After seeing fellow defensive ends Justin Mascoll and Xavier Thomas join Clemson’s 2018 class in March and April, respectively, Clemmons (N.C.) West Forsyth five-star K.J. Henry admittedly wondered whether he was still a part of the Tigers’ plans.
“I think I got a little bit skeptical for a bit, seeing (Thomas) commit, seeing Justin commit,” Henry told The Clemson Insider at The Opening Regional in Charlotte on Sunday. “I was like, was there still any space for me?”
The Tigers have since put Henry’s doubts to rest, reassuring him they plan to take another defensive end this cycle and he remains their top target.
Defensive line coach Todd Bates and defensive coordinator Brent Venables recently proved to Henry he is a priority, paying him separate visits at his school during the first week of the spring evaluation period.
“They just let me know they still play freshmen,” Henry said. “They’re not a school that’s going to make you wait two or three years. If you’re meant to play you’re meant to play, and they still see that in me as well.”
Clemson remains very much a factor for Henry, who named the school in his top 10 last month along with Alabama, Charlotte, Georgia, Louisville, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, South Carolina and Virginia Tech
Henry visited Clemson again in March, his first time on campus since the Louisville game last fall, and had a specific reason for the return trip.
“To be honest with you, I was there for the new facility,” he said. “I’m a kid. I have no problem telling everybody that, so getting down the slide, bowling, playing basketball, all that good stuff, that was what I was there for.
“I was also letting my mom and dad meet coach (Dabo) Swinney, my sister, my little brother. It’s a family thing, so I wanted them to meet the coaching staff and get accustomed with them and just make a relationship. That was the main goal, but for me, I’ve been down there so many times, I was just there to have fun.”
Henry said he plans to visit Penn State in the next couple of weeks, as it is the only school in his top 10 he hasn’t seen.
Moving forward in his recruitment, he plans to make another cut this summer and a decision during his senior season.
“I’ll talk about which schools my family and I really like and the opportunities I have for myself, and then trim it down to a top five in the summer,” Henry said. “Those top five will end up being the five that I take my officials on in the fall.
“I’m an early enrollee, so my thought is I’ll be committing during the season, playoff time, and sign on December 20.”
Henry, a top-five defensive end and top-20 overall prospect nationally, says early playing time will be one of the primary factors in his college choice.
“I’m a competitor, so I’m trying to get on the field,” he said. “I don’t want anything given to me by any means, but that’s definitely what I’m going to try and do is get on the field as early as possible. So, the opportunity to do that is what I’ll be looking for as well.”