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ASU Football: Sun Devils promote Donnie Henderson to defensive coordinator

Another new role

Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The past few weeks for the Arizona State football program have been some of the most difficult to navigate in the entire history of the team.

A massive coaching exodus stemming from the ongoing NCAA investigation into recruiting infractions during the pandemic dead period culminated in the departures of the Sun Devil’s offensive coordinator Zak Hill and defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce.

Still remaining after the fallout are the two men who have overseen the program together since 2017, athletic director Ray Anderson and head coach Herm Edwards.

On Friday, in an effort to the turn the page and begin the next chapter of Sun Devil football, Edwards made his second coaching hire of the 2022 calendar year.

Donnie Henderson was promoted to defensive coordinator to replace Pierce. He joined the Sun Devil staff last season as an interim defensive backs coach as a replacement for Chris Hawkins, who was suspended and then given his walking papers during the early stages of the investigation last summer.

Ironically, Henderson was also a member of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens staff, which featured current Sun Devil coaches Brian Billick (offensive analyst) as the head coach and Marvin Lewis (defensive analyst and special advisor to the head coach) as defensive coordinator. During his time with the Ravens, Henderson was the defensive backs coach.

It is almost as if Edwards believes the best way to defend himself during this organizational firestorm is to surround himself with the men who orchestrated one of the best NFL defenses of all-time.

Despite taking over the position under less-than-desirable circumstances, Henderson performed admirably in his role during the 2021 season. Three defensive backs, Jack Jones, Chase Lucas and DeAndre Pierce earned All-Pac-12 honors.

For Henderson, returning to Tempe last season meant returning to a familiar setting. He was also the defensive backs coach for the team during the Bruce Snyder era from 1992-1997.

“We are very fortunate to have an experienced and deep bench on our coaching staff,” Edwards said in a press release. “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.”

Henderson will take control of a defense that will need to replace many of its core players, though much talent will return with linebacker Eric Gentry and Jermayne Lole.

There are still several holes on the coaching staff left to be filled. At this rate it wouldn’t be a bad idea to dust off the 2000 Baltimore Ravens yearbook and start there.