Derrick Henry is a massive prospect.
As in 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, but also as in one of the best early recruits in the Class of 2013.
The rising junior running back out of Yulee, Fla., is a freakish athlete who set the nation’s top Nike SPARQ Rating (123.09) this March in Orlando with a 4.53-second 40 and a 38.5-inch vertical.
Henry held the nation’s top spot for a week before being topped by Nashville, Tenn., receiver Justin Batey. But Henry is the only junior in the Nike SPARQ top 20.
Many scouts and analysts look at his size and athleticism and see a future linebacker or defensive end. But Henry is determined to stick at running back and has 5,263 rushing yards and 65 touchdowns in two seasons to his credit.
“I’m just staying focused on running back,” he said at the Nike camp in Tallahassee in April. “That’s why I come to these camps and learn more. Being a big back, you get coaching. They tell me to keep my hips low, be crisp on my routes, work on pass protection. In college, pass protection is a big deal.”
Apparently, college coaching staffs see Henry as a running back, too. He already has over 50 offers.
Florida, Georgia, Florida State, Alabama and South Carolina are showing the most interest, he said, and the feeling is mutual. Henry lists those schools as his t0p five and speaks with enthusiasm about each.
But one school stands above the rest.
“I’m a Florida fan,” he said,”and they’ve got that new pro-style offense.”
Henry, who watched UF’s spring game on TV, was overjoyed when he saw the Gators bring in Charlie Weis and a new offense that was better suited for his talents.
“I felt ecstatic,” he said. “I said, ‘Whoa, Florida is back! Big backs are coming!’ They picked up Matt Jones, so that’s a big plus. We both could be there. Then I read articles about the running backs saying they liked the new pro-style offense. Chris Rainey said he liked it, he could see more. So that was really good.”
He has seen a lot growing up a Gator. From Steve Spurrier to Ron Zook to Urban Meyer, the new coach staff under Will Muschamp now has Henry extremely excited.
“When they won the national championship with Fred Taylor and all those guys, and just seeing how the Gator Nation has come so far,” he said. “From Urban Meyer picking it back up to going to the pro-style offense. You never know what could happen now.
“I’ve got faith in my team and always will have faith in the Gator Nation.”
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