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5-star DE discusses why Penn State is still a contender for his commitment
KJ Henry carries nearly 30 college scholarship offers, enhancing expectations each time he steps onto the field. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound defensive end further justified his 5-star status Sunday when he spent the afternoon embarrassing offensive linemen at The Opening’s Charlotte (N.C.) regional camp.
Henry, representing his home state at the event, typically does damage in a West Forsyth High School uniform. He looked equally dominant Sunday in shorts and a T-shirt, evidenced in these first two reps of the video below.
— Final 5 (@Final5Linemen) May 8, 2017
Those 1-on-1 showdowns didn’t occur against just any local athlete attempting to make a name for himself. Henry is lined up across from Georgia OT Wanya Morris, a Florida State commit considered the No. 6 overall prospect at his position in 247Sports’ 2019 rankings.
Morris, still a sophomore, learned a lesson. Henry, heading toward his senior season, added to his highlight reel.
He later received an invitation to The Opening finals, an elite prospect showcase held in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike’s world headquarters.
Listed No. 2 among weakside DEs and No. 18 overall in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings, Henry began collecting bunches of offers in 2015. By the start of his junior campaign, most Big Ten and SEC powerhouses already entered the pursuit, and more recently West Coast schools such as Stanford and USC made “late” bids.
He moved a frenzied recruitment another step forward April 5, announcing a group of 10 favorite universities on Twitter:
— The KJ Henry (@ywd_ballislife) April 5, 2017
The collection includes representatives from four conferences — the ACC (Clemson, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech), the Big Ten (Penn State and Ohio State), the SEC (Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina) and, most eye-grabbing, Conference USA (Charlotte).
Now a month later, the Nittany Lions haven’t lost their footing in this race. Not surprisingly, it’s coach James Franklin who fuels the interest.
“The reason they made it in the top 10 was Coach Franklin,” Henry told my colleague Hale McGranahan of SEC Country. “He was one of the only head coaches to really step out of that title and be real with me, be cool with me, I guess.”
This echoes the “hands-on” approach discussed by multiple members of Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class during post-spring game conversations with Land of 10.
Henry still has intentions of spending time in State College.
“I definitely want to show him that same respect and definitely go visit up there,” he said.
This outlook should be received well in Happy Valley, where many fans remain frustrated by the recent de-commitment of fellow 5-star DE Micah Parsons.
The door isn’t closed on reconciliation with Parsons before National Signing Day, but the Penn State staff is obviously exploring alternative options. Considering his skill set and mutual interest, Henry likely lands near the top of Franklin’s 2018 “wish list.”
Ties to another member of the Nittany Lions staff could also prove pivotal. His father, Keith Henry, served as an assistant at Wake Forest when Penn State WRs coach Josh Gattis played for the Deamon Deacons.
“That relationship from a long time ago hits home as well,” KJ said.
Henry recorded 54 tackles — 24 for loss — 13 sacks and 4 blocked kicks as a junior en route to all-state honors, according to the Associated Press. His athletic prowess was also featured on the basketball court this past winter, per MaxPreps, when he averaged 15.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
He finished No. 2 among all linemen and No. 18 overall in Nike Football Rating (107.04) testing Sunday.
4-star WR target less than 50 days away from a college decision?
I wrote at length Monday morning for a column about Penn State’s primary WR targets, with added insight from Ronny Torres, The Opening’s director of player personnel for tight ends and receivers. In-state standout Shaquon Anderson-Butts made the list, and it looks like we’ll find out whether he’s headed to Happy Valley very soon.
The 6-1, 202-pound playmaker indicated a decision date Sunday night via Twitter:
June 25th save the date yall will find out where I will end up ????????
— quon (@anderson_quon) May 7, 2017
It’s important not to over-think things while digesting prospects’ thoughts on social media, but this sure seems like a sign that less than 50 days separate Anderson-Butts from a college commitment.
Ranked No. 55 among prospects at the position in composite 2018 rankings, the 4-star recruit recently added an offer from “childhood favorite” Florida. Other notable options include Baylor, Maryland, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
He attended Penn State’s spring game alongside the aforementioned Parsons, who is his teammate at Harrisburg (Pa.) High. The duo stuck around State College the entire weekend, even watching a Nittany Lions baseball game with Franklin and fellow 4-star WR Jahan Dotson.
Parsons ultimately de-committed that evening, adding an interesting dynamic to this recruitment as well. Though Anders0n-Butts is a unanimous pick among experts to sign with Penn State in the 247Sports crystal ball, the Nittany Lions are invested with several high school WRs and other schools could emerge as viable landing spots during this upcoming seven-week span.
As for Torres’ evaluation of Anderson-Butts, the key here is long-term potential.
“Shaquon is a big, physical kid, but definitely a raw athlete,” he said. “I still really like what that kid can become, especially based off his junior season tape.”
Anderson-Butts caught 38 passes for 779 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016, according to Brian Linder of PennLive.com.