Henderson Reaching Out to a Childhood Friend This Spring

April 10, 2012

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By John Denton, Knights Insider

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Modern technology has made it possible for UCF defensive end Cam Henderson to learn some of the newest pass rush moves from one of the best defensive linemen in football with just a couple of clicks of his computer mouse.

Henderson, a native of Birmingham, Ala., and a rising star this spring for UCF's football team, is a childhood friend of Buffalo Bills' defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, the third-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Dareus, a 6-foot-3, 331-pound mountain of a man, knows a thing or two about harassing quarterbacks. He led the SEC in sacks in 2009, was the MVP of the BCS National Championship Game in 2010 while playing for Alabama and registered 5.5 sacks last season as a NFL rookie.

Because Henderson and Dareus talk on a weekly basis, football is a regular topic of conversation. And nothing consumes defensive linemen more than trying to find new and different ways to beat blockers and get to the quarterback. More than a few times, Henderson has sought out advice from Dareus, and the tips seem to be working this spring.

``We've been friends since we were 5 years old and I talk to him every week. He calls me and tells me about new pass moves that he's thinking about using and he'll get on Skype and show me how to do that move,'' Henderson said with a laugh. ``He teaches me a lot of stuff. I've tried it a little bit and it actually works.''

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Henderson has caught the eyes of UCF's coaching staff this spring and seems to have won the starting defensive end spot opposite incumbent end Troy Davis. Henderson has been competing with close friend and former JUCO teammate Toby Jackson this spring after improving his strength and explosiveness off the end.

``Cam is doing great. Last year he was just kind of out there trying to play what he saw, but everything is second nature to him now,'' Davis said of Henderson. ``He's a lot stronger, he's making better reads and he's in on so many more plays.''

UCF is in the final week of spring drills. The Knights will practice once more on Thursday leading up to the 2012 UCF Spring Football Game Presented by PNC Bank on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bright House Networks Stadium.

UCF head coach George O'Leary opened the door somewhat on Tuesday to the possible return of quarterback Jeff Godfrey, who led UCF to a school record 11 wins, including a Conference USA crown and a Liberty Bowl title in 2010. He started all 12 games this past season.

``Jeff called me Saturday night at about 9:15,'' O'Leary said. ``I didn't get the phone, but he left a message saying that he wanted to visit with me. I already visited with him once about him wanting to come back. I'll gladly talk to him, but he knows what he has to do as far as to be back on the team. But I'll visit with him again, probably next week.''

As for Henderson, he said much of last season was a blur after he transferred to from Navarro (Texas) College, where he was considered a three-star prospect and chose the Knights over USF, Baylor, Arizona, Texas Tech and Mississippi State.

He appeared in all 12 games last season, mostly as a reserve behind Darius Nall and Davis. He got in on 15 tackles and had three quarterback hurries, but said he felt he underachieved because of his unfamiliarity with UCF's defensive schemes.

``I know the plays so much better now. I came in last year not knowing the plays and I felt like I was playing with my eyes closed,'' he said. ``It's night and day from last year to this year. I was always out there asking everybody what to do. Now, I pretty much know what I'm doing before the ball is even snapped and that has allowed me to react a lot quicker.''

His body is also vastly different than when he arrived on campus. His weight has gone up almost 10 pounds and his bench press max rose from 315 pounds to 385 pounds. And even though it's somewhat weird competing for a starting job against Jackson, he knows it's simply a matter of the more productive end will play.

``Me and Toby are coming out there competing every day. He's my good friend, but I'm pushing him and he's pushing me,'' he said. ``We feel like whoever has the best spring will take over the position, so that's why we're both working so hard.''

Henderson is the weak-side end, meaning he'll line up on the side without a tight end. That, he said, gives him more space to rush the passer and use some of the moves that Dareus has taught him via Skype. Dareus has also instilled in Henderson some lofty goals and the drive to have a great senior season.

``(Dareus) was telling me that I should go into every week thinking that I should get two sacks a game,'' Henderson said. ``That might seem like a lot, but that's what I'm trying to do now.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.