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Wisconsin football: the defensive line room talks to the media

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Matt Henningsen is a genius, Keeanu Benton is a special talent, Bryson Williams is gaining positional flexibility and more!

Matt Henningsen using brawn AND brains at practice.

As spring practice continues different units will be meeting with the media. On Monday, the defensive line took their turn and discussed what it was like having a new coach leading the group, young guys who have been impressing early on in practice and how danged smart Matt Henningsen is.

Ross Kolodziej

  • Young guys stood out: “It is a young group. Am I concerned? Absolutely not. We are confident in their abilities. In terms of who stood out, I think that Rodas Johnson has had an unbelievable first three practices.”

Also mentions that Gio Paez has “flashed” and that early enrollee Mike Jarvis is looking good too.

  • On Matt Henningsen’s recovery from injury: “Zero catchup, he’s 100%. He’s a genius academically and a freak show athletically. He’s right at, or exceeding, where he should be at this time.”
  • Notes Henningsen has been a great resource for the young guys and even for him as he transitioned into the role of d-line coach. “He’s encyclopedic and photographic with his memory.”
  • On Bryson Williams: “Obviously body weights fluctuate throughout the year and position flexibility is what we ask of all of our guys.”
  • On switching from the strength coach to d-line coach: “Biggest transition would be recruiting for sure. Time and energy and having to get on social media.”
  • On Keeanu Benton: “Yeah, Keeanu is special. He’s got great athleticism. Really good understanding of pressure and how to use his body and use blockers’ momentum and position against them. The guy has an upside...not many guys come through here with the talent and ceiling that he has.”

Matt Henningsen

  • On how long it took him to start recovering from his injury: “I was able to hit personal records in the weight room about three to four months after the surgery.”
  • On being the veteran leader in the group: “It’s just been a focus on keeping the group together, the camaraderie. Just making sure they get better every day.” He also notes how many great examples he’s had in his career going back to his freshman year with Conor Sheehy, Alec James and Chikwe Obasih.
  • On working with Kolodziej: “Great guy to work with, great coach. Really knows his players, really good communicator, really intelligent guy. With his experience as a strength he knows the certain movements that will optimize your play on the field.”
  • On Benton: “Keeanu is a special talent. He was able to put his body in certain positions and do certain things athletically that most young guys couldn’t do.”

Isaiah Mullens

  • On Henningsen taking on a larger leadership role: “Love Matt, that’s my homeboy. Henny has a lot of experience and when I came in he was kinda like a big brother to me.”
  • On Kolodziej taking on the role of d-line coach: “He wants us to go eat. He wants us to be the best defensive line in the country.”
  • Expanding on what it means to “go eat”: “Be more disruptive and make more plays.”
  • On Johnson’s improvement: “Rodas has come a long way. Strength-wise, playbook-wise, he has come a long way.”

Bryson Williams

  • Why should people be excited about the d-line this year: “I think there are a couple of reasons to be excited. I think we have some young talent that is hungry. Coach K has already come in and done a really good job and gotten us really excited to do our jobs.”
  • Williams is gracious in his answer about losing snaps to Benton. Notes that he keeps a positive mental attitude and wants to do whatever he can to help the team and get back to a high level of play for himself.
Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications
  • Up to about 320 after knee surgery his sophomore year. Ended up losing about 60 pounds and then “had to hit the reset button” and gain back good weight. He’s up to 285 now and hopes to be up to 295 by the time the season kicks off.
  • Notes that he has been getting reps at both nose tackle and defensive end. Thinks that being at the weight around 295 will allow him to play both positions well.
  • Mentions Rodas Johnson as a young guy who has stood out so far.

Keeanu Benton

  • On his personal and team goals: “My goal is to dominate no matter the circumstances. As a team we want to try and get some championships. I’m tired of making it to the Big Ten [Title game] and not winning the Big Ten. I feel like we can get a natty.”
  • Mentions that Mike Jarvis has impressed him. Says that Jarvis has great effort and asks people for help despite not being as technically sound as a veteran.
  • Benton, who may have a future as an educator after his playing days are over, notes what it’s like being one of the veterans on the line: “I’ve learned more trying to teach people then when I was trying to learn it.”
  • On Henningsen’s photographic memory: “Henn-dog is...I just wish I had his brain on my shoulders. His mind is just filled with knowledge.”