NCF On The Trail: Zaycoven Henderson



With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at which programs compiled the nation's best overall position classes in 2014. For the full top position classes series, click here.

Quarterbacks: Florida
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating up-tempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.

Signing day: Big 12 wrapup

February, 5, 2014
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As hectic of a day as it was, national signing day was a success for all Big 12 programs. Coaches were up early manning their fax machines and showing excitement with every national letter of intent submitted via fax.

Nearly 250 football players signed letters of intent to play Big 12 football on Wednesday. Here are five of the biggest storylines -- and a bonus storyline that could have an ending Thursday -- from the conference.

Oklahoma takes over top spot in Big 12

In the past 48 hours, everything seemed to go Oklahoma’s way.

[+] EnlargeMichiah Quick
Courtesy of Nike ESPN 300 ATH Michiah Quick was a big part of Oklahoma's final rush, a rush that gave the Sooners the top class in the Big 12.
After getting a Tuesday commitment from ESPN 300 safety Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla./Jenks), the Sooners got Wednesday pledges from ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and high three-star offensive tackles Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) and Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge).

All four players were a part of Oklahoma’s signing class of 26 on Wednesday -- helping the Sooners take over the top spot in the Big 12 class rankings. Oklahoma’s class is No. 13 nationally, three spots better than previous top dog Texas.

Oklahoma in previous years has been very good at finishing strong in recruiting. It managed to sign Frison, who committed to Utah last February before decommitting last month, as well as Brown, who had been committed to Tennessee since May before making an 11th-hour change.

Strong, Longhorns get their DTs

New Texas coach Charlie Strong wanted two players he recruited to play at Louisville, and by Wednesday afternoon, he had them.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) and three-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian Academy) signed with the Longhorns and were two of 23 to submit national letters of intent. They also helped erase the sting of the Longhorns losing three four-star defensive tackle commitments in LSU signee Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), Oklahoma signee Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) and Texas A&M signee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) last month.

Collectively, Ford and Nelson recorded 235 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. The duo also had 37.5 tackles for loss.

Receivers ‘No. 1’ to Baylor coach

Baylor coach Art Briles made a bold statement about his new wide receivers -- one that might be challenged by some but co-signed by others.

“The thing that we feel really good about,” Briles said, “is that we've signed the No. 1 receiving class in America -- I don't think that's up for debate.”

Briles has an argument with four ESPN 300 receivers in K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik) and Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis). The quartet helped to give Baylor a top-25 national recruiting class.

Rhoads fired up about lone in-state signee

To say Paul Rhoads is excited about his top-ranked signee, ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) is an understatement.

While Rhoads is pumped about the entire class, there’s something special about Lazard, as he is this year’s only in-state signee. Lazard, No. 148 in the ESPN 300, had opportunities to sign with other programs, but he chose to honor his original commitment and also follow the footsteps of his father Kevin Lazard, who played in the secondary for the Cyclones in the early 1990s.

“This is a young man who has gotten phenomenal national attention and was recruited by the traditional historical programs in college football and kept on turning them away to stay true to his word to be an Iowa State Cyclone,” Rhoads said in a statement of Lazard, the No. 2 prospect out of the state of Iowa behind Alabama offensive lineman signee Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls).

West Virginia adds depth in class

Adding depth was the objective for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, as he signed 22 players on Wednesday. Holgorsen was fortunate to add depth from coast to coast.

Of the 22 commits, only one -- three-star offensive tackle Amanii Brown (Morgantown, W.Va./Morgantown) -- is an in-state signee. The Mountaineers hit points all over the Lower 48, from California to Texas to Florida, to get players who can be contributors early and help the program return to star status.

West Virginia’s class is led by five ESPN 300 players. Running back Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside), the class’ top-ranked player, was the last to commit early Wednesday afternoon. He joins defensive back Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), linebacker Davonte James (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) and receivers Lamar Parker (Miami/Booker T. Washington) and Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) in the class.

Bonus: Could the Sooners add one more?

LSU signed 22 players on Wednesday. The Tigers were hoping to sign 23.

Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) has been verbally committed to LSU since July, but the ESPN 300 defensive end also has high interest in Oklahoma. There were conflicting reports on Wednesday regarding whether Clark actually signed and submitted his letter of intent to LSU.

ESPN’s David Ching said an LSU spokesperson confirmed the letter of intent was at LSU and cleared compliance. Outside reports, however, say Clark did not submit the letter of intent, and a tweet from Clark's Twitter account said that “nothing is final.” His mother Dorshell also told The Oklahoman that her son “has not signed with LSU.”

