Henry, Clemson’s defense no strangers to elite ACC quarterback play

Henry, Clemson’s defense no strangers to elite ACC quarterback play

Football

Henry, Clemson’s defense no strangers to elite ACC quarterback play

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Clemson is no stranger to elite competition, but this season has brought a plethora of talent at the quarterback position in the ACC with North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye arguably the crowning jewel of the group.

With the Tigers set to face Maye in the ACC Championship this weekend, defensive end K.J. Henry gave a glimpse into how Clemson’s defense plans to attack the redshirt freshman who has given opposing defenses fits all season long.

“Hmm, great question,” Henry responded when asked how they plan to slow Maye down. “There’s a lot of teams trying to figure out the answer to that. First off, what a talented player. Great, and he can put the ball anywhere. He’s really good with his feet too, he leads the team in rushing. You got to give him different looks.

“We gotta just try to attack from a defensive front standpoint and gotta compete man. Obviously, he’s been in the Heisman talks and breaking all these records and he’s earned that right, but that doesn’t mean we bow down just because he’s a great player. You gotta go out there and really give him fits and compete. That’s really just the best way to go about it.”

Facing the ACC Player of the Year in Maye calls for a winning mindset — a mindset that is focused on what’s in front of them rather than the adversity that lies behind them.

“That’s the message I try to give to these guys all the time is when you’re playing big games, maybe like last week and this one coming up, and you’re playing good people, good teams, a lot of the times if you’re not confident in yourself like Ship [Will Shipley] says, your mindset shifts to you not wanting to mess up, you not wanting to lose the route… you’re already defeated in that state,” Henry said. “The mindset’s gotta be man, I just want to go win, I want to go dominate, I want to compete and I’m attacking, I’m attacking, I’m attacking.

“Mentally that’s got to be where we are as a defense, and obviously, we have to be smart about it because he’s not a dumb person. But we’ll definitely obviously be working through the week to try and answer that question.”

Maye is not the first top quarterback Henry and the rest of Wes Goodwin’s defense have faced this season. With guys like Sam Hartman, Jordan Travis, Jeff Sims, Malik Cunningham, Devin Leary, Phil Jurkovec, Garrett Shrader and Drew Pyne, just to name a few, all on Clemson’s schedule this fall, Henry argues that the amount of quarterback competition they have faced this season is the best he’s seen in his five seasons as a Tiger.

“Easily this year has been the year of the quarterback,” the veteran said. “In my five years, this has been the best quarterbacks I’ve played week in and week out as far as just from a talent perspective. Everybody could throw the ball, everybody could run the ball, nobody’s just one dimensional, so a hundred percent it does feel like that, but that’s what makes it fun.”

For Henry, the task of planning for a different quarterback each week is something the defender enjoys, comparing the process to finding the missing piece to a puzzle.

“That’s what you come to Clemson for, to literally play the best of the best, so that’s been exciting, that’s been a fun challenge that I’ve been able to really navigate each week, that we have as a defense,” the North Carolina native said. “It’s like trying to put a puzzle together each week and it never looks the same, but once you put it together, you’re super excited and you move on to the next one. I’ve really enjoyed that piece of it, I really have, and got a big puzzle to put together this week, there’s no doubt.”

Henry and the ninth-ranked Tigers suit up for the seventh time since 2015 in the ACC Championship Game, taking on the same opponent they did in 2015 in No. 23 North Carolina with hopes of taking home the program’s 21st overall conference title. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on ABC.

Dear Old Clemson has added the Tiger Sack Pack to our online store.  Save by getting the Two Pack of signed cards from two of the nation’s top defensive ends, Myles Murphy and Xavier Thomas.

Now there is a new way you can support Clemson student-athletes. Purchase collectibles from Dear Old Clemson and the proceeds with go to support Clemson student-athletes. 

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