Not long after Ohio State landed one of the nation's best running backs in Evan Pryor, the Buckeyes put a massive stamp on their 2021 haul at the position by receiving a commitment from five-star Hopewell (Va.) High School's TreVeyon Henderson today.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder is rated as America's second-best running back and 17th-best overall player, joining Pryor's billing as the No. 6 back and No. 85 overall player.
Now boasting the best running backs haul in the nation, we take a look at what else Henderson's commitment brings to the Buckeyes on and off the field as the third-highest ranked running back (out of 21, with Beanie Wells at No. 1) that the program has landed since 2001:
On the field
Henderson's going to be incredible.
His junior season highlight tape is more than 15 minutes long. We watched the entire film, but it only takes two clips to be impressed with him and six clips to be confident in that opinion.
In the very first play, Henderson showcases just about everything a Power 5 program wants in a running back. He's not going to be a quarterback, but in that Wildcat formation for head coach Richard Irby's offense, he shows off his vision by quickly reading the defense, fluidity by planting his foot in the ground and laterally snapping on a dime (changing direction smoothly by barely picking his feet off the ground during the process), burst by going through a hole to make multiple defenders miss, and track speed by blazing up the sidelines 95 yards for a touchdown.
He used that same track speed (10.94 in the 100 meters was his personal record as a sophomore) to earn the first-ever state championship for Hopewell's boys track team, winning a title in the 55-meter dash during the 2020 indoor season with a run of 6.48 seconds (6.45 is his PR).
In the second clip, Henderson showed how he was able to win Virginia's Gatorade Player of the Year award as a junior, showing that quick bounce-step once again before sprinting past the line of scrimmage and using explosive acceleration to take off 65 yards to the end zone.
And in clip No. 6, he ad-libs once the play breaks down, reversing field and barely being touched en route to a score. He won't be able to do that often to college defenders, but the breakaway speed makes his improvisational skills even more difficult to game plan for.
“His competitive drive – his fire that he has in him to compete – is something that I can’t teach.”– Hopewell head coach Richard Irby on RB TreVeyon Henderson
Henderson finished with 3,195 all-purpose yards in 2019 (2,424 rushing; 283 receiving; 462 in the return game; 26 yards on three interceptions) and 53 total touchdowns (45 rushing; five receiving; two kick returns; one punt return), and he did so on an efficient 13.2 carries per game. That sort of usage will be in the cards again during his senior season, so he will come to Columbus with plenty of tread on his tires.
Midway through his highlight tape is when he shows off his receiver skills. While he's not a great route runner at this point in his career, he still shows off that great straight-line speed and combines it with solid hands and can bring down balls in traffic.
“I feel like I can play the same role J.K. (Dobbins) did,” Henderson told Eleven Warriors. “I bring in a lot of speed, I’m explosive, I’ve got good vision, I can catch out of the backfield. I can do all sorts of things.”
Henderson began his high school career as a receiver, and if he wanted to focus on being a defensive back (the position he was initially recruited for as a freshman and sophomore by Al Washington when Washington was at Michigan), he could probably develop into a Power 5 starter at that spot as well.
As a defender, he wasn't afraid to hit people or stick his nose into the play, and he'll bring that same toughness as a runner.
Henderson's high school team, which he led to a 15-0 record and a state championship last season, competes at the 3A level, which is in the middle of Virginia's 6A system. But Hopewell plays 6A teams out of Richmond and the surrounding areas, and Henderson was just as adept at playing those squads as the 3A schools.
He has a chance to get on the field immediately as a true freshman running back, but even if he doesn't, he will almost certainly be used in the return game on punts and kickoffs. Because if it takes him some time to develop as a back and learn the Buckeyes' system, that top-end speed and acceleration can still immediately be utilized on special teams.
Off the field
When I wrote about Henderson on March 10, I wrote about his academic prowess as one of the best students in his class. Irby said that Henderson has a 4.5 GPA, that he's a straight-A student and had only gotten one “B”, and that came in middle school. I accidentally wrote that he had gotten a “D,” and Henderson messaged me to say that it was, in fact, a “B” that he got in a science class.
