The Hurry-Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.
Henderson “wants to be the greatest player in the world”
In last night's Hurry-Up mailbag, I wrapped the piece up by answering a reader's question of what sort of competition five-star running back TreVeyon Henderson plays against as the star of Hopewell (Va.) High School.
On Tuesday morning, though, I had an interview with Hopewell head coach Richard Irby, and Irby gave us some more insight into the Blue Devils and their schedule and just how impressive Henderson was in 2019.
“We’re a 3A school in Virginia. We’ve got a little over 1,000 kids. We’re right here in Richmond, and there aren’t a lot of other 3A schools here,” Irby told Eleven Warriors. “So our schedule, we play a lot of bigger schools, and he just dominates everybody. We played teams like Thomas Dale (in Chester, Va.), and that’s a 6A state title contender pretty much every year. Tre does it against everybody that we play – bigger schools; it doesn’t really matter. Just to watch him and the way he plays has been unbelievable.”
What makes Henderson's junior campaign even more impressive is that it was his first as a full-time running back. He was a receiver and safety during his first two seasons and only had 30 carries for 312 yards rushing and five touchdowns as a sophomore. Those numbers ballooned to 2,424 yards rushing and 45 touchdowns on 198 carries as a junior. He put up those numbers on just 13.2 carries per game.
“Tre was fine just being an all-purpose player,” Irby said. “Then we started putting the ball in his hands, and the more and more we did that, the more and more he amazed us with what he could do on the football field.
“His competitive drive – his fire that he has in him to compete – is something that I can’t teach. The kid’s an unbelievable talent, but he has the work ethic and drive to be the greatest. He wants to be the greatest player in the world is what his goal is. Super, super high character. Top percentile in leadership. Accountability. His work ethic is probably second to none of any kid that I’ve coached.”
“We've never had anybody quite like this”
Henderson is the younger brother of Ronnie Walker, a two-time all-state player for Irby at Hopewell, who played two seasons at Indiana before recently entering the transfer portal.
When Henderson was in middle school, Irby and the rest of the Hopewell coaches knew he had some of the same gifts as his older brother, and they “knew right away that Tre was special.”
Now, he's proving them right, as the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder is the nation's No. 2-ranked running back and No. 17-ranked overall player in the 2021 class. He was previously ranked No. 101 overall, but his recruiting profile and his recruitment itself have each blown up over the past several weeks.
Ryan Day, Dabo Swinney, Lincoln Riley, Kirby Smart, James Franklin, Mack Brown, Justin Fuente, Bronco Mendenhall and Neal Brown are just a handful of head coaches that Irby recalls filling the halls of Hopewell during the January contact period. On Irby's estimate, there were anywhere from 15 to 20 college coaches at the school each day in January, with 5-10 head coaches making the visit.
“It’s been different,” Irby says with a laugh. “We’ve got some guys who have come through here who are SEC, ACC and Big Ten players. But we’ve never had anybody quite like this.”
Throughout all of it, Irby says Henderson has never wavered in his mindset or gotten cocky. Not even after last week, when he won the school's first-ever state championship in boys track, a program that is just starting to take off at Hopewell.
“He really is the exact same kid,” Irby said. ”Tre stays humble. He’s a 4.5 GPA kid. He makes straight As. He’s made one B, and that was in middle school. He’s an A student. He’s really serious about his grades and his academics. Everything he does, he wants to be great at. There’s no other way to describe him. ... Even after he’s gotten all the offers, he’s been such a humble kid. It just motivates him to try and work even harder. To see that and to have that from your best player is pretty cool.
“He’s just stayed the same. He’s the same kid. I may be a little biased, but I think he’s not only the best running back in the country. I think he’s the best player.”
Start of recruitment, Clemson calling
Ohio State has been in the running for Henderson largely by way of Al Washington. The Buckeyes' linebackers coach originally recruited Henderson to be a defensive back during his days at Michigan. Their relationship extends back to Henderson's freshman year, and Washington visited Hopewell to see Henderson during his sophomore season.
When Washington got to Ohio State, he got the ball rolling as a member of the Buckeyes by getting on the phone with Irby soon after arriving in Columbus. That's when it started becoming clear that Henderson's future would be on offense, and Tony Alford soon began forming a relationship with Henderson. (Alford also visited Hopewell in January, in addition to Day.)
“He’s still wide open to what he’s gonna do, and he’s really taking his time. I think that’s a good thing. He wants to take as many visits as he can before he narrows it down.”– Hopewell head coach Richard Irby on RB TreVeyon Henderson
What Ohio State and its coaches discovered is something that Clemson has discovered more recently than the Buckeyes – that Henderson's best fit will not be as a defensive back.
”Originally, yes, that’s where they offered him at,” Irby said when asked if Clemson was still recruiting Henderson to play defense. “But they’ve changed it up, and they’ve said he can play wherever he wants to play for him. They were originally recruiting him as an athlete. If he wants to play running back, they’ll let him play running back. If he wants to play defensive back, they’ll play him at DB. If he wants to return kicks, they’ll have him do that. That’s the message they have for him now.”
Henderson was originally slated to make a trip down to Clemson this past weekend for the Tigers' latest Junior Day, one that featured high-priority Ohio State targets Troy Stellato, Jordan Hancock, Jakailin Johnson and Barrett Carter as big-time visitors.
However, transportation issues arose at the last minute, forcing Henderson to postpone the trip. He expects to get down there at some point later this spring.
In the meantime, what's next for Henderson are unofficial visits to Virginia on March 20, North Carolina on March 24 and eventually an unofficial visit to Ohio State for the April 11 spring game. That's in addition to official visits he has set up with Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas (he wants to take his official visits to schools further away).
On these visits, Henderson is seeking answers on a lot of things. He wants to get a feel for the program and the people/players he's going to be around, the school's academics, build stronger relationships with coaches, and, of course, figure out how the program utilizes its running backs.
Henderson is already very familiar with Ohio State and the Buckeyes' running backs situation. He knows they are thin at the position right now and into the future, and he knows they are looking to take two running backs in his class. Ohio State's goal matches up with what Henderson is hoping to have in his future college program.
“Tre’s a kid who’s interested in going somewhere that plays multiple backs and not just somewhere where he has to be the only guy to carry the ball,” Irby said.
“He's still wide open”
Henderson has great relationships with Alford and Day, but he has those types of relationships with coaches from a lot of schools. That's what is going to make it tougher for Henderson to make a college decision, one that he is most likely to make either late in the summer or just prior to his senior season starting.
With his older brother's experience in the recruiting process to lean on, Henderson and his family are familiar with the ins and outs of the recruiting game. That's also going to help him eventually make a decision.
“He’s still wide open to what he’s gonna do, and he’s really taking his time,” said Irby, noting that Henderson will be an early enrollee at whichever school he chooses. “I think that’s a good thing. He wants to take as many visits as he can before he narrows it down. He wants to make sure he’s 100 percent sure. He doesn’t wanna cut any schools off that he feels might be a fit for him. He’s really taking his time. He’s a very cerebral kid. He’s a straight-A student.”