Second thoughts, Derrick Henry?

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Derrick Henry runs at the Nike combine in Orlando in March. (Photo submitted by Derrick Henry)

The setting sun finally dips below the treeline, and an officials’ timeout gives everyone in the east stands a chance to collect themselves late in the first quarter.

The spotter in the public address announcer’s box atop the bleachers at Yulee, Fla., High School walks over to a reporter from Gainesville, Fla., and says with a wry grin, “It’s not over.”

Sure, he is wearing a Gator hat, but he’s watched just about every hand-off Derrick Henry has ever taken on that field.

He knows Derrick Henry.

On the first drive, Henry has nine carries for 47 yards and a touchdown, the first points in a contest between the Yulee Hornets and Gainesville Hurricanes. Henry carries the ball on nine of Yulee’s first 11 snaps. He is the Hornet offense.

He’s 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds of long, lean power, crashing into linemen and linebackers, finding seams in the defense when he can, running up the middle and occasionally bouncing the play out wide where he can punish tiny defensive backs for even trying to tackle him.

Henry is one of the elite athletes in the nation, regardless of class, and he’s showing why on this season-opening Friday night.

The spotter explains his initial statement.

“He got too excited up in Athens,” he says. “You’ll see. He’s gonna be a Gator.”

Henry, like the Yulee spotter, is a big Gator fan. Thus the certainty. But there is also plenty of confusion in the Gator Nation.

When Henry committed to Georgia at Dawg Nite on July 15 it surprised everyone, even his high school coach.

Everyone knew he was a Florida fan. He tuned into UF’s spring game on TV, said he was excited about the new pro-style offense and glowed about his chances to play in it.

Yulee Hornets head coach Bobby Ramsey attempted to make sense of the move when the two visited Gainesville for Friday Night Lights one week after Dawg Nite.

“I will say I do think he wanted to slow some things down,” Ramsey said. “Take that for what you will.”

Ramsay didn’t want to speak for his star tailback that night, but Henry had gone quiet after Dawg Nite. Until last Friday.

The game was a see-saw affair through three quarters. At the half, Henry had 18 carries, 125 yards and two touchdowns, including a 67-yard romp down the home sideline during which he brushed off a cornerback with ease. Gainesville adjusted during halftime, shifted some personnel and contained Henry in the second half. He finished with 181 yards on 32 carries in a 35-20 loss.

After a team meeting and some comments about the game he was ready once again to talk about recruiting, and about Florida.

“Oh yeah, I’m still considering them,” he said. “They’ve been recruiting me since the ninth grade. I’m a fan of the Gators, always wanted to play for them.

“I’m committed, but my options are still open. You only get this chance once. I’m going to take advantage of it.”

Henry said he will be at the Florida-Alabama game for an unofficial visit on Oct. 1 and plans to take in a Georgia game this season as well. He tried to explain where his heart and his head are, with Florida and Georgia on his mind.

For Gator fans like the Yulee spotter, Henry is at the center of a compelling yarn. “There’s a long way to go,” so many of them say.

But when it comes to making the big business decision of where to go to college, a prospect’s favorite team growing up often matters little.

Or does it?

Tim Tebow, he of the Gator mailbox and Danny Wuerffel poster in his bedroom, may have let emotion play a part in his decision to sign with Florida.

Could Henry still be a Gator at heart?

“Yeah, I’m a Gator fan,” he said. “Been a Gator fan since I was young. Nothing changed with Florida, I just committed to the Georgia Bulldogs. I’m still a Gator fan, still going to root for them. I just committed to another team.”

Clear as mud.

Henry said the decision to give his verbal pledge to Georgia coach Mark Richt was not a rash one. He had given it careful consideration.

“When I committed to Georgia, I knew it was the right decision to do,” he explained. “I like the players and all the staff. It felt like home.”

He said depth charts aren’t a factor at any school.

“Not at all,” Henry said. “I ain’t worried about competition or scared of competition, never been scared of competition.”

Henry said he wanted to commit early so he could focus on his season, on his grades and on tests. “I still have to get to college,” he said.

As Ramsey had foreseen, the effect of Henry’s verbal on his recruitment has been to lessen some of the constraints imposed by so many schools chasing after him. But the top contenders are still in the mix.

“I’m committed, so it’s calmed down a little bit,” Henry said. “Schools are still calling. My options are still open.

“(Florida coaches) said they’d still be recruiting me ’til the end.”

The end of the saga. That would be Feb. 6, 2013 when Henry signs his letter of intent.

Plenty of time for a few more twists and turns.

36 COMMENTS

  1. “I’m committed, but my options are still open.

    Then you really don’t know the meaning of the word committment. Wait too long and there won’t be a scolarship available. I doubt Coach Muschamp will be keeping his options open.

  2. I don’t think Richt makes it through the season, especially after a second lost to S.C. this weekend between the hedges, thats two home loses in a row with a team with such promising talent. But, then again Ga. has had talent for the last three years if you look at the recruiting charts. If anything those UGLY new uniforms they dressed the players in this past weekend should cost somebody a job. They embarassed the state of Ga. in front of two of the states icons, Hershell Walker and Evander Hollifield. Henry needs to get a spot while there is one available.

  3. No shame in changing your mind, it’s a huge decision to make. A degree from UF will take you a long way, and how can you go wrong with the NFL caliber coaching staff coach Muschamp has assembled. Coach Weis needs backs like you to run his pro-set attack. Good luck with your decision, and Go Gators!

