On Wednesday, Aug. 31, K.J. Henry spoke to the media ahead of the season opener versus Georgia Tech on Monday.
Henry discussed the shifts brought about due to coordinator changes, how he feels the team has had an overall mindset shift in the right direction and how improved the team is on both sides of the ball.
Henry reflected on navigating changes made in the offseason, but affirmed that he has found a new level of confidence in his own maturity and leadership in guiding some of the younger guys on the defense. He also affirmed his confidence and contentment with the coaching shifts made in the offseason.
“A whole lot of new. New coordinators. New roles for different guys, who are growing and developing,” Henry said Wednesday. “It’s been fun. It’s been fun to navigate that space. Being a fifth-year guy, it is very easy for a lot of people in my situation to say this year’s about me. Now it’s just time to get mine and get out of here. But that’s so far from what it’s been. It’s been so fun to navigate this leadership role and just hone in on this defense.”
“Wes (Goodwin) and Coach (Mickey) Conn have been awesome,” Henry continued. “They’re listening to us. More than anything, they want to win. They want to win and dominate and that’s what we want to do as players. We’ve been like-minded in that regard and it’s been fun to attack each day, especially practice.”
It was the culture that Henry really emphasized in why Clemson coach Dabo Swinney chose to make hires within his current staff. Henry regarded the vision of Swinney to be what made these coaching transitions ideal for the athletes.
“Everything we need we already have here,” Henry said. “Everyone he has brought in, Coach Swinney, he has done a great job. He sees it before we ever could. Alluding to new coordinators, people who might need to come in here, as players we might say this guy has the best name, this guy has the best pedigree, but Coach Swinney does a great job of understanding the culture he’s built and what’s the best fit for us as players. The hires he’s had have been a home run.”
After last season, it seems there’s a reinvigorated mindset and focuses on one game at a time for Clemson. Henry discussed those “hiccup” games of last year and how he believes the Tigers just need to return to what they know and what they do best on the field.
“We are going to get back to doing what we do,” he said. “It’s that simple. There were a lot of times, especially for myself, we knew what we were capable of, but we were in our own way. There were a lot of good teams we play every year that fed off of that. As a league, we aren’t given the respect we deserve and finally, Clemson has a hiccup year and everyone is surprised that they’re close games. We’ve been telling y’all we have been playing good teams every year. At the same time, we knew what we are capable of and we’re ready to get back to that.”
With much speculation surrounding the Clemson offense, particularly quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, Henry reaffirmed his own belief in the improvement of the entire team, especially the offense.
“There’s not one person on the offensive side of the ball who didn’t get better this year, who hasn’t grown in some capacity over the spring or over the summer,” Henry said. “As a team, we all have gotten so much better, so much closer.”