By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Brandon Henderson’s stats don’t jump off the page, but that he is already compiling stats is significant in itself.
Two games into the season, Mississippi State’s 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior tight end has three catches for 25 yards with a long of 17. Those numbers say a lot more about Henderson than they let on.
He had only six career catches entering the season, and they all came his sophomore year. Injury limited him to four games last season, but toward the end of MSU’s first year under Dan Mullen, the proverbial light bulb clicked on in Henderson’s head.
“I think it’s just a new confidence I’ve found in myself,” Henderson said. “I did what I call soul-searching last season. … I just made up my mind that I wanted to help as much as possible. Not for any accolades, but just for anything I can do for the team; just let me know, and I’ll do it.”
Considering he’s the No. 2 tight end behind Marcus Green, and considering how many sets of hands touch the football for State, Henderson has learned to be happy with whatever role comes his way.
Henderson credits his strength coaches and fellow tight ends with motivating him and telling him what he’s capable of as a ball-catcher. A year in the offense and a little growing up have helped, as well as the urgency that comes with a senior year.
“Like a lot of guys, with a guy like Brandon, you wish the light would’ve come on this way for him a year-and-a-half ago,” Mullen said, “because who knows what kind of player he could be today.”
Said Henderson, “Last year it was a new offense. Again, being hurt part of the time, I picked it up slower than the other guys. But I think being back in the full swing of everything, participating in full camp, I think I have a feel for the offense a lot, and I’ve matured a lot.”
The offseason was crucial for Henderson. The possibility of winning more games under Mullen helped him push through the tough days.
“There are some days you might not want to work out, might not want to run the sprints or (do) the mat drills, but it’s whatever you’ve got to do to win,” Henderson said. “I want to have a winning program around here, and I want to be a part of it.”
Big role for tight ends
Henderson’s role has the possibility of expanding. His early success should engender confidence in the coaches, and Green is banged up – he suffered a minor knee injury against Auburn but is expected to play Saturday against No. 15 LSU.
Henderson and Green are sometimes on the field together, so Henderson’s opportunities are ample.
For the first time, he truly feels capable of coming through for his team.
“I’ve always felt that way, but I think that comes with confidence, too, as in when it comes down to the situation, you want it to be you,” Henderson said. “You always know that you can do it, but sometimes you might question yourself in that situation, not wanting to upset the fans or your teammates or let anybody down.
“But with that new confidence I found in myself, I’m just ready for whatever.”
The tight ends – which include Kendrick Cook and a now-healthy Thomas Webb – don’t always play a traditional role in Mullen’s offense. They can sometimes be seen split wide or in the slot.
It’s an added dimension that defenses have to account for.
“It allows us to get in spread sets. It allows us to get in tight end sets,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “I think those create some mismatches for defenses and doesn’t allow them to substitute.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571