drafted in the second round (32nd overall) by the Cleveland Browns.
Henderson made his coaching debut in 2012 as a defensive assistant at Georgia Military College, where he coached the linebackers and secondary. The Bulldogs finished with a 7-4 record and made an appearance in the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl.
Henderson played three years in the National Football League with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2006-08 after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He also spent three years (2009-11) with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League, helping the team win a pair of league championships.
Henderson was a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference defensive end at Georgia Tech from 2003-05. He set the school’s career record for tackles for loss with 59.5 and finished with 175 tackles, 25 sacks (No. 4 in program history), 8 PBUs and 7 forced fumbles.
Henderson, a native of New Orleans, La., earned a bachelor’s degree in management from Georgia Tech and is working toward a master’s degree in educational psychology. He and his wife, Shanea, were married in 2021.
With the addition of Coach Henderson, USC’s coaching staff is now complete. He joins the defensive staff comprised of Defensive Coordinator D’Anton Lynn, who will be calling the defense, Assistant Head Coach for Defense / Linebackers Coach Matt EntzSecondary Coach Doug Belk and Defensive Ends Coach Shaun Nua
Henderson’s hiring is contingent upon completion of a successful University background screening.