White Lightning

<b>Matt Henshaw</b> went from quarterback glamour to tight end obscurity. He hopes that changes this season. Henshaw, a redshirt sophomore from Brentwood, Tenn., wants to help Seminole tight ends can add a little wiggle to Florida State's passing game. Henshaw has added 21 pounds since January and ran a personal-best 4.51 40 in recent testing. He also talks about team improvements this summer as FSU nears the start of two-a-days.

Matt Henshaw went from quarterback glamour to tight end obscurity.

He hopes that changes this season.

Henshaw, a redshirt sophomore from Brentwood, Tenn., wants to help Seminole tight ends can add a little wiggle to Florida State's passing game.

That wasn't the case last year, when Patrick Hughes and Paul Irons combined on five receptions for 37 yards. In 2001, Carver Donaldson, Hughes and Irons were one better, finishing with six catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.

So much for impact.

During spring drills, however, something funny happened. While the unit continued to concentrate on rush-block as expected, Henshaw, Irons and Donnie Carter, a converted tight end, made nice contributions down field with their hands and legs.

"We were slowly showing them during spring ball that we could be relied upon when it came to the passing game," Henshaw said.

"Of course, we are a big part of the running game -- we've been mainly blockers the past two years. But now we had to prove. … it's still a slow process but we are getting there. The coaches are real excited about it, so it has got me really excited because they want to get us the ball and they are working hard to set up plays and set up schemes to get us the ball. I am real excited about it, but the main thing is the coaches are real excited about it."

WHITE LIGHTNING

After arriving at FSU in 2001 as an established prep quarterback, Henshaw quickly discovered his future with the Seminoles was not behind center. Tall and athletic, a move to tight end was discussed and Henshaw quickly jumped. He was knocked back and down almost immediately, however.

"I was dreaming every kid's dream of leading Florida State to a national championship at quarterback, but certain circumstances didn't allow that. But that's fine," Henshaw said.

"I hadn't hit somebody in God, I don't know how long. And then getting out there at tight end that first week, my head was just ringing. My neck was hurting. I had good weight last summer (215), but just in the transition of running and blocking I lost weight and started getting my butt kicked. I realized I was too light."

Henshaw has spent this summer concentrating on weight gain. It shows.

Now at 230 pounds, Henshaw appears in superb physical condition. Still, the coaching staff worried Henshaw, who weighed 209 pounds for the Sugar Bowl game against Georgia, would be too sluggish with the added pounds.

Any concerns vanished when Henshaw ran a personal-best 4.51 40 earlier this month during team testing. He was nicknamed "White Lightning" by cheering teammates moments after he crossed the finish line.

"I told the coaches that I would gain the weight that I needed to gain," Henshaw said.

"What they were worried about was whether I would lose my speed or not. I told them my speed wasn't a problem. I was always going to have it because I am not a fat body. I am not gaining fat. I wanted to gain as much muscle as I could. That was real important thing for me. I worked real with it up there at Tennessee with the Titans strength coach, trying to get my 40-time down lower. It was real important, since the is the most I have ever weighed in my life. I was a skinny, beanpole quarterback when I got here. Around 195 pounds, if not lighter. But I feel great now."

ON A MISSION

Henshaw also has been pleased with the tempo of the Seminoles' summer workouts. Attendance has been at an all-time high, though strength coach Jon Jost has given players an added incentive -- attend 80 percent of the workouts and players can skip conditioning testing during two-a-days.

Henshaw believes the turnout has helped accomplish much more than role call.

"I am pleased about how many people have showed up so far, but it's just the whole team atmosphere of trying to get that team aspect into it," Henshaw said. "Last couple of years, (we were) a bunch of individuals, blaming everybody and pointing fingers. Now we are starting to come together and I am really looking forward to the season."

While critics continue to question the direction of FSU's program -- the Seminoles have lost nine games the past two seasons -- Henshaw says experienced talent will help make the difference. In terms of statistics, FSU returns its top passer, top rusher, and top five tacklers on defense.

"We have better talent than anybody out there in the nation," Henshaw said.

"We just have to find a way to give it to everybody, which is difficult. One guy just might be hot one day and you just want to keep on giving it to him, giving it to him. But we just have so many weapons, it's ridiculous. It's going to be really exciting."

Henshaw also believes the Seminoles have made improvements with team psyche and leadership, starting with quarterback Chris Rix. All eyes continue to focus on Rix and his role as he looks to regain the respect of teammates following struggles on and off the field last season.

"Everyone worries so much about the quarterback and it puts a lot of pressure on him, and he's worried about living up to those expectations. It's hard," Henshaw said.

"I didn't deal too well with the hype when I first got here. It's tough to deal with. So far, he's organizing the throw-arounds. He's progressing slowly but surely. He lost so much respect…I am not trying to blame him. But the inconsistency of his play.

"He needs to work on his consistency and work on his leadership. Nobody really respected. …nobody looked at him for leadership last year. Nobody was like, ‘Alright, we are in trouble, Chris what do we do?' We were always looking for somebody else. You can't have that at quarterback."

PRODUCTION THE KEY

Henshaw says Rix will really make inroads with teammates when the season arrives. In fact, Henshaw says the entire team shares the blame following two years of struggles.

"He (Rix) can do a lot during the summer, but it's summer," Henshaw said. "All I care about is Saturday. I mean, that's what it comes down to. Like my father (Titans assistant coach George Henshaw) always says, when it comes down to nut-cutting, what are you going to do? Are you going to perform, or are you not going to perform. It's simple. Football is so simple -- perform or not perform.

"It's on all of us. I am so tired of people blaming it on one person. Okay, Chris might have been inconsistent, but what about the rest of us? We make him look good. All he does is dish the ball off. We have to make him look good, and we didn't. We dropped balls. Maybe the running backs didn't hit the holes hard enough. But we are going to get better at that as a team."

While Henshaw dreamed of leading FSU behind center one day, he wants to make contributions from his new home at tight end. He figures the unit can be part of the Seminoles' offensive excitement.

"I am having a blast. I have no complaints," Henshaw said.

"I basically have sat on the bench the past two years, and I am not used to that. I want to get out there. I don't care if it's a minor contribution. I just want to get out there for a long period time and help this team win."


Nole Digest Top Stories