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Senior Bowl Interviews: EDGE K.J. Henry & DT Keeanu Benton

Plenty of talent along the defensive line at the Senior Bowl

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Syracuse at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is an important aspect of the players who will participate in this prestigious All-Star game. Having a good practice week against the best at their position can help an athlete elevate his draft status as much as two rounds.

Here are two players that fit the position group the Cleveland Browns are looking to add a body to their roster in order to help them in the coming season.

Henry finished his college career with 139 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and 11 passes broken up over 58 games. Benton started two seasons but played in games all four years. He had 36 tackles last year with 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Benton played for the Number 1 defense in the nation in 2022.

EDGE K.J. Henry – Clemson

6’-4”, 255 pounds

Projected round: 4

Browns pick #130

DBN: What advantages do you bring to a team?

Henry: I am a good pass rusher and I like to show that I can win. In the run game being physical, setting the edge, playing with extension, things like that. I want to show that I am an every-down defensive end who will show consistency.

DBN: What is your secret with pass rush?

Henry: Just my effort and flying to the ball. And I know how to play leverage. That is a staple of my game. A lot of good players at the next level, but I will be able to hang with them and compete for a starting position. You can see I know what to do in pass-rushing situations. I am always thinking about how a guy is playing me.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 01 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

DBN: What are you looking to do at the next level immediately?

Henry: Just to get better initially on and off the field. I am a guy that you don’t have to worry about but at the same time, I am going to make any defensive line better. I am all about winning man. The next level will get nourish that fire in me and that is what I want to display.

DBN: Do you watch much film?

Henry: I watch a ton of film. It always goes down to breaking down my play first. I want to grow as much as I can. Then the next week’s opponent, their offensive linemen to find out how their offense is scheming.

DBN: What was it like playing for a coach like Dabo Sweeney?

Henry: He does a great job of growing his players. He is a person who strives to want his players to have the best after football is over. And his teams get us the opportunity to play in major bowl games. Coach Swinney does not cater to a few standouts but he caters to the entire team. - scholarship, walk-on it doesn’t matter.

DBN: You were a 5-star recruit coming out of high school, but started slowly at Clemson. Was that environment more of you should be doing better since you were ranked so highly?

Henry: Not at all. It took me some time to acclimate to playing at the collegiate level. I then asked Coach Swinney to redshirt me because of a strength standpoint. At other schools that might mean sending me to the portal, but Clemson has what they called a “developmental program” where they groom you to play at your best. But Coach Swinney, he’s gonna stick to what he loves and what he knows and I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job. I wouldn’t be sitting here today if he made the decision to ship me out.

DBN: Why did you want to come to the Senior Bowl?

Henry: I want what is best for what’s next for me. I love to compete and football allows me to build relationships with teammates. And here they put you against some of the nation’s best. If I can win against these guys, that means I am one of the best at what I do.

DBN: What are you looking to show to NFL GM’s and scouts?

Henry: I’m an every-down defender. I can rush the passer and stop the run so don’t take me out just because it is third-and-long. Clemson has developed me into a three-down player.

DBN: You do a great job of stopping the run while setting the edge. Is run defense your strength?

Henry: I’ve worked on run defense since I arrived at Clemson. That was instilled in me. I have to earn the right to rush the passer and it starts with stuffing the run. That sets a physical tone for me on defense and it spreads to other members of the defense. I love the grittiness that comes with stopping the run.

Wisconsin v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

DT Keeanu Benton – Wisconsin

6’-4”, 317 pounds

Projected round: 2

Browns pick #43

DBN: What do you offer an NFL team?

Benton: I feel my run defense if pretty damn good. I am working to improve my pass rush, but I try to prove to myself I can get better. But stopping the run is my strong suit.

DBN: What is life like being a college football player?

Benton: It’s different. You play football, but you still have school. It is something you have to learn how to balance out which was difficult but I think I did a pretty good job at doing. I strived to get my degree before moving on.

DBN: Because the Senior Bowl is live practices and game, is this an advantage over other pre-draft events?

Benton: I have heard there are almost a thousand coaches, scouts, and media here so you definitely are seen. It is up to me to prove that I can be an effective pass rusher because my run-stopping abilities will be out front immediately. The Senior Bowl carries a lot of weight with NFL teams. When we do the one-on-ones that is my time to show that I am unstoppable.

DBN: You are a former wrestler in high school. Do those skills help out your game?

Benton: I feel that leverage in wrestling and clubbing guys has helped me. When you wrestle you can’t ask for any help because it is just you and your opponent. This is like being 1-on-1 with an offensive lineman in a game. Wrestling correlates to football so well. Hand placement and utilizing leverage techniques can correlate to a pass rush.

DBN: You had the opportunity to come out as a junior and were ranked pretty high, yet you stayed another year. What was that decision based on?

Benton: I wasn’t physically where I wanted to be. So I worked hard and came in to lift every day, grinding, tried to increase my bench, increase my squat, increase my power clean, increase my vert. Which is why I came back for another year – to build up my work capacity. You have to be able to last four quarters and stay fresh throughout the whole game.

DBN: Word is you are a good fisherman.

Benton: Fried fish is always on the menu. I fish all the time. Bass. Panfish. Perch. Walleyes. Those are some really good eats. But I do have to be conscious of what I eat. I was a late-night snacker. Now, I try to have that meal at 7 o’clock instead of 9 o’clock and it definitely helps not eating past nine, and not snacking.

DBN: When watching tape you are one of the best at run stopping. Is this about pride?

Benton: If your defense can’t stop the run then opposing offenses are just going to continue to run the ball down your throat. I learned this as a freshman. Nothing better than getting your opponent into a third-and-long situation. Then you can turn on the jets and get after the quarterback but it all starts with stopping the run. Once I figured that out, I began taking more pride in run stoppage.

Barry Shuck is at the Reese’s Senior Bowl this week gathering interviews and providing coverage for Browns fans