Pitt’s Quadree Henderson is lightning in a bottle — just ask anyone from Penn State’s 2016 roster. During last season’s loss, the 2017 AP first team All-American burned the Nittany Lions with three grabs for 37 yards and a score through the air, another 58 yards on the ground, and an 84-yard kickoff return.
He’s a multi-faceted football player who can score from anywhere at any time — on the offensive side of the ball, on kickoffs, and on punt returns. Facing Henderson will be one of the stiffest tests the Nittany Lions face all season — and that’s saying something considering how loaded the Big Ten is from a talent standpoint.
Franklin identified Henderson as his “game-wrecker” for Saturday’s looming contest.
“[Henderson] is the issue in the game,” Franklin said. “He’s the guy you go into the game and you say who’s the guy that can be a game-changer or a game-wrecker, however you want to describe it — he’s that guy. So we have to have a plan for him to try to limit the impact that he’ll have in this game.”
A notable name left out of the “game-wrecker” conversation is standout safety Jordan Whitehead. As Whitehead won’t be dressing on Saturday while he serves the second leg of his three game suspension, Pitt heads into Beaver Stadium without its arguably best player. Henderson will need to elevate his game to another level.
Here’s a reminder of what Henderson did against the Nittany Lions last season, highlighted by the kickoff return that nearly ended in six for the Panthers:
Franklin tabbed young speedsters K.J. Hamler and Josh McPhearson as Henderson’s simulators during practice this week. He had nothing but praise for the duo after the difficult assignment of replicating the playing style of arguably the nation’s most dynamic all-purpose player.
“They’re the guys who are most similar,” Franklin said. “Both are guys who, once they get the ball in their hands, can really do something with it. [Henderson] is a dynamic playmaker in space as a ballcarrier, and he’s big as a shallow crosser — they get him the ball and let him run with it.”
The praise didn’t end there, either.
“I think typically, I wouldn’t necessarily say you have somebody that can kind of simulate what a starter, an All-American type player can bring, and I’m not saying those guys are him yet, but they’ve given us a really good look in practice.”
We’ll have to wait and see what adjustments have been made from year to year. All eyes will be on No. 10 when he takes the field, and for Penn State’s sake, we hope those same eyes don’t see him cross the goal line on Saturday.