Oklahoma City schools were closed on Wednesday because of bad weather, so Clark didn’t fax anything by way of Douglass High School. He is expected to announce his final decision on Thursday.

If it's true that Clark has not signed with LSU, look for Oklahoma to be a key player in his final decision. Ranked No. 273 in the ESPN 300, Clark has built a great relationship with the Sooners' coaching staff, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

January, 13, 2014
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With a little more than three weeks until signing day, schools are now in the 11th hour of recruiting for 2014 targets. While some programs will try to land the big fish still uncommitted, other programs will try to make some commits have a change of heart just in time for the Feb. 5 signing day.

Texas picked up junior college tight end Blake Whiteley (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada/Arizona Western College), but the Longhorns losing three defensive lineman commitments proved to be the talk of last week. Oklahoma, however, managed to add two to its growing class and Kansas State and Texas Tech also got big-time commitments. Expect a lot more fireworks this week, as several athletes will take game-changing official visits.
Here are some of this past week’s highlights:

Biggest commitment: Few commits last week were bigger -- or arguably more shocking -- than ESPN 300 cornerback Nigel Bethel II (Miami/Booker T. Washington), who switched his pledge from Miami to Texas Tech. The 5-foot-9, 172-pound cornerback became the Red Raiders’ first ESPN 300 commit, and he’ll offer immediate help for Kliff Kingsbury’s secondary. Bethel, No. 233 in the ESPN 300 and the nation’s 19th-ranked cornerback, is a true cover corner, and in the Big 12, defenders of his caliber are always welcomed.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Round one of the new Charlie Strong-Kevin Sumlin recruiting rivalry goes to Texas A&M, as the Aggies were able to flip Zaycoven Henderson in what will go down as one of the wildest recruiting stories of the season; Bobby Petrino's hiring at Louisville received mixed reviews from coaches and recruits; and what type of recruiter is Michigan getting with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier?

Aggies win first battle against Strong
College football’s second season is known for plenty of twists and turns, but few will match the bumpy ride that four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) gave Texas and Texas A&M fans Wednesday. Henderson, the No. 36 defensive tackle, decommitted from Texas, then recommitted to the Longhorns, only to flip to Texas A&M in less than a 24-hour span. Henderson’s decision came in the wake of coaching changes at Texas and the Horns chances slipped majorly when defensive line coach Bo Davis accepted a position at USC. It also marks the first victory for A&M coach Kevin Sumlin over new Texas coach Charlie Strong. Henderson is an early enrollee that was scheduled to start classes in Austin next Monday, but now he’ll be attending classes in College Station. Henderson originally committed to TCU last February but decommitted in September. On Dec. 9, Henderson gave Texas his verbal pledge during a ceremony at his school.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Louisville’s class is in free fall after Charlie Strong’s departure for Texas, but would Bobby Petrino be able to salvage things? And, Wednesday produced a mix of both bad and good news for Strong.

Louisville’s class needs a shepherd

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Texas' loss is Texas A&M's gain.

The Aggies added four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) to their recruiting class Wednesday, capping off an eventful last 24 hours for the heavily courted prospect.

Henderson, originally a Texas commitment, decommitted then recommitted to Texas in less than a 24-hour span. The change of heart came in the wake of coaching changes at Texas with the addition of Charlie Strong as head coach and the departure of Henderson's future position coach at Texas, Bo Davis, who accepted a similar position at USC.

Two sources with knowledge of the commitment confirmed the news to ESPN.com and Henderson posted the news on his Twitter account Wednesday night. Longview head coach John King also confirmed the news to ESPN.com via text message.

This will be the third time Henderson has committed to a school. Henderson originally committed to TCU last February but decommitted in September. On Dec. 9, Henderson gave Texas his verbal pledge during a ceremony at his school. He chose Texas over Baylor and Texas Tech.

Henderson, an early enrollee who is 6-foot-1 and 318 pounds, was expected to leave for Austin, Texas, on Friday and start classes on Jan. 13. He has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Coming into Wednesday, Texas A&M held the nation's second-ranked recruiting class. Henderson is the Aggies' 22nd commitment and is the fifth defensive lineman to commit. He is the second defensive tackle head coach Kevin Sumlin has brought into the class, joining ESPN 300 prospect DeShawn Washington (Nederland, Texas/Nederland).

Henderson is ranked 36th nationally among defensive tackles and is the No. 47 prospect overall in the state of Texas.
Less than 24 hours after deciding he wasn’t going to Texas, Zaycoven Henderson has had a change of heart.

According to Longview coach John King, the four-star defensive tackle spoke with new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong and feels secure in his pledge.


