Hendrix ready to make his mark

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Last Saturday, Dewayne Hendrix sat in the bleachers of Neyland Stadium — covered in orange from head to toe — and periodically flashed an ear-to-ear grin.

He couldn't help it.

The Tennessee signee was trying to play it cool. Act like you've been there before, he kept telling himself. And he had. But this splendid spring afternoon, one that practically begged you to be outdoors, was different.

Hendrix had watched handfuls of games at Neyland before, but the day he'd get a chance to take the field with the rest of the Vols always seemed so far away — like a distant dream. Then, he felt like any other spectator. Not last Saturday.

This time, he felt he should have been on the sideline. He felt ready to take on Southeastern Conference football.

But he'll have to wait a few more Saturdays before he can.

As the final second slipped off the scoreboard at the Orange & White game, it signaled the end of spring and simultaneously started a new countdown: the day until Hendrix and the rest of Tennessee's 2014 class arrives.

It's so close, yet so far.

"I can taste it," Hendrix told InsideTennessee. "My time is almost here. I can't wait."

And after last Saturday, Hendrix is even more anxious to arrive in Knoxville. More than 68,000 fans dotted the grandstands, one-on-one drills drew "ohhs and ahhs" from the restless crowd, and piped in music blended it all together.

"It was a great atmosphere. It's the kind of atmosphere that makes you want to go here in the first place," the Scout four-star told IT. "You can't beat it."

The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder said he constantly had to fight the urge to jump out of the stands, rush the field and beg coaches to let him borrow some pads.

"The wait is killing me," Hendrix said.

In order to make the wait as pleasant as it can be, Hendrix said he's trying to view his extra time as a positive. While he admits it's easier said than done, he's trying his best to use the time before he arrives on campus to his advantage.

"I guess, it just gives me a chance to sharpen up — get my skills ready," Hendrix said. "I get the chance to put in all the work I want. I guess that's a good thing.

The Illinois native says back home he's hitting the weight room with a purpose, focusing on improving his explosiveness, agility and block-shedding skills before he arrives on Rocky Top.

"I wanted to be out there. But I have to take care of my business and I'll be out there soon enough," Hendrix said. "So, I'm just going to keep working hard."

It should be a promising sign for Tennessee defensive line coach Steve Stripling. After all, he needs all the help he can get.

Tennessee must replace all of its starters along the defensive line this season. Hendrix is expected to hit the ground running. He knows it. And loves it.

"I know what's expected once I get here," Hendrix said. "And, watching the defensive line, I know I can come in and play right away. I'm confident in that."

Hendrix also is confident Tennessee's new-look defensive line will prove many wrong next fall.

Hendrix spent "most" of the spring game carefully watching the defensive front and is pleased by what he saw. Specifically, he said he was "very impressed" with early enrollee Owen Williams.

"You know, they got after it," Hendrix said. "(Williams) was a beast. He was really doing his thing. He's gonna be good. I think we have the right players to be good. The future (is) bright."

Certainly, Hendrix left Neyland Stadium last weekend with an extra pep in his step. That is, once he managed to finally escape the stadium grounds.

Arms holding anything from programs to posters jutted out like branches in a dense forest as Hendrix left. For what he said felt like hours, he grabbed marker after marker and signed his autograph for a fanbase as ready for him as he is for it.

"That's the most I've ever signed for sure. I love it. It's the first time this has ever happened to me. It's humbling, and really just a great experience," Hendrix said. "…Now, I just got to make sure those (autographs) are worth something one day."

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