On the bright side: In his first season at Syracuse, veteran coach Donnie Henderson aims to turn the struggling secondary around

first_img Published on August 30, 2012 at 3:44 am Contact David: dbwilson@syr.edu | @DBWilson2 Related Stories Hidden wounds: After a slew of unpublicized injuries derailed Syracuse last year, the program makes adjustments to stay healthy in 2012Multiple fronts: Ashton Broyld gives Syracuse a new offensive weapon who can attack defenses from a variety of positionsIn the clear: Marcus Sales enters the 2012 season refocused and rededicated to football following his season-long suspension’The new Temple’: Coming off a 9-4 season and bowl victory, the Owls are looking to prove they’re here to stay in their second go-around in the Big EastBack on the warpath: Florida State poised to return to championship discussion behind swarming defense Donnie Henderson has a ring.It may not be easy to tell from the way he acts and how he never wears it out in public, but he definitely has one.“He’s not that type of person (to brag),” strong safety Shamarko Thomas said. “He’s just a down-to-earth person. He just wants to teach us like he teaches them, and he will never say he has a ring over us.”Henderson earned a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens as an assistant defensive backs coach. During that stretch, he coached the likes of Chris McAllister, Rod Woodson and Ed Reed. He parlayed that successful stretch into the defensive coordinator job with the New York Jets from 2004-05.During those two seasons with the Jets, Henderson’s defense lined up in practice every day against an offensive line coached by none other than Doug Marrone.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe relationship that developed between the two for those seasons with the Jets served as a launching pad for Henderson’s arrival to Syracuse in February as the defensive backs coach.“That’s the No. 1 reason I’m here,” Henderson said. “Let’s be honest, it’s because of Doug Marrone. My relationship with him and my relationship with him as far as football coaches, No. 1. We’re on different sides of the ball. We’ve shared the camaraderie, so make no mistakes about it — it’s because of Doug.”Still, a relationship alone isn’t enough to get a coach a job. Marrone’s decision to bring Henderson on to his staff is fueled as much by his prowess as a defensive coach as it is by their friendship.“All of the coaches obviously bring a lot to the table, or they wouldn’t be here,” Marrone said. “Donnie’s had a great track record not only as a defensive coordinator but, more importantly, as a defensive back coach — players that he’s coached and he’s developed.And again, it’s a great relationship for myself.”In the 1999-2000 season, the Ravens boasted one of the NFL’s all-time great defenses during their Super Bowl run. That team featured a pair of Pro Bowlers in McAllister and Woodson in its secondary, but a player Henderson coached two seasons later is the one who leaves the Orange’s defensive backs most awestruck.“When he told me he coached Ed Reed, I was like, ‘Dang, you can turn my game into that?’” Thomas said. “So it’s very good that we’ve got him in here because he’s teaching us things that we’ve never seen here on the field.”In the 2002 NFL Draft, Baltimore selected Reed with the 24th pick of the first round. During his rookie season, Reed had five interceptions. And in 2004, he set the NFL record with a 106-yard interception return for a touchdown.Henderson is now using Reed’s playmaking ability as an example for his current players, who grew up watching Reed do the extraordinary on a regular basis.Now, Henderson hopes Syracuse can eventually have a player with similar ability to Reed’s in the secondary. Last season, SU had a tendency to surrender the big play in the passing game last season.Henderson hopes to reverse that script this year. He expects his secondary to be the one making the big plays.“The way coach Henderson’s system is, he just makes sure he puts you in the right place to make plays,” cornerback Keon Lyn said. “It’s just on you to make those plays.”Freshman defensive back Wayne Morgan already feels he has grown exponentially as a player in the lone summer he has spent with SU.Henderson taught his players that on deep balls, they should play the role of the wide receiver: focusing on catching the ball. The importance of having the insight of a Super Bowl-winning coach is something that’s not lost on Morgan.Aside from playmaking, Henderson’s biggest focus during training camp has been fostering greater chemistry within his unit. Marrone had similar ideas for the team as a whole, and that’s why the Orange spent a week of training camp 80 miles north of Syracuse at Fort Drum going through military-style training.In addition to daily football practices, SU spent the week working with the soldiers to learn the importance of teamwork, leadership and communication.While the Fort Drum experience was a unique one for everyone involved, it held a special place in Henderson’s heart.From 1992-97, Henderson was a safeties and defensive backs coach at Arizona State. For three of those seasons, Pat Tillman was a linebacker for the Sun Devils. Tillman went on to play briefly with the Arizona Cardinals, but he cut his NFL career short to serve with the U.S. military in Afghanistan.While deployed, Tillman was killed in friendly fire.Henderson always had a deep appreciation of Tillman’s life, but the week at Fort Drum gave him an even greater understanding of what it was like for him post-football.“I don’t know if I could compare being at Fort Drum with that situation, but I did get a strong feeling, a strong appreciation of what our troops do,” Henderson said. “It just makes you take your hat off to them.”Tillman’s story reminds Henderson of just how small football is in the grand scheme, but it’s still his life.It’s his only focus, just as it must be for the Orange to succeed this season. Henderson has his work cut out for him in trying to transform a secondary that was repeatedly beaten last season.“Last year was that team,” Henderson said. “… The thing that I’m going to try to get them to do is just be fundamentally sound and play with consistency. And here’s the bigger one: You’ve got to play with confidence.“I don’t believe one play can win or lose a game, but I believe one play can win or lose a guy.” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

