New Columbus coach breaks down some of his high-profile recruits
The start to spring practice this year came with a long delay for Xzavier Henderson. In addition to being a four-star wide receiver, Henderson is also a state champion in track and field. On May 4, Henderson blazed through a 400-meter dash in 46.77 seconds to win the Class 4A championship in Jacksonville and lead Columbus’ boys to the 4A team title.
As soon as he finally got out to the practice field in Miami, the rush of college coaches began. In the first week of his practices with the Explorers, coaches from the Miami Hurricanes, Clemson Tigers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats all headed out to Columbus to watch the 6-3, 180-pound athlete work.
It’s impossible for Henderson right now to claim any clear leaders in his recruitment because he plans to be as patient as possible with his decision. Henderson’s school doesn’t give him the option to early enroll, so the rising senior currently plans to wait until National Signing Day in 2020 to make any sort of a commitment.
“I plan on narrowing it down this summer to about a top 10, I would say — a top five or top 10,” Henderson said last Friday in Miami, “but other than that I’m still waiting until Signing Day.”
Before he cuts down his list, Henderson wants to check out a handful of Southeastern Conference programs he hasn’t seen yet, including the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs, LSU Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers. The schools, all of which waited until the winter to offer scholarships, will get chances to make up ground on all the others currently pushing hardest for the blue-chip athlete.
The No. 131 overall prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the Class of 2020, Henderson has already gone out of state to visit Clemson and Georgia Tech. He has taken multiple trips to see Florida, where older brother CJ Henderson is a star cornerback, and the hometown Hurricanes. Right now, those four are reaching out to Henderson more than anyone else with a variety of similar pitches.
Clemson’s pitch to wide receivers is always compelling. With Jeff Scott as wide receivers coach, Clemson has had a wide receiver taken in six of past seven NFL Drafts, including three first-round selections. In the 2019 NFL Draft, Hunter Renfrow, a former Clemson walk-on wide receiver, was taken in the fifth round.
“He’s already selling me on the next round, trying to get me as a first-round wide receiver,” Henderson said. “He said I have potential.”
The Gators are emphasizing the early opportunity Henderson will get and not making his older brother part of the pitch at all. Two of Florida’s projected starting wide receivers are seniors, and three more on the two-deep depth chart are draft-eligible juniors.
“It actually has nothing to do with my brother since he’s going to be gone, so they’re telling me that they’re going to have four [wide receivers] leaving after next year, and I could come in and start as a freshman, play as a freshman,” Henderson said. “They want me a part of their system.”
Miami and the Yellow Jackets both have something to prove in 2019, with new coaches at the helm and overhauled offensive systems. Georgia Tech, which made three-star Explorers wide receiver Kalani Norris the centerpiece of its Class of 2019, will transition from a triple option to a pro-style offense in 2019, so it’s impossible for Henderson to know how he will feel about the Yellow Jackets come the fall.
The Hurricanes’ changes are smaller with Manny Diaz taking over as coach and Dan Enos as offensive coordinator. Enos, who is also Miami’s new quarterbacks coach, will be the crux of the Hurricanes’ appeal to most of the offensive players they’re targeting. In 2018, Enos was the quarterbacks coach at Alabama while Tua Tagovailoa finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy and rewrote the Crimson Tide’s record book. Henderson’s most recent visit came in March with a trip to Coral Gables for junior day, where he got a one-on-one meeting with the new coordinator.
“I had a sitdown with him on one of the junior days. He’s a very good guy. He brought some of that Bama offense in,” Henderson said. “The new coaching staff — they’re very enthusiastic. They’re trying to get me to join ‘The New Miami.’ They’re a very good group of guys, a good staff.”
There’s no rush for Henderson, though. The coming months will be critical, but so too could the fall.
“I’m actually still looking for what I want to see. To me in my eyes, there’s no wrong pick. All schools have the good academics, all schools have the good athletics. I could go to any school right now and be great. It’s just about finding the right place.”