Notebook: Henderson ‘best corner I’ve ever coached,’ Grantham says

Florida defensive back CJ Henderson makes a late-game interception Saturday against South Carolina at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The way sophomore cornerback CJ Henderson hustles and makes plays, a strong argument could be made that he’s become the new face of Florida football under Dan Mullen.

“He works hard, he competes,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “When you talk about Gator Standard, he has what we want from that perspective.”

Grantham doesn’t hesitate when asked what kind of season Henderson is having.

“He’s having a great year,” Grantham said. “He’s the best corner I’ve ever coached. He’s competitive. He plays hard and he does his job. He works and I’m certainly glad he’s on our team and looking forward to continue to develop him.”

Grantham said Henderson has a chance to be one of the best cornerbacks to play at Florida, and there have been many good ones.

“No doubt,” he said. “The guy’s great. He makes plays on the ball. He had the interception in the fourth quarter at the end. Does his job and works, so yeah he’s up there with one of the best guys I’ve ever coached.”

Not only did Henderson come up with the big interception to help seal the win over South Carolina, he made a play that exemplifies his hustle, tracking down speedy USC wide receiver Deebo Samuel to make a touchdown-saving tackle in the third quarter.

“He did it at Tennessee (also) if you remember,” Grantham said. “The guy plays hard. The thing about CJ is he gives relentless effort all the time. He’s a really good player. He’s a guy that takes a lot of pride in his work, and he practices like that. That’s why he made that play and gave us a chance to bring him down.”

Houston emerging

Redshirt freshman linebacker James Houston has really been coming on in the second half of the season and his playing time on defense has increased.

“He continues to work. He is physical, he has talent,” Grantham said. “He’s a player so we continue to develop him to do the things like we want him to do them. He has progressed, and when he does the things we ask him to do, he flashes and makes plays. We’ve just got to continue to develop that consistency.”

Houston has played in all 10 games and has forced two fumbles and blocked a kick. He said he will continue to progress.

“I’ve shown a lot of progress from spring up until now,” Houston said. “I think I made a tremendous jump. I still think I can go even farther.”

Playing from behind

Mullen offers no obvious explanation for why the Gators have been such slow starters in the past four games, falling behind early in each game.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Not playing well, I guess. Getting adjusted to the speed, translating practice to games. You practice stuff. It’s not like people are doing a lot of things we haven’t practiced. It’s coming out. They’re doing stuff we practiced, which is maybe getting accustomed to the speed of the game, getting from a practice to a game, even though we do a lot against each other. That would be my one thought.”


  1. I agree he’s great and was perhaps was harsh in questioning his leadership in that the other guys didn’t seem to follow him as much as I would like. that’s the final step for him is to get the other guys to nearer his standard. Hopefully they will and soon. But in the meantime I tip my hat to a great player.

  2. Henderson is definitely a great corner and the play he made chasing the SC guy down from behind when a lot of players would have just given up shows he has great pride. I think Marco Wilson is the same type of player and that is why it hurt the team so much when he went down (which by the way was caused by a cheap shot by a Kentucky player imo). If all the players on the team played the same way, they would be a great team. I have also noticed that Houston is playing better. I think he should be starting. He is better against the run than Joseph. Joseph is a good pass rusher but tries to make way too many arm tackles. Joseph really needs to add some weight if he is going to be an every down linebacker in the SEC.

  3. LT are you seriously a negative person in life? I dont ever remember you saying 1 thing positive about any 1 person other than mac. Geez I thought my ex wife was the most negative person in the world. Your starting to make me wonder if you want her crown.

    Common dude, I know you have eyes and you do have some understanding, I think, but why are you always so dadgum negative?

    Do you have something against being positive? Seriously dude!! Get a grip, get laid, get a life but please say something positive for a change. Unless your just another troll who has nothing better to do than talk negatively.

    Please dont get me wrong, I’m not trying to offend you but say something positive instead of everything negative.

    • I was thinking the same thing Wisconsin. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him say anything positive, and the craziest thing of all is him wondering why people come at him negativly all the time. It’s ok to point out the negatives, but acknowledge some positives every once in a while and maybe people will stop viewing you as a troll. Who knows, maybe he thinks it’s his job to knock the fan base down a bit every time they try to be positive and support their team.

