Despite the camps, the scouting, the rating services, the countless hours of film, recruiting high school players to first-rate collegiate football programs is a bit of a crap shoot. We all know of underrated high school players who became stars at the next level. (I’m thinking of someone named “Chris.”) And we can name “can’t miss” five-stars who . . . well, missed, or at least didn’t pan out for one reason or another.
TreVeyon Henderson, even with his lofty rating and eye-boggling film (who are those really slow guys that he’s playing against?), was something of a risk. When Virginia high schools moved the 2020 season back to the spring (2021) because of COVID-19, Henderson gave up his senior year and enrolled for the spring term at Ohio State. A defensive player until his junior season, Henderson had really only a single year of running back experience. A bit of a gamble, maybe.
I know that three weeks, three games provide only a small sample. But it sure seems that we have enough information to say confidently that TreVeyon Henderson is one five-star who somehow should have earned that sixth star. Yes, according to 247Sports, Henderson was the top-rated running back in his class and the 11th player overall, at any position. As an aside, Buckeyes Quinn Ewers (#1), J.T. Tuimoloau (#2), Jack Sawyer (#6), Donovan Jackson (#7) and Emeke Egbuka (#9) ranked ahead of him. Six of the top 11 is a pretty good class!
Henderson committed to Ohio State on March 27, 2020. In addition to Henderson, Buckeye coaches were recruiting intently several other running backs. With Henderson’s record-setting performance against Tulsa fresh in our minds, I’d like to compare TreVeyon’s first three games with those of the other top running backs in his class. Let’s recap Henderson’s stats before we look at the others. Henderson has played in all three Buckeye games; in fact, he’s scored touchdowns in all three of the games. He’s rushed 38 times for 346 yards and a 9.1 yards per carry average. He has four TDs on the ground. Henderson’s caught three passes for 87 yards (29 yards per catch) and a touchdown – against Minnesota, when we got our first look at his breakaway speed.
Here are the other top running backs, the ten just behind Henderson in the 2021 class, ranked in 247Sport order.
- (33 overall) Donovan Edwards, Michigan
- (53) L.J. Johnson, Texas A&M
- (56) Will Shipley, Clemson
- (63) Camar Wheaton, Alabama
- (80) Armoni Goodwin, LSU
- (101) Evan Prior, Ohio State
- (111) Lovasea Carroll, Georgia
- (135) Trevon Cooley, Louisville
- (141) Kamarro Edmonds, North Carolina
- (179) Phil Mafah, Clemson
You’ll notice that Henderson’s teammate, Evan Prior, is in this list. The Buckeyes collected Prior’s commitment on March 16, 2020, just before Henderson’s. It’s impressive that Prior stuck it out, and I hope to see him get some touches.
Ohio State recruited a number of these backs, in addition to Henderson and Prior, especially Donovan Edwards. Edwards was a five-star, 5-11, 190 lb., player from West Bloomfield, Michigan. OSU offered him early – on September 22, 2018, when he was in Columbus for an unofficial visit. He made two more visits, one in the summer of 2019 and again on March 6, 2020 (just before Prior and Henderson made their OSU commitments). Ryan Day visited Edwards’s home on January 17, 2020. That’s heavy recruiting. Edwards had offers from everybody, but when Ohio State’s interest waned, he committed to Michigan on December 16, 2020. And it certainly appears that Edwards is the real thing. We’ll see him, of course, soon enough. But, in three games, he’s gained 117 yards on 15 carries (7.8 yard average) and scored two touchdowns. He’s a solid part of Michigan’s impressive run offense so far this season. He’s not bad, but not Henderson.
The Buckeyes also went after L.J. Johnson, offering him a scholarship in January, 2020. By the time that Johnson committed to A&M in February, 2021, Prior and Henderson had long been landed. Johnson was thought to be going to Texas before deciding on A&M. Playing behind two returning running back stars – Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane – Johnson has yet to play in 2021.
Will Shipley has played in all three of Clemson’s games and looks as though he’s the Tigers RB1. He’s got 33 carries and 175 yards for a 5.3 average. He’s picked up four touchdowns. In addition to three pass receptions (for 17 yards), Shipley has returned three kickoffs for a 21.7 yards/return average. Shipley committed to Clemson in May, 2020. OSU offered him, and he made an unofficial visit to Ohio State in October, 2019 before staying closer to home and becoming a Tiger.
Of the others, it appears that Ohio State made offers to Camar Wheaton (committed to Bama on 12/23/2020) and Lovasea Carroll (committed to Georgia on 4/9/2020). Many of them have not seen action yet this season.
Armoni Goodwin has played in one LSU game, carrying the ball twice for 23 yards. Trevon Cooley has appeared in all of Louisville’s games and has 33 yards rushing on 10 carries. He’s also pulled in two passes for 57 yards (28.5 average) and a TD. Lavasea Carroll played in UGa’s game against UAB but had no touches.
Joining Johnson with no action thus far are Camar Wheaton, Kamarro Edmonds, and Phil Mafah.
It sure looks as though Ryan Day and staff picked the right guy. First, he’s broken into the starting lineup the quickest. And it’s not as though he’s had no competition at the position. Williams has been great, and Teague has been good. Prior’s sitting in the wings. Henderson has just been better, much, much better. Henderson’s stats are way beyond those of the top competition, Edwards and Shipley.
It’s Henderson’s explosiveness that differentiates him from other backs. Even with limited experience watching him play, I feel my heart leap when he touches the ball. I expect him to go to the house. The excitement that he brings to the game, to the fans, is one very bright spot in what has, so far, been a tough season.