He played in all 12 games last season as a reserve linebacker and special teams player, but now Kentucky sophomore Khalid Henderson is expecting more. “I know more about what to expect and what I can do,” said Henderson, who made 26 tackles in 2012.
He had five tackles against both Vanderbilt and Mississippi State when his playing time increased late last season. Here’s what Henderson had to say about how spring practice.
Question: How do you think practice has been going?
Henderson: “Things have been going good so far. Offseason looked real good and excited about spring football.”
Question: What did you work on the most in the offseason?
Henderson: “Just working on my size and explosion. I wanted to be more explosive this year and I wanted to have time to learn the defense. I am weighing about 225, which is about the same as last year. They didn’t really emphasize my weight gain. They felt I was good where I was at because of my body mass and wanted to keep me lean so I would keep my explosion and speed.”
Question: How is this system different from last year?
Henderson: “It is different as far as the snap point. It is simplistic, but it also multiple at the same time. To me, it is easy coming out of high school because we ran the same defense in high school. So that has made it easier for me.”
Question: Will there be more big plays out of you this year then?
Henderson: “Oh yeah. Lot more. The instincts are still very familiar in my head, so I feel like I will be a big playmaker this year.”
Question: Was defense last year too complicated that it prevented playmaking?
Henderson: “I think that is right. There was a lot of bad communication from the sideline to the field that left us all in a blur at times on the field. This year should be better. It is very simplistic.”
Question: How is defensive coordinator/linebacker coach D.J. Eliot different from Chuck Smith, your linebacker coach last year?
Henderson: “Coach Eliot is very vocal. He will let you know if you are doing it wrong and tell you. He always instills in us to keep going and looking ahead and try to stay ahead of the game and not look for mistakes and fix what you do wrong. Personality, off the field we don’t really talk football. On the field, he’s very vocal and he’s a leader and we follow behind him and say, ‘Yes sir, keep it moving.’”
Question: How much better are you now compared to when you arrived here last June?
Henderson: “I feel tremendously better. I feel better spiritually, emotionally, physically. I just feel an overall increase in my ability.”
Question: How hard is it to come to a Southeastern Conference program and absorb everything on and off the field?
Henderson: “It is very hard from the moment you wake up to the time you go to sleep. It is a grind every single day. The media stuff has not been bad. I did a lot of interviews in high school and spoke at a lot of social events, so that’s nothing new to me. I enjoy that part.”
Question: Could this team be a lot better than most are projecting?
Henderson: “A lot better. I know people are going to sleep on us, but that is what we want them to do. We are just going to keep working within ourselves and make us a better team.”
Question: Did you keep up with the players that signed and will be here this summer?
Henderson: “I did and I am glad for the progression. Our class was a good class coming in, so I look for even better in the next class. I am proud of what the guys (coaches) did recruiting-wise. I welcome the recruits with open arms and we are ready to take them in as soon as they get here.”
Question: Will the linebackers be better this season?
Henderson: “We are going to be a lot better. Everybody is getting the defense down, which is good. I just feel like we will be better on the depth chart from top to bottom.”
Question: Did you worry how things might work out when a coaching change was going to be made?
Henderson: “A little bit but I knew that was life and what I was coming into in the SEC. There are a lot of culture changes every year. You never know where you will be at the end of the day. That’s why I looked when I came here at what would be my surroundings and my team.”
Question: What does the current fan excitement about UK football mean to the players?
Henderson: “It just gives us a better push. We didn’t feel that during the season with how bad it went. It just gives us a better edge going into the season and get our minds right and focus on football. Playing in an empty stadium is not fun at all.”