Linebacker Khalid Henderson de-committed from Tennessee on Sunday night after saying he was encouraged to look at other schools by Volunteers coach Derek Dooley.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder from Pebblebrook High School had been committed to Tennessee since last summer. Everything was going smooth until about a week after he took his official visit with the Volunteers on Dec. 2. Henderson said he got a call from Dooley.
“Coach Dooley said there is a ‘possibility’ you might not be coming to Tennessee,” Henderson told the AJC. “He said you have two options: ‘You can stay committed to us, wait it out and see what other players do. Or you can de-commit and try to get some attention from other schools but that doesn’t mean you can’t come to Tennessee’ or whatever. He was very iffy about everything. He wouldn’t say anything concrete. He kept on using that word ‘possibility.’”
“I thought it was a bunch of crap. I guess if Tennessee is out there looking for other linebackers, then I can go find another place to go. Tennessee is where I wanted to go, and that’s where I’ve been loyal to ever since June. But it is what it is.”
Henderson is the third Georgia player to part ways with Tennessee within the last month. North Hall running back Imani Cross, who was the first commitment for Tennessee’s 2012 recruiting class, backed off the Volunteers after being committed for nearly a year because he said he was told by Dooley, “They hired a new RB coach from South Carolina and don’t know if he’s a Scat guy or Spread guy, so they were re-evaluating backs and that Imani should look around at other schools.” To read more, go here.
Columbia WR Keithon Redding de-committed from Tennessee on Monday (see bottom of the blog for details).
Back to Henderson: What went wrong with Tennessee? “Coach Dooley said he was worried about my weight. I’m at 205 pounds now and climbing, but I weighed in at 192 during my visit. The other coaches thought I was OK, but [Dooley] kept saying he wanted he wanted someone bigger. He said ‘I don’t want to have you in a situation where you come up here and not get any reps because another guy is bigger.’ That’s exactly what came out of his mouth.
“I really don’t know what he was trying to say. I feel like maybe he was trying to come up with a reason to run me off like they did with Imani. He was the first commitment for our recruiting class.”
After talking with Dooley, Henderson huddled with his family and friends over the holidays and decided to de-commit. “It’s too close to signing day to be having conversations about ‘possibilities.’ I need to see if I can get some attention from other schools. Maybe somebody else out there big-time or in the SEC wants me, and I can be a big asset to their program.”
Henderson said he will begin contacting colleges this week, but that he already has a scholarship offer from Ole Miss and heavy interest from UGA.
What about UGA? “The same day that I got off the phone with Coach Dooley when he was talking about the whole ‘possibility’ thing, I called the linebackers coach at Georgia, [Kirk Olivadotti]. Coach O picked up and said ‘Hey, I’m glad to hear from you because I was just talking about you to the other coaches. When we get back from the Outback Bowl, we’re going to start recruiting full force.’ Coach O said ‘I’m going to keep in touch with you and we’re going to talk about maybe setting up an official visit.’”
Henderson said he reached out to Olivadotti again on Saturday. “I feel good about something happening at Georgia. They only have one commitment at linebacker. Coach O said they like me because I’m a versatile and athletic linebacker.”
UPDATE: Keithon Redding, a WR from Columbia High School, de-committed from Tennessee on Monday after being pledged to the Volunteers since last summer. Redding said his decision was connected to longtime Tennessee WRs coach Charlie Baggett leaving the SEC program last month. “My relationship was with Coach Baggett, and I never really heard from Tennessee after he left,” Redding told the AJC. “I did talk one time to another assistant coach [Darin Hinshaw]. He said they needed some wide receivers from junior college to come in and make an impact. I just didn’t have a good feeling about the situation anymore. I talked with my family and my coaches, and their advice was to go somewhere where I could play, and where I wouldn’t have to redshirt or grayshirt.” Added Columbia coach Mario Allen, “Coach Baggett did a real good job of recruiting Keithon, and he was one of the main reasons that Keithon fell in love with Tennessee. Coach Baggett had a father-figure role and was good influence on Keithon. They had a great relationship. When Coach Baggett left, I think it took Tennessee a while to let Keithon know exactly what was going on, so he decided to open things back up.” Redding said he has an official visit scheduled for Ole Miss on Jan. 20, and is also working on setting up trips to Mississippi State and Kentucky.
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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