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Khalid Henderson: UK linebackers motivated to show they can be vital part of successful defense

uk footballBy LARRY VAUGHT

Khalid Henderson knows there are questions about Kentucky’s linebackers other than Avery Williamson, the team’s top tackler last season, going into this year.
However, he also says other players are using that as motivation.

“It motivates us, but we know we are the quarterback of the defense and that everything will come through us. Everything is communicated out of our mouths,” said Henderson, a sophomore. “I feel that we already have responsibility and we can handle it this season. People will know about us this season. I feel like the defense is going to be really good. Very multiple, but still simplistic from a defensive standpoint. Everybody is going to know what to do and have the ability to make plays.”

Henderson finished spring practice as the starter at weakside linebacker. He played in all 12 games last year and had 26 tackles, including five against both Mississippi State and Vanderbilt late in the season.

He’s been timed in the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and was rated the No. 19 outside linebacker in the nation by ESPN and the No. 17 prospect in Georgia coming out of high school. He ran the 100- and 200-meter dashes along with both hurdles in high school and also competed in the triple and long jumps.

“I just feel like I am having more of a motor this year and I am in a good position. I feel like I can go into the season and make big plays and accomplish a lot,” Henderson said. “I have got more explosive. The high performance program we had this summer really helped me out.  It helped me key the things I wanted to. Everybody had an adjustable program for themselves and how they wanted to build their bodies up. I was able to add bonuses to my appearance. I loved the work, too.”

Henderson, a National Honor member in high school, has more confidence in the overall defensive scheme this year under coordinator D.J. Eliot than he had last year.

“It will feel great having confidence going into a game and having that ability knowing where everybody should be and having the ability on the defense to communicate with everybody,” Henderson said. “That’s the only way it is going to work. Everybody has to be on the same page, and we were not last year. If one man is off, it messes up everything. Being simplistic and everybody knowing what to do is going to make the defense stronger as a whole.

“The defense can be a lot better this year. Talent alone will not get you a win in this league. It has to come from a mental standpoint, physical standpoint and confidence. If everybody works as a unit, that is how you get a win.”

He says the overall team confidence and morale is much better this year than it was last season.

“It is a big difference. Fan support, team support and a family environment within the facility. We are building off that,” Henderson said.

He says Eliot, who coaches the linebackers, is a “unique coach” to play for.

“Off the field, it’s more a personal standpoint. You can talk to him and any type question you want to ask him, he will answer your question in detail. On the field, it is strictly business. He’s the coach and he handles it that way,” Henderson said.

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  1. Larry Pup

    Sounds like the defense is ready. Coach Eliot sounds like a good one.

  2. Tcat

    Great read Larry. I love hearing this stuff, to say I can’t wait for the season to begin would be a huge under statement! I’m ready.

    Seriously though we need this kid and couple more to continue to develop. Last year as a 210# true freshman I think Khalid done fine despite not always being sure of himself. It was obvious at times despite all that speed and athleticism he didn’t completely understand what was going on, he wasn’t alone though. Last years defense more times than not wouldn’t be lined up when the ball was snapped. That can not happen. Now that these kids have a grasp of the schemes I look for them to improve a great deal especially if our secondary can get it together. We need Cody Quinn and big Z healthy though.

  3. Mike Flannery

    Great to hear from Khalid! The big thing I keep hearing from the players this year is that the Coaching staff respects them. That goes a long way for how the players will respond during adversity. I think the players are actually working a lot harder this year and understanding a lot more of what they need to do to be successful. Minter’s system was way too complicated for a team that plays a lot of young players…..same for Randy’s offense that took way too long to learn. Look what happened when Smith wnet down last year…… This Coaching staff will add on both fronts….when the kids are comfortable and proficient at what they are doing now. It has everything to do with being pragmatic. Our kids deserve this Staff!

  4. JC

    We new Henderson was special when UK signed him. Smart and a hitter with great speed. What else do you want in a linebacker?

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