Clemson Football

K.J. Henry says Clemson defense plans to be 'fast, physical, tough, and dominant'

September 5, 2022

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Here are a few key moments from our time with K.J. Henry last week. Read through them with some context below, or SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel above for all the latest news from Clemson.


Last season, Georgia Tech's starting quarterback Jeff Sims was sidelined with an injury. With Sims out, redshirt freshman Jordan Yates filled in admirably to help the Jackets almost upset the No. 6 Tigers in Death Valley. Yates transferred to Sam Houston State, so Sims will be under the center on Monday.

On what makes Sims a difference maker for the Yellow Jackets:

“His ability to throw and run. I think that's kind of what the game has come to nowadays. Dual-threat quarterbacks that not only just running the ball but have great placement on the ball and accurate and that's what he brings to the table -- one of the best in the country. Very fast, very elusive. The second you think you got him, you don’t. He's really good at having that ability to get out of the pocket and make a negative play a positive one. So, he's definitely gonna be a good challenge for us in week one.”

Georgia Tech had a first and goal at the Clemson 3-yard line with only 30 seconds remaining to pull off the upset. Eventually, they were stopped on fourth and 2 with 15 seconds left in the game.

On the surprising down-to-the-wire contest:

“It was a dogfight. I remember that for sure. They played a great game -- kept it close, kept it interesting. I just remember that was a scrappy bunch. You got a lot of those guys who returned and from their perspective, they felt like they should have won that game and that they were left a little short. That's the mindset that we understand they're coming in with but for us, it's the same way. We felt like we should have played a lot better no matter the circumstances, lighting delay, whatever there may be.”

Henry and the defense will play their second game under co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn. Goodwin and Conn are in their first seasons at the position.

Henry on what is new and familiar for him under Goodwin and Conn:

"A whole lot of new. New coordinators, new roles for different guys, people growing, people developing. It's been fun. It's been fun to navigate that space. You know, [as] a fifth-year guy, it's very easy for a lot of people in my situation to say, ‘oh, this year is about me, and now it's time to get mine and get out of here.’ But it's so far from what it's been. It's been so fun to navigate this leadership role and really trying to just hone in this new defense, this new identity with also some of the same things that Clemson defense is known for- fast, physical, tough, and dominant. That's what we still plan to be."

Before last season's 14-8 win, the Tigers annihilated the Jackets by a combined score of 125-21 (52-14 in 2019 and 73-7 in 2020). They avoided a loss to the 27.5 point underdogs but had three disappointing losses to finish 10-3 in 2021.

Henry on if last year's three losses make him appreciate the playoff seasons better: 

“100%. Anytime, I've been a part of a loss. Number one, it's an immediate reminder of the past success we've had in the program. In our minds is whenever I lost the game, it's obviously not something we want. Immediately, it becomes on to the next mindset, as it does with a win. But when you see the fans storm the field. When you see the stuff on social media, as far as, what happens when Clemson loses, you just kind of have to sit back and just smile and a sense of like, wow, that's the impact we've had on college football.

“When we won week in and week out, you're not as well reminded of that. So we don't need any more reminders. We're good. But at the same time, yeah, it's definitely been a real appreciation for what Coach Swinney and what success we've had earlier in my career, as far as on the big stages and we're ready to get back to that."

Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei completed 18 of 25 attempts for just 126 yards with no touchdowns against the Jackets. He avoided interceptions but lost a fumble.

Henry on DJ having and maintaining the respect of teammates despite his struggles: 

“I think you made a great point. It wasn't all on him. And the thing is, the locker room knows that a lot of fans don't. But he's done a great job taking that on the chest that's the leader that every team wants to see in a quarterback. I think that's probably the number one reason he's gonna take the bullet for us as a team, especially as the offense, but it's not always on him.  

“I can say it's the offense having to compete versus them every single day. That's been the mindset we going to handle ours. Just like D.J. has one position on the field-- that left guard-- that left tackle-- that wide receiver-- that tight end-- their job is just as important. I think they've done a great job of No. 1 as an offense understanding the importance that comes with each position and then at the same time, just having that mutual respect for what the quarterback has to deal with [and] represent each week."

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K.J. Henry says Clemson defense plans to be 'fast, physical, tough, and dominant'

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