September 5, 2015; Pasadena, CA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers running back Olamide Zaccheaus (33) runs the ball against the defense of UCLA Bruins linebacker Myles Jack (30) during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
UCLA picked up a commitment for the class of 2017 on Thursday night, as it went across the country to grab the verbal pledge of linebacker Jaquan Henderson from Georgia.
Rarely does one expect recruiting news to break on the East Coast in the wee hours of the night, but one Bruin recruit just couldn’t wait any longer to make a big announcement. Continuing a recent run of defensive commitments, UCLA and Bruins linebackers coach Scott White dipped way into the future to snag the verbal commitment of 2017 composite 3-star linebacker Jaquan Henderson (Covington, GA/Newton).
Henderson, who is rated as a 4-star linebacker and Top 300 prospect in the class of 2017 by Scout.com, is an uber-athletic linebacker prospect whose recruitment is another in a long line of Scott White specials. White, who is one of the most avid scouts and sharpest evaluators of high school talent in the college coaching ranks, was the first coach in the country to believe in Henderson’s talent enough to offer him a scholarship.
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In the end, that faith from White, coupled with the persistent attention Henderson has received from White ever since that offer went out last March, is a huge reason why Henderson decided to pull the trigger so early on an offer from UCLA despite Henderson not being able to actually sign with the Bruins for another 17 months.
On film, Henderson shows himself to be a fantastic linebacker prospect. He is rangy, instinctual, speedy (both in short bursts and over long distances), and has a knack for the big play. Although very light at his current weight of 195 pounds, Henderson can easily pack more size onto his current frame of 6-feet-3-inches as he physically matures and he comfortably projects as a college outside linebacker who can both rush and cover in the mold of (the much missed) Myles Jack.
Of course, as with any commitment this early in a player’s recruiting process, fans should be wary about the Bruins being able to hold onto the prospect’s pledge for such an enormous amount of time in the modern recruiting environment. When a school receives an early commitment from a player, it quite often ends up having more of a negative effect than a positive one for the school taking that commitment, since it establishes a pecking order in that player’s recruitment and allows rival schools to see who their main competition is for the player’s signature and negatively recruit against that main competition until that school’s name is completely sullied in the mind of the player.
In Henderson’s case, that effect could also be sharply amplified, given that he resides in the heart of SEC country, thousands of miles away from Westwood, with the major SEC schools yet to really give Henderson a hard look or step up their respective pursuits of him. However, Henderson seems utterly enamored at the moment with everything UCLA has to offer and has an extremely close relationship with White, who would be Henderson’s future position coach should he stick with his Bruin commitment. So, if anyone can overcome the hurdles of time and distance to ultimately land Henderson’s signature on February 1, 2017, it’s Scott White.
Welcome to Westwood, Jaquan!