      • Yet I supported our coach Muschamp against all the nay sayers, MAC too, as I have done extensively very recently but was attacked for. And I’ve stuck up for Franks as far back as the spring. Which at times also got me attacked. If you don’t join the mob mentality of Gator Nation good or bad, you get attacked. And of coarse only one win or loss often changes the mob mentality in just one week, like we just saw it change with Franks, but if you pump the brakes and try to put some reality in to the situation, you will get attacked. It’s never as good or bad as the extremist fans think. Neither Muschamp or McElwain are nearly as bad of coaches as Gator Nation says they are. But when they were here our own fans tore them up! And I was on the POSITIVE side of it and was telling people they aren’t bad coaches and it will take anycoach years to get us where we want to be. Also in the POSITIVE side of Franks for the most part. You dont see me on here ripping him like so many others. Do I think he’s very good? No, but that’s about as far as I would take it. Then he taunts his own fans.And in response I call him dumb. Which is a pretty common opinion outside Gator Nation. So I get attacked for that. So yeah, after no matter what you do, you are going to get attacked if you aren’t part of the current mob mentality, I’m pretty negative. Especially towards a lot of the people on here. And it’s not going to change. Seems pretty easy to just roam around and make sarcastic comments. I think I’m going to like it.

        • LT. People on here did not attack you for liking McElwain. They came back at you for saying tons of negatives about Mullen while supporting the head coach who had been fired and took the program to almost as close to the bottom as possible.

    • Here’s something positive. You are an excellent internet loud mouth. One of the best I’ve ever seen. You don’t even debate the point, just criticize personally, and then accuse the other person of being negative, which makes you a hypocrite and an Internet loud mouth. That takes skill!!! So, I’m complimenting you and be super positive by saying you are not only one of the best internet loud mouths I’ve ever seen but also are multifaceted because you bring hypocrisy to the table also. Does that make you happy now?? How about this? Joseph is one of the best cover linebackers I’ve ever seen. He NEVER busts coverages and the opponents tight ends are NEVER wide open and gaining huge chunks of yardage when he’s in coverage. Now, I’ve abandoned all truthfulness and logic to be positive. Is that better. Are your feeling just a little less hurt now? Lol. Hilarious.

      • LT. Were not similar words used to recently describe me as well? And you were attacking someone else with similar words yesterday. See a pattern developing? And maybe there were good reasons for the blown coverages by Joseph and Reese in a couple of games (I explained those possibilities in another post). And Joseph has made a ton of great plays this year as well. He is a very gifted athlete who likely will continue to get better and excel. But I do not believe the blown coverages were all his fault. I am glad he plays for the Gators. But the defense overall has to get better and play more with consistency that Henderson exhibits during games. I believe that will happen with Joseph and the entire team. I expect Joseph, with one year under Grantham’s system, will be a consistently dynamic LB next year. Now, that is a positive thought.

  4. It will be great to see Marco Wilson opposite Henderson again next year. That pair back together will change the whole pass defense while allowing for safety blitzes. I suspect we will only get one more year from Henderson. Another great year and he will be a first rounder. Looking at the recruiting board I am getting a little concerned about corner depth going forward. Trey Dean has played well for a freshman, but nobody else has impressed. We really need a top notch corner in the 2019 class.

    • Mexi. I expect Trey Dean will move from corner to safety next year if Wilson returns 100 percent. And the Gators have a couple of really good CB commits already, and five-star CB Chris Steele is said to be strongly leaning to Florida now after decommitted from USC.

