Continuing the theme of #DLU, Clemson got the commitment of one of the best defensive ends in the class of 2018 when KJ Henry announced his commitment to the Tigers. Henry remained uncommitted until today, but most experts pegged him as a Clemson Tiger over the last several months.
Henry comes to Clemson from Clemmons, North Carolina, and he is a big man at 6’5” 235 lbs. He’s a 5-star blue chip prospect and the third best DE in the class of 2018. One of the players above him you may have heard of, Xavier Thomas. 247 rates Henry at .9948. Clemson’s main competition for Henry came from UGA and Virginia Tech and Danny Pearman is Henry’s primary recruiter.
With Henry Clemson solidifies a position that could have some real attrition this year. Expect Henry to contribute early at Clemson and with him and Thomas the Clemson DL should be as fearsome as ever.
You get one 5* DE on the strongside. Why not add in a 5* prospect on the weakside?
KJ is kind of the opposite of Xavier Thomas from a recruiting perspective. XT is more of the sure thing after a dominant year at IMG Academy. Henry is all about his potential and upside. Coaches couldn’t help but drool over his wingspan and ceiling. Shoot, I couldn’t help but drool myself.
As a defensive end Henry relies on his speed and quickness, blowing past offensive lineman in camp settings and as a sophomore and even a junior. The first time I saw him run into any trouble was at The Opening where he needed to show off a more diverse array of pass moves since the lineman were elite and could keep up with him to a certain extent. He struggled at times. His senior year he played more of a hybrid LB/DE position, which didn’t seem to help his progression as a DE.
At Clemson he will play like Austin Bryant at WDE and be an athletic player coming off the edge who occasionally drops into space to cover the flats (Ferrell does as well) or over a bunch formation. You can envision Henry grabbing a one handed interception like Bryant did against VT—that is what I believe BV sees for Henry and what he was sold on. Henry has the athleticism and skill to get to that point.
But Henry will need to become a more complete player at the collegiate level. Clemson likes their DEs in the 260 range. I know folks will say, but Vic Beasley played at 240, but he wasn’t 6’6 and didn’t have the frame of Henry who should be able to play at 250-260 (and the coaches did want Vic around 250 to improve his rush defense). Henry needs to gain another 10-15 pounds without losing his quickness and agility. He needs to add to his pass rush repertoire and continue to add strength.
If he can do that he will be a situational pass rusher and then as he matures a cyborg werewolf of extreme wingspan. This should result in another first round defensive end talent.