The fact that he wanted to set the record straight on having gotten a B instead of a D is pretty exemplary of what Irby says about how he carries himself on and off the field.
“He’s really serious about his grades and his academics,” Irby told Eleven Warriors. “Everything he does, he wants to be great at. There’s no other way to describe him.
“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 and accountability. His work ethic is probably second to none of any kid that I’ve coached.”
“We’ve never had anybody quite like this.”– Hopewell (Va.) High School head coach Richard Irby
That work ethic is what helped him become the sixth running back who grew up in Virginia to appear on an Ohio State roster (Ricardo Volley, Ron Springs, James Gayle, Brian Smith and Trevor Robinson) and 12th Virginia high schooler to commit to the Buckeyes (a list that includes Fork Union running back alums Eddie George and Carlos Hyde, who are from Pennsylvania and Florida, respectively).
There's a reason that Day, Dabo Swinney, Lincoln Riley, Kirby Smart, James Franklin and Mack Brown (among 10-15 other head coaches) were filling the Hopewell halls every day during the January contact period to see him. He's a special player who's just as talented in the classroom, and that IQ should translate well to the field once he gets himself into a scarlet and gray uniform.
“It’s been different,” Hopewell head coach Richard Irby told Eleven Warriors in a March interview. “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.”
In the class
The on-field portion of this analysis was centered exclusively on Henderson's abilities. Now, when you pair it with who the Buckeyes already have in the class with Pryor, plus the quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen of the 2020 and 2021 classes, you're going to start getting the picture that Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson have a great chance of ensuring no future slowdown from what they're going to have this coming season.
On paper, the 2020 Buckeyes look like they'll have the most explosive offense in college football, even with the running back situation still a major question mark and concern.
In 2021 and 2022, they have positioned themselves to have no major transition issues if C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller or Kyle McCord develops at a good pace and live up to the projections of who they can be, and those offenses are shaping up to have the same potential as the 2020 group with the pieces it has.
With Henderson and Pryor, specifically, Day now has a laundry list of exciting possibilities of what plays he can draw up and matchups he can exploit. You can read more on what Pryor brings to the field here, but the four-star running back is a home-run threat with 4.42 speed in the 40 (10.8 seconds in the 100-meter dash) and elusiveness and pass-catching abilities that give him a major advantage over most linebackers in the slot and give him the ability to take advantage of a lot of cornerbacks.
Pair that with Henderson's skill set detailed above, and Big Ten defenses and College Football Playoff opponents will have to game plan for the Buckeyes' speedy two-back system in addition to the receiver crew.
“In the long run, I would say (having two backs) will benefit me by not having to take a lot of carries, especially at my position,” Henderson said. “You wouldn’t wanna take all those carries in college, that way you can still have some juice when you get to the NFL. So I think taking two backs is very helpful.”
Day can split Pryor and Henderson out wide on opposite sides of the field, line each of them up side-by-side in the slot in three-receiver sets to either side of the field, put one of them on the outside and one in the slot, put one in the slot/on the outside and the other in the backfield, or he could put both of them in the backfield on either side of Stroud, Miller or McCord.
“I think we will be a great duo,” Henderson said. “I think we’ll be a very great duo with me and him playing together. I think it’ll be very hard for teams to stop us together in the same backfield.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations. It’s been going on for a while. I’ve seen him down at Georgia when I was down there. Ever since then, we’ve been talking a lot.”
Welcome to the Brotherhood pic.twitter.com/MrkvsGddH9— Evan Pryor (@evanpryor3) March 27, 2020
There's also the possibility, if he wants, that Day could line up one as an H-back with the other in the backfield, or even go to a Wildcat formation with Henderson at quarterback, Pryor as one running back and Mookie Cooper as another in the backfield. The likelihood of that happening is very small, but it's still a fun idea to think about.
As far as the class itself goes, Henderson's commitment gives the Buckeyes 15 commitments with a total score of 280.61, which extends their lead even further over Clemson (220.98) for the nation's No. 1 class. Ohio State's per-player rating is now 0.9534, which is higher than the Buckeyes' lauded 2017 class (0.9459) that finished with the highest per-player average in the modern recruiting era.
This is Ohio State's third five-star commitment. No other team in the country has more than one.