It probably wasn’t going to be at quarterback, where as a redshirt freshman last year, Hendricks was No. 3 on the depth chart behind sophomore Easton Stick and junior Cole Davis. So the coach and player came to a mutual decision: Move to defense.
“My goal right now is to just get on the field and Easton and Cole are really good football players ahead of me,” Hendricks said. “So this was a way to get on the field the quickest way possible.”
The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Hendricks is working at safety this spring, making the switch in the same manner that Esley Thorton did in in 2012. Thorton got beat out by Carson Wentz to be the top backup to Brock Jensen and moved to linebacker, where he became a two-year starter.
“That’s an example of wanting to stay around the program and play for this team,” Hendricks said. “Esley did it and started and hopefully I can do the same.”
It’s helpful that Hendricks was a quarterback making the move to defense and not another position. He’s been studying coverages since he arrived on campus from Bemidji High School (Minn.) and is parlaying that knowledge to the defensive backfield.
He had a decorated high school career passing for 3,735 yards and 36 touchdowns while rushing for 2,273 yards and another 25 touchdowns. His quarterback departure means freshman Henry Van Dellen is the third string quarterback with two quarterback recruits coming in next fall.
“We need help at safety and James is a tremendous athlete,” Klieman said. “He understands the game exceptionally well as you can imagine being a quarterback and if he can be a third safety, we’ll keep him there. If not, we’ll ask him what he wants to do—stay on the offensive side or play defense.”
Hendricks got a small taste of a game last year appearing on the punt defensive team in the FCS playoff game against the University of San Diego.
“It was kind of a wakeup call a little bit,” he said. “It was good, it helped me play faster in spring ball now, too. I got hit a couple of times so that…