    • tommygun. Joseph is not the only Florida player out of position when teams run the hurry up offense as SC did. It seems to me that Grantham and his system of sideline communicators are having difficulty getting defensive play calls to the defense in a quick enough manner to allow for the defense to set up and make proper sets and reads. I think the lack of communication, or slow processing of it, is as much as fault to the breakdowns in coverage as is the individual players making mistakes in coverages. On those two plays you mentioned, there was clear confusion before the snap as to which player was covering which player. Both Reese and Joseph were confused on that pass to the TE that resulted in a wide open TD pass. Still not sure, based on how both lined up on the play, who had coverage of the TE. The players sure did not seem to know who’s responsibility the TE was at the time. Teams are utilizing a fast-paced offense to limit Grantham’s ability to read, adjust, and get the defensive formation calls into the players. It often seems that the Florida players are still looking to the sideline for the call adjustments when the opposing team snaps the ball. Or the Florida players are trying to get into position too late when the ball is snapped. That was the case often in the first half vs. SC. And Florida had to call a time out because they were confused right before Henderson made his interception to seal the game. After being confused before the time out, Grantham decided to switch to zone coverage and stay in it, which then confused the SC QB. This issue on defense has to get corrected if Joseph and others are going to be able to play fast, with confidence, and know they assignments. So I do not think the problem is just with Joseph and others who have blown assignments that have allowed for big, explosive plays. And that reason is why I think you still see Joseph out on the field after he seems to have blown coverage assignments. I think Grantham realizes it is as much his fault as it is Joseph’s fault. But missing tackles in gap coverage is solely on Joseph and Reese.

      • Yeah, that’s it. The coach realizes it’s his fault. That’s why Joseph is still on the field. Lol. I guess it couldn’t be the woeful lack of depth we have at linebacker. That couldn’t be the obvious, slap you in the face, realistic, logical, non-moronic reason why Joseph is still on the field. Lol. Some of the comments you see on here are so stupid they are borderline bizarre.

  5. Maybe the reason the Gators have started slow in the last four games is because they are hold overs from a coaching regime that didn’t challenge them or push them. The lack of energy is apparent and very troubling. That may not change until Mullen gets enough of his guys in the system. It should be very easy to get up for any football game if you are a player and really love the sport. I hope they start fast and strong these next two games and go out with a bang. Go gators!

    • Could be, Ocala — the quality I remember most distinctly about the two previous years to this one — and it wasn’t really a “quality” at all — was lack of a sense of urgency. That’s what I’ve seen at various times this season, tho not enough to negate some fine wins at that. Sometimes Mullen’s mantra of “relentless effort” is readily apparent and sometimes…..well, not so much. Could be the current personnel mixture, could be culture residuals, could be regression artifacts: Beats the hell out of me. I suspect your hypothesis is as good as any.

    • I think it’s pretty apparent on everything we’ve read about how Mac ran things, that it instilled a me first selfish attitude in the players. It starts first and foremost with the strength and conditioning program. If you’re not putting an emphasis on the importance of that, then it trickles down into how the players approach everything they do. We’ve also seen and read accounts from the players themselves how he handled discipline. Look no further than his handling of Callaway’s constant problems. When you’re not making an example out of your star players, then that trickles down to the entire team and sets an example that hey, if he’s not going to get in trouble then I can do whatever I want. We saw the results of that leadership style with 14 players accounting for 16 charges and 4 felonies under his 2.5 years of running the program. We also saw it trickle into the beginning of Mullen’s tenure with the Tay Bang situation, but he quickly handled that and we haven’t had any issues with the law since. We’ve also seen the players admit that they gave up on the season after the Georgia game last year and that mindset obviously carried over to this year. Fortunately, it seems Mullen has curtailed that mentality for the moment, but it shows that changing that isn’t going to happen overnight. We may even see it rear its ugly head again this season and like you said, we may not fully get rid of it until some of Mac’s players are gone and Mullen’s leaders take over.

  6. Ocalarob. I do not see a lack of energy or effort. I see communication issues from the sidelines to the defensive personnel in particular. And I see that especially when teams are running very fast-paced offenses. It is taking way too long to get defensive play calls in to the defense which results in confusion, blown assignments, and explosive plays by the opposing offenses. The offense is moving the ball early, and did vs. SC. But the defense seems to be ill prepared at the start of games, but not lacking in effort.

  7. Henderson will be a first round draft pick. He is that good. Let’s hope he stays on a year for some finishing work. Joseph is pure, raw talent- a diamond in the rough. You can’t teach the speed he has from side to side and on the blitz. He definitely needs off season work on pass coverage and tackling. Houston will push him
    to make improvements.