Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover which way elite prospects like KJ Henry or Adam Anderson might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — KJ Henry rates among the nation’s top 20 prospects by the 247Sports composite. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder shows up as the nation’s No. 2 weak-side defensive end prospect for 2018.
Georgia fans will read that and think: “That’s the guy who could make me feel a lot better about the wounds left by Adam Anderson (flipped to LSU) and Brenton Cox (chose Ohio State) over the last month.”
Clemson fans will think: “That’s our guy. We’re stacking up the 5-stars right now.”
I asked Henry what is the most accurate way to write about his decision at this time. He replied with what I felt was a genuine answer.
“I will take a visit in these next couple of weeks to Penn State,” Henry said. “That’s the only school in my top 10 that I haven’t visited yet. Then I will really just hang out and get ready for my football. My school. That’s really my main focus. I want to have a great senior year with my teammates.”
That will lead to his next step.
“I will try to cut that top 10 down to a top 5 this summer,” he said. “I don’t know which date, but that’s how I will try to get that list down to the five schools which will be my officials in the fall. That’s important to me then because I will be an early enrollee.”
He hasn’t set a date for his decision yet.
“I’d like for it to be before Dec. 20 because that’s the early signing period,” Henry said. “I want to sign that day.”
Henry’s status is elite. He looked the part at the Charlotte Nike Opening regional. It could be said that the most college-ready performers were 5-star QB Trevor Lawrence and Henry at that event.
The West Forsyth (N.C.) standout has a top 10 that includes Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Louisville, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and UNC-Charlotte.
— K5 💭 (@thekjhenry_) April 5, 2017
His home-state 49ers stand out among that lot. That’s because Charlotte’s running backs coach Keith Henry is his father. It is hard to shake a man out of a top 10 who has had daily recruiting visits around the dinner table.
How do those programs stand out?
“The easy way to see it is beyond what those coaches say,” Henry said. “Of course what they all say is ‘We want you’ and ‘You can be a big impact guy’ and all that. But honestly, the things I look to are what they don’t say. I just watch them when we are on a visit. You see how they treat you compared to other prospects. If you are the first one in there to talk to the head coach, that shows you something. Shows worth. If you don’t get to talk to him at all, that shows you something, too.”
Henry — based off the clip below — is one of those guys the whole staff meets as he dips his 6-foot-5 frame through the door.
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) May 7, 2017
KJ Henry on UGA: How he feels about the Bulldogs
The first thing to know is that Clemson does not have his commitment nailed down. Does everyone think he’s already going there?
Is that reality?
“If you would’ve asked me a year ago where I was going I would have told you Clemson in a heartbeat,” Henry said. “But my dad is a football coach. He knew what was coming. He knew what was coming for me with this process. Clemson is not the only great school out there. The Tigers won a national championship. Coach [Dabo] Swinney is a great guy. He is a down-to-your-heart type of guy but it is just different for me right now.”
The decision is broader than just the orange and white.
“They are still a top school for me but it is not like last year where you can just say that’s where I am going,” Henry said. “That’s not the case. I don’t know where I am going. Things change. You know within these next couple of months you don’t know who is going to be where with coaches and players and what is going to happen. I just like to let things play out and then will get to make my decision.”
Georgia would be one of his “up there” schools. How can the Bulldogs rise to being his “that” school?
“I really don’t know yet,” Henry said. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I think for each specific school they have to do different things. In order for (UGA) to keep moving up, they just have to have a successful year.”
“They had a good year last year, but I see them in my eyes as going to be an elite program. They have to live up to that standard I think they can be. Winning would be a really good thing for them. They have the coaches. They have the players and the right chemistry and the good people. I think just keep winning and doing things the right way.”
Getting into his size-14.5 cleats about this decision won’t be easy. He was there for the bitter loss to Vanderbilt last fall.
Georgia could play the “that’s why we need you card” after that day, but those other schools on that top 10 need him, too. Or another guy just like him.
But they are also winning double-digit games and going to the college football playoffs.
“Georgia needs to win, win more and then keep winning,” Henry said. “That’s just the best way I know how to say that. Coach [Kirby] Smart is just getting there. He’s starting the program up the way he sees it. For a new coach like that, it is going to be hard for him to get those big wins like that early.”
Who’s made a big gain with Henry lately?
Henry had an interesting answer to the topic of which school has made the biggest surge among his favorites recently.
“Probably Virginia Tech,” he said. “This last visit I took up a couple of weeks ago really hit home. It was a good time for my family to see coach [Bud] Foster and coach [Justin] Fuente. I noticed what coach Fuente did there for that program especially coming in from a smaller school and doing what he did in his first year there. Him being from a lower program in Memphis and making them successful and then coming to a team with an elite defense like Virginia Tech and then making them successful with that offense as well is really promising.”
He said the Hokies are “winning but that they still need guys to rush the passer.”
“That’s what is good about them,” Henry said. “They are winning and they still need guys who can rush the passer. So I can only imagine what they could do in the big games when they had those elite guys that can rush the passer, too.”
This isn’t a Virginia Tech website. But it is easy to read into that and see that Henry’s thoughts on Virginia Tech reinforce what he wants to see out of Georgia.
We will have a lot more on Henry this week …