CONWAY — Tre Henderson says he hasn’t been checking all that often, but yes, he knows where he stands entering Coastal Carolina’s game this week with Stony Brook.
The senior is 33 kickoff return yards away from breaking the Chanticleers’ career record of 1,051, set by Arthur Sitton from 2005-08. And he enters the week ranked second nationally among FCS players with an average of 39.3 yards per kickoff return.
“Recently, my mom and a couple people were talking about it and I actually looked at it myself and saw I was a few yards away from actually [setting] the record,” Henderson said. “... Just being out there with a few guys I’ve been out there with for the last four or five years – Andrae Jacobs and Akeem Wesley and Dominique Whiteside – is always giving me confidence, and I know they’re going to make their blocks. Honestly, sometimes I’m out there I look past the first initial block because I know they’re going to make their blocks.”
For his part, Henderson has made the most of those return lanes. He vaulted ahead of junior teammate Niccolo Mastromatteo on the list two weekends ago at Appalachian State with 141 yards on four returns, including an 87-yarder that ranks as the longest kick return in program history. For that matter, he owns the second longest return on that list as well – an 86-yarder for a touchdown last season against Gardner-Webb.
He says the Chants’ approach on returns has opened up more opportunities for him this season as he has more leeway and options in regard to which way he can take the ball. And since he left behind the offensive side of the game after his high school days in Georgia to focus on playing cornerback for Coastal, well, he relishes his limited opportunities to touch the ball.
“I played offense a lot in high school so it’s something that I miss,” he said. “... That’s something I always enjoyed doing in high school, and since I play defense now it’s not for sure you’re ever going to touch the ball, so when you do touch it you want to score.”
While the team was reeling from a 55-14 loss as it left Appalachian State two weeks ago, Henderson said his teammates still managed to tease him a little bit about getting tackled by the kicker on that 87-yard return. That’s only more motivation, though, to not only get in the record books but also the end zone.
“I’ve definitely got to return one now,” he said. “You can’t ever get caught by the kicker.”
Mastromatteo good to go
After missing the last two games with a rib injury, Mastromatteo is set to return to action this week, head coach Joe Moglia said.
Despite playing in only the first three games, Mastromatteo ranks third on the team with 20 catches for 214 yards. Freshman Tyrell Blanks played well in his stead – hauling in touchdown catches each of the last two games – but Mastromatteo will resume his role as the team’s primary slot receiver this week.
“He’s the starter at that slot spot,” Moglia reiterated. “He does a great job. He runs great routes, he’s smart, he understands what he’s doing, he’s got phenomenal hands, he can block, he’s tough, he doesn’t go down easily. He’s the starter at that spot.”
Tweaking the D
In addition to going back to the basics last week with the defense after allowing 684 yards of offense to Appalachian State, the Coastal coaches used the bye week to further evaluate the team’s defensive personnel.
Moglia didn’t indicate any changes to the primary lineup, but he noted a few position changes.
True freshman Richie Sampson has moved from strong safety to free safety, sophomore Miles Rankin has moved to strong safety and sophomore Denzel Rice to the team’s “whip” position – a hybrid linebacker-defensive back spot.
“I wanted to sit down with the defensive staff and just talk about what they thought – how do they think we did, what they think we need to do to be better. And they spent all day pretty much looking at that [Sunday],” Moglia said. “At the end of the day, we got together and they felt we needed to make some personnel changes. .... There were a couple of things we needed to improve as far as aligning our guys, but for the most part we looked at our fundamentals and we had a lot of breakdowns in fundamentals.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.