  4. Derrick, I think Mike and Gator said it pretty well. Richt’s days at UGA are numbered, and you can’t count on them being there for you. Will Muschamp on the other hand, will be at UF for a long time, his team’s offense is well-suited to your talents, your heart tells you that you’d be happy in Gainesville and that picking UF is a decision you’d never regret. Go Gators!

  5. Derrick is a very big back but after watching his film he is not that fast which mean he slow for the SEC also hes playing against smaller schools that make him look that much better . i could c him as a great redzone back but if he continue 2 get better maybe he can be as good as lattimore from USC but if he keep playing games Muschamp will give that sholly to another back bc in 2013 the RB class is loaded!

  6. Try this for perspective: Boise State’s win over Georgia was diminished by a pundit who asked what kind of measurment is for the Broncos when they beat the #8 SEC team?

    UGA is on the way down like the Jim Donnan era or worse while UF had a sputtering year with lots of talent because Meyer wasn’t very involved.

    Henry will see Rainey and Demps going for huge stats and think that he will be combining those stats as the lone feature back and commit, especially with Driskell taking over next year.

  7. Commit: : to obligate or pledge oneself

    “I’m committed, but my options are still open.”

    “I still have to get to college,” he said.

    Given his lack of understanding of the meaning of the word commitment, it appears he really needs to work on getting into college.

    We don’t need a Timmy Jernigan sequel. Real Gators don’t commit to the Dawgs. Give the scholarship to a real Gator…

  8. Cut the kid a break. I’d love to see how you acted as a junior in high school. Remember these kids have to look at what’s best for them. Remember the Pounceys? They were nole fans. I think Henry will eventually go to UF and i’m hoping he does, but i’m just saying to give him a little break.

  9. GatorsEverywhere is ABSOLUTELY correct. Gee whiz fellas, the kid is a 17 year old JUNIOR in high school and you want him to act like a mature adult. Did you forget that you were 17 once? The “if youre not a gator, youre gator bait” thing doesnt scare a true ball player in case he did read this post. The kid needs to enjoy his last 2 years of high school and if he wants to be a Gator, let him come on to Gainesville and welcome him with open arms!!!

  10. If you aint a gator then you are gator bait is retarded. RECRUITING IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF A PROGRAM, AND THE KID IS ONLY A JUNIOR. How much bait did we take under Zook? We need players so stop with all the threatening comments to high school recruits!

  11. Cut the guy some slack for christ sake! He is a 16 year old kid with a life changing decision in front him. I doubt any of you had your future figured out at that age. If he wants to come to Florida, then he’ll come to Florida……. and exactly how many spots are still available for the 2013 class – All of them. There is plenty of time.

  12. Cory,
    What are you doing on a gator site? Noles are entertaining enough for you? get outta here.

    Jeff,
    If UGA loses to USC(east) and has a similar record as last year, do you think we could lead for Josh Harvey-Clemons?

  13. Let’s hear his time in the 40? A tall, “slow” back won’t even beat the competition.
    His UF diploma & right-type national exposure will serve his life better than a Georgia diploma. For his best sake I hope he chooses the GatorNation, but
    our ground game won’t be thrown for a loss if he doesn’t..

  14. Jeff,
    Nice article. What’s on Tracy Howard’s mind wright now? I’m not worried about RB. 2013 is going to be RB heavy. With so many DB on UF’s mind, we might be trying to get to a 3-2-5 scheme. What do you think?

  15. Juvenile NPD strikes again! I suppose he will string it out past signing day then call a national press conference to announce his choice during which he will play the hat game only to finally unveil his real choice by ripping open his shirt to expose the school’s logo on a t-shirt ala Mucus, er, Marcus Stroud.

  16. Gator Fans……Its about who actually is on the field for the Gators! All this conjecture about recruits is meaningless!!!! Like Will said in his opening statement when he took over” We are only interested in the ones that come here! The others we will at most only face once a year!!!!!”
    We are a program that took a year off!!!!! To reload/retool!!!!
    The others are trying to get to where we have already been!!!
    In short…Game one was a fantastik preview of coming attractions!
    We run ,we pass, we defend, we block kicks and our guys are coached by guys that have been at the Highest level….
    You could see the system unfold on the field….Everyone pretty much knew what they were doing!!
    I predict this is going to be one heck of an offense and a lights out defense!
    Lets see what this offense looks like when they install all the rest of the pieces and start blitzing from everywhere and stuff the run…
    As for Georgia…..Their coach is a class act…but the Gator Star is on the rise and lets get ready for another run!!!!
    Go Gators!1
    Gator Bob in Jupiter Florida..

  17. For those wanting to know he’s 40 time, he ran 4.45 laser time at the Opening a Nike sponsored event in Oregon. If that isn’t fast enough for a 6’3″ 235lb back I don’t know what is. So for those of you saying he’s not fast enough for the SEC you may need to reconsider your talent evaluation skills.

  18. We all know him as shocka. He really is a good kid. Thats right a kid!!! So let him be a kid. I see all the negative comments being said about the young man with a life decision to make and have one conclusion, they say gators like to chomp, right now they are acting like A bunch of chumps! I think you all just need to worry about more pressing matters.State still has too come to tow. Go noles!!!

  19. I must say it was funny to reread this and see all the predictions of CMR being fired from UGA and then know so many Gator fans have turned on CWM and his seat is hotter than CMR’s seat…

    Welcome to Athens Derrick, can’t wait to see you between the hedges!

    ————————————————————————–
    We run ,we pass, we defend, we block kicks and our guys are coached by guys that have been at the Highest level….
    You could see the system unfold on the field….Everyone pretty much knew what they were doing!!

    I predict this is going to be one heck of an offense and a lights out defense!

    LMAO!