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Big 12 class rankings analysis 

January, 8, 2014
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A solid weekend resulted in a bump in the ESPN class rankings for Oklahoma. The Sooners picked up two players who should help the offense in ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) and four-star offensive guard Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe). Both are U.S. Army All-Americans.

With the commitments, Oklahoma jumped from No. 21 to No. 18 in the latest rankings. Oklahoma also jumped ahead of Baylor for the No. 2 spot among Big 12 schools. Texas still leads the conference at the No. 13 spot.

Baylor fell from No. 17 to No. 19, and Oklahoma State moved up a spot from No. 24 to No. 23. Texas Tech and West Virginia remained at Nos. 38 and 39, respectively, to round out the national top 40.

Here is a more in-depth look at the Big 12 class rankings:


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Editor's Note: Henderson on Tuesday afternoon recommitted to Texas Insider following a conversation with new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong.

The once-mighty Texas defensive line class for the Class of 2014 is now half of what it used to be. Literally.

A Texas source confirmed that four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) has decommitted from the Longhorns. A 6-foot-1, 318-pound Semper Fidelis All-American, Henderson is looking at other options after learning on Tuesday that defensive line coach Bo Davis left Texas for a similar position at USC.

Henderson joins fellow four-star defensive tackles Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) and Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) as former Texas commits. All three made their decisions Tuesday evening, hours after hearing the news about Davis.

Texas entered the week with six commitments on the defensive line. The Longhorns now have three in three-star defensive end Sione Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), three-star defensive tackle Jake McMillon (Abilene, Texas/Abilene) and ESPN 300 defensive end Derick Roberson (San Antonio/Brennan), the team’s top-ranked commit.

Henderson originally committed to TCU last February but decommitted in September. On Dec. 9, Henderson gave Texas his verbal pledge during a ceremony at his school. He chose Texas over Baylor and Texas Tech.

 

Five recruiting needs for Texas' 2014 class

December, 10, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Immediately after returning from Waco, Texas’ coaching staff hit the road on Sunday to begin visiting its committed recruits and targets. Mack Brown is expected to join them today for in-home visits.

The Longhorns picked up commit No. 23 on Monday but still have plenty of work to do. Here’s a look at the positions where Texas needs the most help going into 2014. It’s a safe bet Texas’ final pledges will come from these five spots:

1. Quarterback

After putting this move off for two consecutive offseasons, Texas needs to bring in a transfer quarterback. The Longhorns briefly pursued Bo Wallace, Nick Marshall and other juco options in recent years, but opted to stick with Case McCoy as the backup.

Now McCoy is graduating, David Ash is recovering, Tyrone Swoopes is still inexperienced and touted commit Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer) won’t arrive until the summer.

There are no five-star, big-time options at the junior college level this year. So Texas’ best bet is pursuing a graduate transfer. One QB that Texas and several others major programs are keeping an eye on is Florida State’s Jacob Coker, who would have two seasons of eligibility if he leaves.

2. Defensive end

Jackson Jeffcoat is off to the pros. Cedric Reed could opt to leave early and join him. If he does, Texas will need an end or two who is ready to play right away in 2014. Hence its recent interest in junior college prospects.

New Mexico Military Institute teammates Edmond Boateng and Terry Ayeni will both visit Texas this week. Boateng, ESPN’s No. 3 ranked juco defensive end prospect, arrives Wednesday and will also visit Arizona State this weekend. Ayeni will be in town Friday for the banquet. They want to play together at the next level if possible.

ESPN 300 commit Derick Roberson, out of San Antonio Brennan, has the potential to play right away, and Texas will keep pushing for Solomon Thomas. But guys who can enroll in January are a must now.

3. Running back

Next season, Texas will enter fall camp with two senior running backs and a junior, Johnathan Gray, who might not be healthy until August following a torn Achilles. That has made taking three running backs in this class a priority. Three are currently committed, but it’s an interesting group.


D’Onta Foreman , (Texas City, Texas/Texas City) had a huge senior year, but could be a close call in terms of qualifying. Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas/Newton) suffered a spinal injury this fall that could end his playing career. Longtime pledge Donald Catalon (Houston/Eisenhower) is solid, but has shown potential as a DB as well.

So Texas is looking. Two names to keep an eye on are Corey Avery, the Dallas Carter teammate of pledge Cameron Hampton, and recent Arizona State decommitment Darrel Williams (Marrero, La./Ehret).

4. Defensive back

Of the many ESPN 300 targets still uncommitted, you’d have to say Jamal Adams is at the top of Texas’ board. Tony Brown is a high priority, too, but Adams is a must-get. He’d play right away and possible even start for the Longhorns in 2014.

