Sun Devil Football Elevates Donnie Henderson to Defensive Coordinator
TEMPE, Ariz. – Sun Devil Football appointed interim defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson as the new defensive coordinator, the program announced Tuesday morning.
Henderson brings over 30 years of coaching experience to the table, succeeding at many stops both at the collegiate and professional level. This will be his second stint as an assistant coach at Arizona State, previously serving on the staff from 1992-1997.
"I want to thank Ray Anderson, Jean Boyd, and Coach Edwards for this opportunity," Henderson remarked. "I am excited about the challenge to continue the standard of the way we play football here that has been established by the coordinators before me. My family is thrilled and humbled to have this opportunity."
The two masterminds behind the best defense in NFL history will once again team up, this time in charge of the Sun Devil defense. Special Assistant to the Head Coach Marvin Lewis will play a big role in developing game plans and devising schemes, alongside longtime colleague Donnie Henderson. With the recent addition of Brian Billick as an Offensive Analyst and Advisor to the Head Coach, Herm Edwards' staff now has 75+ years of NFL and over 100 combined years of coaching experience.
"We are very fortunate to have an experienced and deep bench on our coaching staff. This will allow us to continue the advancement of our defensive plan through the elevation of former Analyst and interim Defensive Backs Coach Donnie Henderson," says Edwards. "He's coached some of the game's great players at the highest level with the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens and coordinated a defense for me with the New York Jets. He coached with five other NFL teams and was on the Rose Bowl staff of the late Bruce Snyder at ASU. He's coached some of the game's finest players in NFL Hall of Fame Rod Woodson, Ed Reed, and Jonathan Vilma. Donnie helped us last year when he mentored our secondary, helping it to achieve a fine season. He will work in tandem while coordinating our defense with Special Assistant To The Head Coach Marvin Lewis, one of the game's great defensive minds. Our defensive players will have two of the game's finest defensive minds working with them."
This past season, Henderson served as the interim defensive backs coach for the Sun Devils after joining the program as a consultant in February of 2020. He was instrumental in putting together one of the conference's best secondaries, limiting opponents to under 200 passing yards/game and recording 16 interceptions.
Under the tutelage of Henderson, Chase Lucas, DeAndre Pierce, and Jack Jones each earned Pac-12 All-Conference honors. The three defensive back selections were the most for the program since the 2014 season. Lucas and Jones earned invitations to the East-West Shrine Bowl and the NFL Combine, putting them in a position to be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Sun Devil secondary was stingy throughout the 2021 campaign, allowing less than 100 yards passing on three occasions. They held UNLV and Colorado to only seven completions and 67 yards passing. Henderson's unit also had two other games in which they allowed less than 150 yards passing.
The ball-hawking group led by Henderson finished eighth in the country with 16 interceptions. The Sun Devils picked off multiple passes in five games, highlighted by three-interception efforts against Southern Utah and Stanford. Not only did they collect interceptions, they converted them into points. Arizona State finished with three interception returns for a touchdown, 13th-most nationally.
Henderson has coached and thrived at the highest level of the game, guiding the Baltimore Ravens secondary that contributed to the team's World Championship in 2000. The unit helped the Ravens defense set NFL records for fewest points and rushing yards allowed in a season.
During his decorated career, Henderson has coached eight NFL Pro Bowlers, including Professional Football Hall of Fame inductee Rod Woodson. He has also coached two AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honorees in Jonathan Vilma (2004) and Ronald Darby (2015).
Henderson's NFL experience includes coaching assignments with the Baltimore Ravens (1999-2003/assistant DBs coach and DBs coach, Super Bowl winner in 2000 and AFC North champions in 2003), New York Jets (2004-05/defensive coordinator), Detroit Lions (2006/defensive coordinator), Cincinnati Bengals (2007/consultant), Jacksonville Jaguars (2008/secondary coach), Arizona Cardinals (2010/secondary coach) and Buffalo Bills (2013-15/secondary coach).
During Henderson's tenure with the Ravens from 1999-2003, Baltimore ranked second in the NFL with 88 interceptions and he tutored a secondary that included Pro Bowlers in safeties Woodson, and Ed Reed, and cornerback Chris McAlister.
In 2004, Henderson was the coordinator for the Jets defense that improved to seventh, from 21st, in the NFL in total defense and Vilma was named the 2004 AP Defensive Rookie of the Season. In 2005, the Jets finished second in the NFL in total passing yards allowed (172.2 avg.) and finished fifth with 21 interceptions.
Henderson started his coaching career at the college level. After his initial stop at Utah State (1983-88/graduate assistant and outside linebackers coach), Henderson moved on to Idaho (1989/recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach) before earning successive positions in the Pac-10 with Cal (1990-91/outside linebackers coach) and his first stop at ASU (1992-97/safeties coach and defensive backs coach). Henderson also coached one season at the University of Houston (1998/assistant head coach and defensive backs coach) before moving to the pro ranks with Baltimore in 1999.
In 1996, Henderson's Sun Devil defensive backs contributed to the squad's 11-0 regular season and near national title after being edged by Ohio State 20-17 in the 1997 Rose Bowl.
Henderson returned to the college ranks for two seasons as an assistant coach at Southern (2011/secondary coach) and Syracuse (2012/secondary coach) before returning to the NFL to accept the position in Buffalo. At Southern, Henderson guided the Jaguars defensive backfield that ranked 29th nationally in pass defense.
Henderson was on teams that went 4-1 in bowl games as he was on the winning side in the 1990 Copper Bowl (Cal), 1991 Citrus Bowl (Cal), 1997 Sun Bowl (ASU) and 2012 Pinstripe Bowl (Syracuse).
In addition to his NCAA and NFL coaching positions, Henderson has also coached in the UFL (volunteer assistant coach for the California Redwoods in 2009), The Spring League (defensive coordinator in 2017-18), NFL Pathway (secondary coach in 2018) and the AAF (defensive coordinator for the Salt Lake City Stallions in 2019).
A native of Baltimore, Md., Henderson attended Locke High School (Los Angeles, Calif.). He played two seasons at Santa Monica Junior College before transferring to Utah State where he earned first-team Big West Conference honors as a senior cornerback in 1979. He was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 10th round (251st overall) of the 1980 NFL Draft.