If South Carolina fans want to know what they are getting in Jared Henry, his high school coach believes they don't need to look any farther than their own defense.
Henry, a safety who committed to USC in June, hails from Jacksonville's First Coast High School (Fla.), the same powerhouse program that produced USC linebacker Shaq Wilson. Similar to Wilson, Henry is undersized, but First Coast coach Marty Lee promises that USC fans will like his work ethic and production, two things that have helped set Wilson apart.
"He's kind of like Shaq," Lee said. "Shaq is a hard worker, and Shaq gives you 100 percent. I think he's proven that it doesn't matter how big you are. It's about the size of the heart. Jared is the same type of kid."
Henry is 6-foot, 180 pounds and figures to play one of the two safety positions for the Gamecocks.
If he adds significant bulk, he could see some time at strong safety. Lee figures he'll gain 10 to 15 pounds and become a solid free safety for Ellis Johnson's defense. Either way, he has a multifaceted skill set that should help him become a player equally strong against the pass and he is against the run.
"I think I'll fit in at strong safety with the aggressiveness of their defense," Henry said. "... With my aggressiveness and my ball skills, I think I'll be able to help them."
Lee believes that Henry has the versatility to play either safety spot, but he knows where he'd put him.
"I see him as a free safety," he said. "He's got great speed and good vision of the field. But he is able to come down and play down low if he needs to. But I think he'll make a great free safety."
Due to his willingness to take on blockers and ball carriers, First Coast often walks him down into the box as an extra defender. Since he doesn't spend as much time in coverage, he understands that he has room for growth.
"The area where I could use a lot of improvement is in coverage," Henry said. "I could use some coaching on my footwork and everything. That's the area that I think I need some work."
If Henry truly is in the same mold as Wilson, USC's leading tackler in 2009 who is redshirting this season due to an injury, he will likely put in the necessary time to get better. Lee has seen that work ethic first hand.
"I think he's going to fit in really well," Lee said. "With his personality and the type of kid he is — I know coach [Steve] Spurrier and what he's looking for in — I think Jared fits that mold. He's got a 3.4 GPA. He's the type of kid that will go up to South Carolina and never be in trouble. I'd be totally shocked if that boy ever gets in trouble. He's always got a smile on his face and he's very studious of the game. I know coach Spurrier likes those kinds of kids."
Henry could make an immediate impact on special teams. He long snaps and covers all kicks for First Coast.