RIVERSIDE, Ill. – Notre Dame senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix walked into the gym of Riverside-Brookfield High School in the Chicago suburbs on Sunday with a little extra bounce in his step.
Excited about spring football beginning in South Bend on Wednesday, the Irish signal-caller made his way up to the Throw It Deep Quarterbacks and Receivers Training Academy to sharpen his skills as he prepares to compete with teammates Everett Golson and Tommy Rees over these next 15 practices.
Hendrix spent the morning working with Windy City quarterback guru Jeff Christensen so he can be on top of his game for the first day of practice.
“Just here to get a bunch of reps,” Hendrix said. “See how the ball comes off my fingers. Just really be able to throw a bunch of balls and get a rhythm back and get into a groove so when camp comes around you’re 100 percent. It helps to tune your game up before spring ball so when you come in, Coach (Brian) Kelly and Coach (Chuck) Martin don’t have to coach you up as much. They want you to come in and be finely tuned so they can work on the mental part of the game, so it just helps them and for me to have a smooth transition from non-football into football stuff.
“We do all our (Notre Dame) work during the week and they expect you to fine tune your football skills anyway you can so when you come into camp you’re ready to go.”
In Notre Dame’s run to the National Championship game last fall, Hendrix saw action in three games, completing 5-of-7 passes for 55 yards while adding another 41 yards rushing. In 2011, Hendrix completed 18-of-37 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown while rushing 25 times for 162 yards and another score. He did not play as a true freshman in 2010.
Hendrix is optimistic heading into the spring and feels really good about the team having the same type of success in 2013.
“I’m ready to get a bunch of reps and really do my best and I’m just excited to play the game again,” Hendrix said. “We haven’t played it in a while. Just to get back out there with the guys and throw and play the game, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”
With Golson returning as the starter and Rees returning as the No. 2 on the depth chart, Hendrix comes in looking to push and or unseat one of those players on the Irish depth chart while also contributing in any way that he can.
“Being a mentor, being a leader on and off the field, doing everything I can to set a good example for the younger guys and the older guys as well,” Hendrix said. “We’re coming off a great season and making sure we continue that.”
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Hendrix has worked with Christensen since arriving in South Bend as a freshman and finds his time at Throw It Deep has been beneficial in helping him at Notre Dame.
“Coach Christensen is a great coach and really represents the game well and just teaching me things on how to represent myself on the field,” Hendrix said. “Just football skill wise, I’ve taken off also. He’s really given me a chance to become a really good player.
Beneventi An Irish Target
Christensen has also given Lisle (Ill.) Benet Academy sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi an opportunity to be a really good player.
The 6-foot-6, 185-pound Beneventi will be one of the top signal-callers in his recruiting class, and he’s been coming to Throw It Deep since he was in seventh grade. Illinois, Massachusetts and Western Michigan have already offered and Louisville could be next. Notre Dame and Penn State are two other programs showing a lot of personal interest very early in the recruiting process.
Beneventi moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore at Benet Academy, and took a team that was 1-8 the season before and led them to an 11-2 record and the semifinals of the state tournament. He completed 180-of-286 passes for 2,318 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“Basically, and I’m not hesitant to say this, he is potentially on track to be the next Tom Brady,” Christensen said. “He is very efficient with the ball. He’s that accurate with the ball. He has that much it factor where he really gets it. He knows how to handle the huddle. He knows how to make his teammates work. When you’re open he doesn’t miss. His feet and his hips and the position of his feet on each throw to the left or the right are perfect. His grip is perfect. He’s so efficient it’s just incredible. He’s just a sophomore, and you don’t take a team in 7-A football from 1-8 to 11-2 unless you’re doing something efficient at quarterback and he has all the intangibles. And more importantly he has the work ethic.
“I go 45 Sundays a year and multiple other days, and he’s probably since 7th grade spent 150 days every year with me. He just has the dream and the passion.”
Beneventi was one of over 100 quarterbacks to participate in the workout on Sunday alongside Hendrix, NFL quarterbacks Matt Blanchard and Chandler Harnish, and fellow 2015 standouts David Edwards and Willie Bourbon.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Beneventi said. “Especially seeing a Matt Blanchard or Andrew Hendrix, it helps when you’re not taking a rep to watch them take a rep and see what they’re doing and see their technique, because you want to mimic them. Especially Andrew because every ball he throws has tons of velocity, a tight spiral and is accurate.”
Beneventi hit a big growth spurt in sixth grade touching 5-11. He was 6-foot-3 by eighth grade and 6-foot-6 heading into this fall. Christensen has helped him develop his mechanics every step of the way.
“He’s done everything,” Beneventi said. “My technique, especially being the size I am at my age at 6-6, people that size tend to have a long-throwing motion. He’s speeded it up so now I get the ball out in two seconds. He’s not only helped me with my technique but the mental side of the game.”
Christensen has been aiding quarterbacks in the area for the past 16 years including his own son Jake Christensen who was a U.S. Army All-American in 2005 before going on to play at Iowa. The elder Christensen played quarterback in the NFL for eight years and has been coached by the likes of Marty Schottenheimer, Ted Marchibroda, Bruce Coslet, and Lindy Infante. His mission is to teach young signal-callers the basic mechanics of throwing the football properly and stresses reps for consistency.
“It’s really a product of how quick can I throw the ball,” Christensen began. “How quickly does the ball come out of my hand. How accurate is it when it gets to the different throws, whether it be the dig or the out-route in the proper window or deep ball on the outside shoulder, and how efficiently does it come out of my hand. That’s basically what it is.
“The thing about throwing the football that is really misunderstood, it’s a product of sequence of timing with your lower extremities with your upper extremities. Everything turns and snaps at the proper time.”
Spring break is the proper time for Beneventi to get out and take some visits. He’ll begin with a trip to Western Michigan on March 23, then head to Notre Dame on March 24 and Illinois on March 25. He’s also planning a trip to Penn State for the end of the week.
Notre Dame was one of the first schools to show interest in Beneventi and he’s participated in camp and keeps in regular touch with Martin.
“They said they’re really, really interested,” Beneventi said. “They’ve talked about an offer. I think with them they really want to make sure before they offer.”