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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.