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Henry speaks on Clemson’s defensive growing pains

Matt Mynes, Asst. Photo Editor

Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry (5) hypes up the crowd during the Tigers’ matchup with Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 5, 2022.

Entering a bye week with a perfect 8-0 record on the year, Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry and the Tigers’ defense have had their fair share of trials and tribulations, and Henry believes the unit still has room to grow.   
In a tale of two halves against Syracuse last week, Clemson’s defense gave up 14 points and 172 total yards in the first 30 minutes of the game. Down 11 points at the break, Henry and the Tigers then pitched a second-half shutout and ultimately secured the six-point win with an interception on the Orange’s final drive.
The performance represented the units’ ups and downs throughout the year, and Henry admitted exactly that when speaking to the media on Monday. 
“We were trying to find ourselves during the game,” Henry said. “It’s kind of been the theme, at least for the defense, a lot this year.”
Through eight games, Clemson’s defense has found success in some spots and struggled in others. From giving up 45 points to Wake Forest in Week 4 to allowing Florida State to claw back late in Week 7, the unit hasn’t been as stingy as it was in 2021.
With three total tackles and a sack against the Orange last week, the fifth-year senior made an impact, but Henry isn’t sure why the Tigers can’t put a stout performance in all four quarters.
“I’d love to be able to pinpoint the exact problem because then we could attack it,” he said.
Henry did have one hypothesis that it could be “between the ears for a lot of the guys.”
“People are who they are at this point in the season,” Henry said. “We really have to trust the preparation and have confidence from that. I think that’s kind of where we have to grow as a defense.”
“First thing any athlete is going to do is think, ‘I don’t want to mess up,’ because they care about the moment,” he added. “But we just have to shift the mindset for our guys from ‘I don’t want to mess up’ to ‘I want to dominate my opponent.’”
Still, Clemson has found a way to fight its way to an undefeated record heading into the team’s first bye, a triumph that Henry credits to being a “resilient” team. 
With this season being his last, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound pass rusher isn’t taking it for granted. 
“This time last year, I would have done about anything to be 8-0. I haven’t forgotten that version of myself and that version of this team, so I’m definitely appreciative that we just keep ending up on the right side of this thing.”  

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