Adams keeps to himself when it comes to this process, but at the moment this seems to be a battle between Florida, LSU and Texas. Texas already has two safety pledges in Jason Hall (Grand Prairie, Texas/South Grand Prairie) and John Bonney (Houston/Lamar), but Adrian Phillips is set to graduate and the Longhorns haven’t exactly received consistent play from their other safeties this season.

5. Defensive tackle

This priority gets bumped down the list after four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) announced his commitment to Texas on Monday, but Texas isn’t done shopping at this spot.

Longtime four-star commit Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) has taken official visits to UCLA, Arizona State and Ole Miss this fall. Since Lealaimatafao is looking around, so will Texas. The Longhorn staff must operate under the assumption he’s no longer committed. If Lealaimatafao doesn’t reaffirm his pledge this weekend at the banquet, don’t be surprised if Texas pursues other options, including at the junior college level.

Henderson, Jake McMillon (Abilene, Texas/Abilene) and Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) are solid, but losing Chris Whaley and the transfer of Ashton Dorsey made this spot a need, and 2012 signees Paul Boyette Jr. and Alex Norman haven’t panned out.
It’s been an interesting recruiting ride for four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview). It came to an end on Monday afternoon.

And once the ride stopped, Longhorns fans rejoiced.


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Big 12 class rankings analysis 

December, 4, 2013
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Oklahoma State, on the field, is one of the hottest teams in the country. From a recruiting standpoint, the Cowboys also have been making waves and this week managed to crack the top 25 of the RecruitingNation class rankings. Oklahoma State, with some assistance from the release of the ESPN Junior College 50, moved up to No. 24.

Aside from Oklahoma State, there wasn’t much movement from Big 12 schools. Texas held on to the No. 8 spot, and Baylor remained at No. 16. Oklahoma slipped a spot, from No. 22 to No. 23, and Texas Tech stayed at No. 36. Here's a look at the conference's rankings Insider.

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Big 12 class ranking analysis 

November, 20, 2013
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There were no changes from last week for Big 12 teams in the RecruitingNation class rankings, but with December rapidly approaching -- and with the Thanksgiving holiday next week -- look for a potential shakeup, as more uncommitted, high-profile targets announce their college futures.

Texas, at No. 8, still holds the top spot from the conference. Baylor is No. 16, followed by Oklahoma (No. 22), Oklahoma State (No. 27) and Texas Tech (No. 35). Per our Big 12 rankings, West Virginia holds down the sixth spot in the conference, followed by Kansas, TCU, Iowa State and Kansas State.

Here is a more in-depth look at the Big 12 class rankings:

Trending up: This is right around the time when Oklahoma sees a spike in its recruiting, and the timing has been right on schedule. The Sooners have landed five commitments in the month of November, the latest being junior college outside linebacker Devante Bond (Roseville, Calif./Sierra College). In previous years, Oklahoma has started slow and finished strong in recruiting, and there are still a few top-ranked players available. Among the ESPN 300 athletes are cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell), running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) and Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla./Jenks).


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

November, 18, 2013
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While Kansas broke its recruiting slump, Oklahoma managed to pick up two players on Sunday. One of them filled a huge need.

There were several other updates involving Big 12 targets from this weekend, including one four-star athlete announcing when he will make his final decision. That player said he most likely will end up in the Big 12.

Here are some of last week’s highlights:


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Early Offer: Targeting top Texans 

November, 13, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Wednesday's offerings: Some of the best football in the country is played in East Texas, so it’s no surprise to see two of the area’s top uncommitted prospects have become hot targets with recruiters; RecruitingNation played 20 questions with five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan on Tuesday, and it might surprise you to find out where he said he enjoyed visiting the most; and will four-star offensive tackle Frank Ragnow stay in the Midwest?

East Texas stars become hot targets
Longview High four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson and three-star athlete Kevin Shorter of Newton are two of the best players in East Texas and are emerging as two of the top remaining prospects on the board in the Lone Star State. Henderson, who is the No. 36 defensive tackle, has already visited Texas Tech officially, and he tweeted Monday that his top three schools are Texas, Baylor and Tech and then said he had no order. Shorter, a longtime Texas commit, also took to Twitter and said he would be taking official visits despite his pledge to the Longhorns. Shorter, the No. 54 athlete, said he was going to visit UCLA, Arkansas, Texas A&M, UT and FSU. While he does remain pledged to the Horns, insiders believe Arkansas is a major threat in his recruitment.

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