For years under Mario Cristobal, the Oregon Ducks were making it a priority to set up a stronger presence in the South. Following his departure, the Ducks lost verbal commitments from recruits in Alabama as well as Texas, almost evaporating their presence in the region.
However, Dan Lanning and his new staff look intent on ramping that back up, sending out numerous offers to 2023 and 2024 prospects, including sophomore Kavion Henderson from Leeds High School in Alabama.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound defensive lineman spoke about receiving the offer from Oregon and where he's at early in his recruitment.
"Oregon man, it was a dream come true," Henderson said of how he felt receiving the offer. "I’ve talked to my family, my teachers about Oregon. It just stands out. Oregon is a really good school for me. I know it's far from me but it doesn't matter."
The new coaching staff is only heightening Henderson's early interest in the Ducks.
"I always liked Oregon but I wasn't too sure about the coaching staff. Didn't have any connections. But when Coach [Dan] Lanning and Coach [Carlos] Lockyln got there I just knew I had to call coach."
And that's where Henderson's story gets interesting, specifically what led to him getting offered by Oregon. According to NCAA rules, coaches aren't allowed to call recruits or contact them first.
So what did Henderson do? He called Lanning consistently, hoping to get the new leader of Oregon Football on the phone.
"I just kept calling them. I called them each day of the week," he said. "I knew he was busy and hopefully he’d pick up the phone. I called him today [Wednesday] and he picked up and he was surprised."
When Henderson was offered on the FaceTime call, he was overcome with emotion.
"When he gave me the offer I was so shocked and excited I wanted to cry," he said. "It’s Oregon and I love Coach Lanning, one of my favorite. It was a blessing just to be on the phone with him."
Henderson offered some more specifics about what he likes about Lanning, who he met on the camp circuit while he was still at Georgia.
"I like the way he runs his defenses. I think he’ll be a better head coach. He’s got a swag about him that I like."
"I didn't get to tell him he was one of my favorite coaches but I hope he finds out. Know that I'm interested in the college and him."
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Being such a young player, Henderson still has a long way to go in his recruitment, but he's already taken a number of visits to schools with elite football programs.
"I’ve visited Michigan, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Georgia Tech over the summer."
Looking ahead he'll be at Arkansas this weekend but has a couple schools he's been anxious to check out for a long time.
"My dream school is definitely LSU. Oregon was actually my second," Henderson said. "LSU I plan to take a visit there. I definitely plan on taking a visit to Oregon this summer and a lot of other schools once I get my summer camp list made."
Henderson spoke about how many of his peers grow up wanting to stay in-state for their college football, but the key for programs like Oregon making progress in the South may not be so complicated after all.
"If a college is interested in me, I will be interested in them. Especially at this age, show me that you want me now just gives you a lead on everybody. I'm glad Coach Lanning did that, that’s really big."
On film, what stands out about Henderson is his motor, quickness and physicality at the line of scrimmage. Also, he has great pursuit of the ballcarrier and not many players can get away from him if they're within reach.
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