City reach Champions League last 16 after Shakhtar draw

first_imgAlthough Manor Solomon equalised for Shakhtar, Atalanta’s win over Dinamo Zagreb ensured City can’t be knocked off top spot.“We have qualified. We played so good in second half. The group stage is always tricky but the target was to qualify and we have done it,” Guardiola said.“Now we have one competition already done – we play the last game qualified as first in the group – so we can focus on the Premier League until we arrive in the cups.”With the group clinched, Guardiola has the bonus of being able to rest players for the trip to Zagreb on December 11.That is especially important as the Zagreb fixture comes between vital Premier League matches against Manchester United and Arsenal.While City won’t give up their Premier League title without a fight, Liverpool are in such a strong position that Europe could provide Guardiola’s best hope of a major prize this term.Guardiola won the Champions League twice as Barcelona boss but the last of those triumphs came in 2011. He hasn’t gone past the quarter-finals with City.Returning to the knockout stages was a first step toward ending that frustrating streak, but Guardiola will know injury-hit City have plenty of room for improvement.“Shakhtar have quality players and are well organised and have an extraordinary goalkeeper so we knew it would be difficult,” Guardiola added.“We had a lot of opportunities but at the end, 1-1 was enough to qualify. We did it seven years in a row.“But this competition in February will be completely different, tougher. We’ll see in which conditions we arrive there. This competition is about the details.”City made a sloppy start and were almost caught out when a long punt into their half prompted Ederson to rush off his line.When the City keeper completely missed his attempt to clear, Shakhtar’s Mateus Tete charged into the penalty area, only for Fernandinho to block the shot with a superbly timed last-ditch slide.City’s limp opening was at least partially due to the absence of the club’s record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, sidelined for several weeks after injuring a thigh in Saturday’s win over Chelsea.Gabriel Jesus started in place of Aguero, but the Brazilian, who has scored five goals in eight starts this season, was largely anonymous.– Sluggish City –Ponderous for much of the half, City gradually found some rhythm and Nicolas Otamendi’s header from Angelino’s cross forced an agile save from Andriy Pyatov.City have opened talks with Raheem Sterling about a new long-term contract that would reportedly make the 24-year-old one of the highest-paid players in the Premier League.Sterling’s place among the world’s elite is without question, but this wasn’t the England winger’s best night.City finally conjured a move befitting their ability, cutting through the Shakhtar defence to take the lead in the 56th minute.Kevin De Bruyne was the catalyst with a swift surge and pass into Jesus in the Shakhtar area.Manor Solomon levelled for Shakhtar Donetsk © AFP / Paul ELLISJesus did well to control and poke the ball across to Gundogan. The German midfielder took a touch before slotting into the bottom corner from 10 yards.Even that wasn’t enough to paper over the cracks for sluggish City and Shakhtar equalised in the 69th minute.Tete slipped his pass to the overlapping Dodo and his cut-back from the touchline drew a lethargic response from the City defence, allowing substitute Solomon to fire home from close-range only four minutes after coming on.David Silva almost restored City’s lead seconds later, but the substitute’s shot was cleared off the line by Serhiy Kryvtsov.0Shares0000(Visited 16 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan struck in the draw against Shakhtar Donetsk © AFP / Oli SCARFFMANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Nov 27 – Pep Guardiola insisted it was mission accomplished as Manchester City booked their place in the Champions League last 16 for a seventh successive season despite a lacklustre 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.Guardiola’s side were well below their best at the Etihad Stadium, but Ilkay Gundogan’s second half strike put them on course to wrap up first place in Group C with one game to spare.last_img read more