Hopewell running back TreVeyon Henderson is the area’s top recruit in a year that resembled no other.
The Ohio State-signed speedster was a unanimous pick by current and former college football recruiters who voted for 2021 The A-List, the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s annual ranking of local high school football recruits.
He headlines a class that missed a lot because of the pandemic. Most missed in-person visits to campus, others missed their senior season, and still others missed offers altogether.
Unable to travel to Columbus, Henderson committed to Ohio State sight unseen. He enrolled in college in January, forcing him to miss his senior season, which was pushed back to the spring.
But he didn’t have to worry about colleges not making him offers. By the time the pandemic started, he already had dozens. Lower-level players, however, received fewer offers than usual. Because of the pandemic, the NCAA will allow seniors to come back for an extra year. That meant several colleges, many in the Football Championship Subdivision, had fewer offers to give. The University of Richmond signed only 11 high school seniors, and William & Mary took seven. In a normal year, they would sign 20-plus.
COVID-19 has “killed this class” of high school seniors, Hopewell coach Ricky Irby said.
Most local high school players didn’t have a fall season, so seniors had no chance to earn an offer before signing day. There was no room for a guy like K’Von Wallace, who didn’t get a high-level offer until after his senior season in 2015.
The pandemic “really hurt the mid-major-type guy that had a chance to go up a notch,” one recruiter said.
With so few offers to go around, some high school seniors chose to walk on at Virginia and Virginia Tech. Others will attend prep school at Fork Union in hopes of getting an offer next year.
There’s one extra wrinkle to this year’s recruiting class. The NCAA has approved a rule that allows athletes to transfer between colleges one time without penalty. So a player who doesn’t get a Division I offer is no longer locked out for four years. If he performs well at a lower level, he might transfer to a big-name school. Division II schools already are using this as part of their recruiting pitch, Irby said.
Next year’s signing classes will be small, too, one coach said. Because 2020 didn’t count against college athletes’ eligibility, their clock paused for a year. Colleges will return to the normal number of scholarships, 85, next year, but they’ll have a backlog of players with extra eligibility and less room for new players.
The young man who stands at the top of 2021 ranking, Henderson is as good as any player who has played in the Richmond area, scouts said.
“He’s as good as anyone I’ve seen,” one talent evaluator said.
“I didn’t see a better back in the country,” said another.
Henderson was a unanimous pick for the The A-list No. 1 spot, and 247 Sports ranks him the country’s No. 1 running back and No. 22 overall.
“You see him spin, and he keeps his balance, and he’s full speed,” a scout said. “He’s got great acceleration. He sticks his foot in the ground and he’s zero to 60, which is the difference between him and the other guys.”
In his junior year, he rushed for 2,400 yards and scored a local-record 53 touchdowns en route to being named All-Metro player of the year. He missed his senior season because of COVID-19.
“He lost the chance to leave quite a legacy,” Irby said.
Henderson is just one of many high-level athletes in his family. His older brother, Ronnie Walker, plays running back for Virginia. His younger brother, Kesean Henderson, is a Division I recruit at Hopewell. His uncle, Alphonso Harris, was the All-Metro player of the year in 1981.
Richmond produces more defensive players than offensive, and this year is no exception with seven of the 12 on the A-List playing defense. In 11 years of ranking local players, 25 A-Listers have played defensive line, and 25 have played defensive back, more than any other position.
With three ranked players in 2021, Highland Springs has produced more A-Listers (12) than any other school, surpassing Hermitage (11). Jay Woolfolk is the 10th Benedictine player to appear in this ranking, and L.C. Bird has produced 10. Manchester (9), Varina (9) and Atlee (8) are among the high schools that have produced the most A-Listers.
Jaelin Montgomery is the first Prince George player to appear, and Bo Kite is the first from Deep Run.
More A-Listers are headed out of state than in state, which has been common lately. The last time a majority of A-Listers stayed in state was 2014. Virginia Tech has signed the most A-List players (20), followed by Virginia (18) and James Madison (15). In the past 11 years, 72 players on this ranking have stayed in state and 60 have left the commonwealth.
This class seems to be about average in depth of talent. Eight of the 12 are headed to Power Five teams — slightly above the average of 7.6.
But the learning curve at those schools is steep. Of the 56 A-Listers who went to Power Five schools between 2011 and 2017, fewer than half became starters for at least one season.
Six A-Listers have played substantial time in the NFL: L.C. Bird’s Anthony Harris, Henrico’s Sharif Finch, Varina’s Maurice Canady, Benedictine’s Clelin Ferrell and Highland Springs’ K’Von Wallace and Mekhi Becton. Several others made brief appearances.
They weren’t all highly ranked. Canady was sixth on the 2012 A-List, Wallace was fourth and Finch was the 12th and final name on the 2013 list.