The top uncommitted prospect in the state of North Carolina is headed to Clemson. KJ Henry revealed during the first day of the early signing period that he will play for the Tigers. He chose them over Georgia, Virginia Tech and South Carolina.
Official visits to all four finalists preceded his announcement. (A planned official trip to Alabama was called off.) Henry had indicated the week before his decision that his recruitment could be affected by whether his father, Keith, the running backs coach at Charlotte, was hired by one of his finalists. Still, in the lead-up to Wednesday, the Tigers, having already landed the top overall defensive end in the class of 2018 in IMG (Fla.) Academy’s Xavier Thomas, were viewed as the frontrunners to reel in Henry.
Henry played basketball and football at West Forsyth High in North Carolina, the alma mater of nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul. Although Henry is known primarily for his football prowess, he previously competed on Paul’s grassroots basketball program, Team CP3. On the gridiron this fall, Henry helped lead West Forsyth to an 11–1 record and was selected to participate in the Under Armour All-America Game. He rates as the No. 3 weakside defensive end and No. 8 player overall in the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Henry becomes the fourth player in the top nine of 247Sports' Composite ranking to commit to Clemson, joining quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Thomas and offensive tackle Jackson Carman. Henry and Thomas are a formidable pair of edge rushers, and securing commitments from two of the top four defensive ends in the country is a terrific haul for Dabo Swinney. Both players' recruiting was handled by Clemson's Danny Pearman.
Clemson has a strong defensive line pedigree, with NFL stars Vic Beasley and Shaq Lawson among its recent alumni. The defensive line unit on this year's Clemson team, which plays Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal, was arguably the best in the country—three of the four first team All-ACC defensive lineman (Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence) play for the Tigers. Henry will have to fight with other blue-chip guys for playing time, but the lengthy, athletic edge rusher has the talent to be next in a long line of great Clemson defensive linemen.