CORAL GABLES -- Lined up across from Anthony Chickillo, Miami's mountainous right tackle dug in Tuesday morning as teammates crowded around.
And for a few seconds, Seantrel Henderson sparred with the Hurricanes top defensive linemen. Best on best and Henderson finished the duel with a little shove.
Now Henderson's looking to finish his sometimes-rocky run in Coral Gables with something big. The former national high school player of the year is impressing coaches and making moves as the Hurricanes completed the third of 15 spring practices Tuesday.
"I'm excited about him," coach Al Golden said. "He has a different look about him right now. He had a good off-season program. He's staying off lists. He's doing a good job."
Battling weight issues also appears to be well in his past. The 6-foot-8 rising senior once played in the 375-pound range, but now he's down to 338 and feeling great. Henderson faced a decision concerning the NFL draft in the off-season, but it wasn't much of a struggle in the end. He had to know for sure he was going to be a first round pick.
"I had to be honest with myself," he said Tuesday. "Me, personally, I didn't think I had a good enough chance to go in the first round this year. Not saying I didn't play good enough last season, just me personally, I didn't think I was ready yet. I feel like I will take this last year and, we haven't really won anything here yet, and I'm not the type of guy to start something and quit it. I'm going to stay through thick and thin no matter what it is.
"So I want to win. Point blank. Period. ACC, national championship, I gotta get something out of this before we leave, as a team."
Henderson wasn't alone in his assessment of being well below first-round stock for April's draft. But he's certainly on the radar for 2014. On a recent teleconference with reporters, the NFL Network's Mike Mayock noted Henderson's monster 2012 game against Florida State. He said Henderson handled first-round lock Bjoern Werner all game, though the Hurricanes lost 33-20.
"I felt like I had a good game against him, besides the last few snaps I think I have up a sack at the end of the game," Henderson said. "Besides that, I felt like I did a good job. Wish we could have won."
With an offensive line that returns intact and play-making weapons back at skilled positions, Miami could be in a spot to do a lot more winning in 2013. Having strong bookend on the line make a huge difference and Henderson's filling that role.
"He's a whole new person," right guard Brandon Linder said. "He's matured so much. The calls he's making and the footwork is just great."
Henderson missed almost all of last August's practices attending funerals and recovering from a concussion suffered in an auto accident. He didn't travel to the season opener and had to work his way back into the starting lineup.
"I've done a lot of growing up," Henderson said. "I feel like other things that I may have thought were important, aren't really that important anymore, as far as doing off-field things. Just growing up, being here on your own, I just feel like I've grown up. I'm all the way in with our team now. It's football first and my time is running out here, in terms of eligibility.
"I feel like it's go hard or go home. And their ain't no going back home."
firstname.lastname@example.org or @ByCasagrande on Twitter ___