KJ Henry discusses his recruitment with signing day fast approaching
Five-star defensive end K.J. Henry is just days away from announcing his college decision. The Clemmons (N.C.) West Forsyth standout will commit to and sign with one of his top five schools — Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, South Carolina or Virginia Tech — on Dec. 20, the first day of the early signing period.
Henry spoke to reporters Monday at Dorman High School following the first practice for the annual Shrine Bowl, which will be played Saturday at Wofford College in Spartanburg.
Before Henry zeroes in on his commitment decision, he wants to make the most of his Shrine Bowl experience.
“This week comes first,” Henry said. “I am taking it in stages — enjoying the Shrine Bowl, going to the Shriners Hospital. That’s first and foremost, having fun with these guys and taking South Carolina down on Saturday. That’s the first goal.
“Then those last couple of days are when we’ll start thinking. I tell everybody, I haven’t really thought about it. I haven’t really decided… That’s what those last days will be for.”
Henry (6-6, 235) made official visits Georgia, Virginia Tech, Clemson and South Carolina during the season. He was scheduled to take his fifth and final official visit to Alabama last weekend, but the visit was cancelled.
Henry said Alabama remains in the mix though the Crimson Tide are concentrating on other needs in their recruiting.
“They are (still in the mix),” Henry said. “I’ve had some recruiting talk with the coaches and coach (Nick) Saban. There are a lot of secondary guys going to the league, so they’re putting the outside linebackers on the back burner for right now. By me saying that, it’s just the guys that are committed right now is what they’re focusing on. I know (one of their coaches) will be hitting me up this week and letting me know the news about them.”
Henry unofficially visited Clemson for the Auburn game in September before returning for his official visit the weekend of The Citadel game in November.
Last Wednesday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, defensive coordinator Brent Venables and defensive line coach Todd Bates traveled to the Tar Heel State for their in-home visit with Henry.
What was Henry’s biggest takeaway from his meeting with the coaches?
“That they’re still in it,” he said. “That they still love me. That if I go in they won’t take anybody else (another defensive lineman). I’ll be the last one.”
Asked what stands out about his option of Clemson, Henry cited the Tigers’ longstanding recruitment of him as well as the relationship he has built with Bates since Bates joined Clemson’s staff in January.
“Just the fact they have been recruiting me so long,” Henry said. “Obviously, they are very successful. That speaks to all the five schools I’ve been talking to. That’s not really that big of a deal, but just the fact they have been recruiting me since my freshman year. Obviously, coach Swinney has been a great guy and a great recruiter in that aspect.
“But coach Bates coming in I think is the biggest thing. I had a really good relationship with coach (Marion) Hobby, but coach Bates is a genuine guy. He has been really good taking that spot and not really forcing it because he knows I had a good relationship with the last coach.”
Henry continues to be recruited by not only Clemson’s staff, but also five-star Clemson defensive end commitment Xavier Thomas.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” Henry said. “He texted me (Sunday) night. We are both Eagles fans. We talked about the quarterback (Carson Wentz). We took a big loss there. It’s just friendly banter.
“He understands this process. He’s been through it. He knows I’ve got to do what is best for my future and my family, so he has been good with it.”
Virginia Tech went in-home with Henry last week, as well.
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp also paid Henry a visit at his school before going to see his parents.
“It was kind of split up,” Henry said. “Coach Muschamp had to come by the school first to see me, and then he got to go by the house to see my parents, so it was split up. But it was the best he could do, so we will take it. It went very well. He definitely talked about me being a trailblazer there, just like Jadeveon Clowney and guys like that. The fact they have made progress over the last couple of years, which you can see just in their record… So it went well.
Muschamp has headed South Carolina’s recruitment of Henry.
“It has been very important,” Henry said of his relationship with Muschamp. “I tell a lot of people, out of the head coaches, he is definitely the one I talk to the most. He’s taking my recruitment straight into his hands. I know he is a defensive head coach, and that speaks a lot to that school and him himself.”
Georgia was slated for its in-home visit with Henry last week, but that didn’t occur. Henry said he doesn’t believe the Bulldogs will go in-home before signing day.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Coach (Kevin) Sherrer came by my school, so I’ve already talked to him. But as far as them coming in home, I think the way the rules and everything are set up after this week, it will just be me with the family.”
Henry has enjoyed his recruiting process and appreciates being a sought-after prospect. He knows he has opportunities that a lot of other people his age can only dream of.
With that said, Henry can’t wait to put the process behind him when he signs on the dotted line in eight days.
“I’ve been telling a lot of coaches when I get that question (about his recruitment) — I say I’m grateful, and I definitely still am,” Henry said. “But after filling out all these applications, going through that process, that was rough. So I’ll be glad when that’s over.”
Henry is set to sign at 4:20 p.m. Dec. 20 at West Forsyth High. The signing ceremony will be televised live by ESPN.