Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. In this edition, we discuss the latest with 5-star defensive end KJ Henry.
Alabama strongly in the mix for KJ Henry
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — KJ Henry admits that if you were to ask last year which school he thought he would have ultimately signed with when it came time to decide, he would have said Clemson.
His recruitment has evolved since then.
That’s not to say Clemson shouldn’t be considered a top contender to land his services. The Tigers are absolutely in the mix and are likely the favorites to land the 5-star defensive end from West Forsyth High School (Clemmons, N.C.) when he signs during the early signing period in December.
“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 told DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell. “That’s not the case. I don’t know where I am going. Things change. You know within these next couple of months [that] 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.”
Over the past year, Henry has broadened his focus to a top 10 that includes Alabama, Georgia, Louisville, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and UNC-Charlotte. His father, Keith, is the running backs coach at Charlotte, which is why the 49ers made the cut for a 5-star prospect.
From talking to multiple people close to the Alabama program, they believe it’s an Alabama-Clemson race to land Henry’s signature. The nation’s No. 2 weakside defensive end explained why the Crimson Tide are in a good position with him.
“[Alabama outside backers] Coach [Tosh] Lupoi, honestly,” Henry told SEC Country. “I have a great relationship with him.
“I talk to him at least once a week. He’s a great guy. I really like talking to him. Obviously, what he’s done with that program at that position is very exciting.”
The 6-foot-5, 234-pound prospect is being recruited by Alabama as a JACK, which is a hybrid of defensive end and outside linebacker with an emphasis on pass rushing. The Crimson Tide signed Chris Allen as a JACK in the Class of 2017 and grayshirt prospect Jarez Parks will be one, too, when he officially gets going with the team.
Henry also has the ability to play as a defensive end, where depth isn’t too deep. It’s something that Lupoi has stressed to him.
“That’s kind of the secret right now with a good team like that,” Henry said. “It’s not that deep on the defensive line. With that program, early playing time is not really a necessity. You really only need one good year to make it to the league. They have definitely let me know about that.”
Even if depth was a problem at Alabama, his father said it will not be an issue for his son.
“Alabama is recruiting Keith hard,” he said. “With him, I just think Alabama is Alabama. But their tradition and reputation and the players they have every year are just not going to bother him. KJ is going to go wherever he wants to go and he is just going to compete. Alabama’s depth won’t matter.
Henry will visit Penn State this summer. It’s the only planned trip he has and it’s the only school in his top 10 that hasn’t been visited yet. He plans on cutting his top 10 to a top 5 by Aug. 1. Those are the schools that will receive official visits.
Alabama will make the cut for him.
“It’s really a great place to be,” Henry said. “They have a great winning tradition. As long as they keep on doing what they’ve been doing and don’t slip up, they’ll be in the mix.”
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