Michigan State captain Xavier Henderson is returning to East Lansing for the 2022 season, the senior safety announced via Twitter on Thursday afternoon.
Henderson was the Spartans' leading tackler in 2021, and the most consistent and reliable member of the oft-criticized Michigan State secondary. The senior safety had 94 tackles, including 10 for loss and 3 sacks. Henderson also forced a fumble, had an interception and two pass breakups this year.
Despite already playing for four years, Henderson has a year of eligibility remaining due to the free year given by the NCAA in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Big Ten Conference's media and coaches recognized Henderson's play in 2021, as the senior earned third team All-Big Ten by the media, honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches.
Henderson's decision comes as a bit of a surprise, given his status as a senior and the fact that he played well enough to garner a look from professional teams. However, in a lot of ways, it mirrors the decision made on Tuesday by MSU wide receiver Jayden Reed.
With their returns, the goal for these two players (and the program as a whole) is without a doubt to win a Big Ten Championship in 2022. Decisions like these aren't made unless players feel like they have more to accomplish in the college ranks.
With Henderson occupying one of the safety positions, Cal Haladay returning at a linebacker position, and various options along the defensive line, Michigan State will have the structure in place to improve on the defensive side of the ball in Mel Tucker's Year 3. That's a major factor in determining whether the Spartans will be contenders for a conference crown next season.