KJ Henry is on the attack this season
|Sunday, March 8, 2020, 9:10 AM- -|
CLEMSON – KJ Henry is on the attack.
Henry, the former 5-star defensive end out Winston-Salem, was credited with 22 tackles (4.5 for loss), two sacks and three pass breakups in 350 snaps in 15 games. Many expected Henry to team up with Xavier Thomas to form one of the best end combos in the ACC, but the Tiger defense was structured around the talents of linebacker Isaiah Simmons and an experienced secondary.
Expectations will be even higher this season as the Tigers try to return to the College Football Playoff, but Henry doesn’t listen to the noise from outside the Reeves Football Complex.
“There’s no pressure at all," Henry said after Wednesday’s practice. "It’s just not something that we worry about. A lot of those people are going to make those critiques and those comments who haven’t ever played the game and have never played at this level. Coach (Dabo) Swinney says that I wouldn’t take criticism from someone who I wouldn’t take advice from. I think we take that to heart.
"It’s all about who is in our corner, who is in our room and that’s who’s trying to help make us better. This is not an easy game and it’s not built for everybody, but we know we are making strides in the right direction."
The addition of players like Myles Murphy, Demonte Capehart, and Bryan Bresee and the continued growth of the veterans means Clemson’s defensive line should be better this season, and Henry is on the attack as he endeavors to claim a spot.
"I try to control what I can control and have an attack mindset and trying to improve on the things that I get critiqued on every single day," Henry said. "It's my third year, it starts with the mindset. That’s really what I've been trying to focus on every day come out with the right mindset. Knowing that everybody's days are numbered and attacking each day and trying to get better."
Henry red-shirted his first season on campus, but his playing time last season allowed him to take the next step.
"I’d say I grew the most confidence-wise from last year," Henry said. "Obviously it is a week to week thing. If I don’t have confidence in myself then I won’t make any plays. Going through last season from beginning to end my confidence grew and my teammates had more confidence in me and that helped me play a lot better too. I think my confidence affects how you play and how fast you play."
As one of the team’s most outspoken players – and one the most liked – Henry is also looking to step into more of a leadership role.
"I enjoy the leadership role that I have," Henry said. "Anyone that knows me knows that I’m always talking. I feel like that I’ve been a leader ever since I was young but I wasn’t necessarily as vocal my first couple of years. It’s definitely something that I’m used to. I’m very confident now with it being my third year. The communication has really been the biggest thing. Communication on a day-to-day basis and making sure we are all on the same page."