ESPN 150 prospect Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee) made the decision last July to commit to the University of Georgia, surprising many who felt the 6-foot-3, 252-pound Florida fan would end up signing with the Gators. While that outcome still seems unlikely, another Southeastern Conference program is threatening to steal the prized running back commitment from the Bulldogs, and that team just finished hosting Henry for the second time in the last 30 days.
As Henry traveled home Sunday from Knoxville, Tenn., he explained that his decision to check out the University of Tennessee had a lot do to with the persistence of the Vols' new running backs coach.
“Tennessee came by the school once or twice, but I never really paid attention or gave them a chance before I made my commitment to Georgia,” Henry said. “Coach [Jay] Graham stayed on me and convinced me to take a visit up there.”
The first trip grabbed Henry’s interest, and that resulted in a return trip this weekend for the spring scrimmage. This time the No. 45 prospect in the nation got to see what a game day experience was like at Neyland Stadium.
“I got a chance to meet the coaches and some of the players, and that is why I came back up a second time,” Henry said. “I went down there this time to see what the environment and fans are like. One fan at Tennessee asked me to take a picture of him and his newborn baby, so that was pretty crazy.”
As it stands, nothing has changed in regard to Henry’s recruiting status, although the Volunteers put themselves in good position for a running back with more than 30 offers.
“Right now, after having visited them twice, Tennessee is right behind Georgia,” Henry said. “But I am still solid to Georgia though.”
The coaches in Athens are aware of Henry’s plans to check out other programs.
“Georgia supports me checking out my options and they just want me to enjoy my trips and do the right thing,” Henry said. “I talked to Coach [Bryan] McClendon just told me to be safe and he looked forward to talking to me after I got back.”
After each contact with a college, Henry gets advice from his coaching staff at Yulee and feedback on how he is feeling. Their advice: Do not rush anything, and try to make sure he makes the best decision for himself.
“Obviously everyone knows how I feel about UGA because I am committed there, but I am just looking to evaluate my other top schools like Tennessee, Alabama and USC to make sure I make the right decision for myself,” Henry said.
Up next for Henry is a trip with another Georgia commitment, but the travel plans are not to Athens this time around.
“I am going to Alabama with Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County) next Friday,” Henry said. “We are best friends and I love his mom and dad. We still plan to play together.”
Last month Henry was in Athens and he reiterated following the trip that everything was status quo.
“I really enjoyed being at UGA for VID Day, and I plan on getting up there again sometime soon,” Henry said. “Nothing has changed with my feelings toward UGA.”
Henry mentioned that several other Bulldogs commitments have recently stayed in contact with him.
“Nick Glass (Atlanta/St. Pius X) said I was tripping about Alabama and Tennessee, and Brice told me I better watch out about Tennessee, so we are always in each other’s ear to make sure we are all on the same page,” Henry said.
Over the weekend, several invitations went out for Nike’s The Opening, a four-day high school football event in July in Beaverton, Ore. Henry, who earned a second invite with a 138.03 at the Orlando Nike Combine, was amped upon hearing the news that he would be joined by a few close friends.
“I am very happy to have some fellow Dawgs like Tray Matthews and Shaq Wiggins going to the Opening, as well as a couple guys I want to play with like Alvin Kamara, Reuben Foster and Laremy Tunsil,” Henry said. “Tunsil is my boy and I hope he does make the decision to line up in front of me in college. That would be great."
Henry expressed excitement about putting on the pads again and working out with his Yulee teammates. The sidelines are sure to be packed with college coaches during practice through the next month, as Alabama is coming Monday, Tennessee is coming Thursday and Georgia, Ole Miss, Ohio State and Vanderbilt are just some of the other coaches Henry remembers saying they plan to come up.