HOUSTON — As recently as October, Houston Lamar’s Ta’zhawn Henry was set to land in Fort Worth – seemingly ready to add to the almost ridiculous amount of offensive firepower at Texas Christian University.
DeSoto’s Shawn Robinson. Kingwood High’s Bryson Jackson. Lancaster’s Omar Manning. Texas High’s Tevailance Hunt. Waxahachie’s Jalen Reagor and Kenedy Snell.
All are either four- or five-star Texas talents.
But the rabbit hole got deeper when the Horned Frogs’ purple and white faded into the background and the colors of bolder institutions streamed to to forefront. Those of the University of Nebraska and Oregon State and Texas Tech Universities.
Texas Tech, through a series of aggressive pitches, had seemingly — and possibly permanently — captured Henry’s attention. A recent post by the three-star rated running back and well as several before depicting him in either a Beaver or Red Raider jersey, however, threw monkey wrenches into the mix.
February 3, 7:30 PM
— ᵀᴴ¹ (@TazhawnHenry) January 30, 2018
His decision will also come four days before the Feb. 7 National Signing Day, the period when all remaining Lone Star State prospects ink their futures and begin an eight-month journey to the start of the 2018 college football season.
Oregon State University, one of the few dark horses coming out of the Pac-12, made some headway on a pack of 27 collegiate programs. Included in those were Texas Tech and TCU, possible landing spots he was predicted more likely to end up at per information gathered from 247Sports.
Henry, who is the No. 22 all-purpose back in the nation according to 247Sports Composite Rankings, gained 716 combined yards (600 rush, 116 rec) and eight touchdowns during a nine-game stretch in his senior campaign. He also helped Lamar’s Texans finish 9-2 overall and 6-0 in District 18-6A en route to a regional quarterfinal berth in 2017.
He had 1,452 yards and 16 touchdowns a season earlier during Lamar’s run to the UIL Class 6A Division I regional quarterfinal. One of the most sought-after backs in the 2018 class also added 155 yards receiving and three more scores via air mail from quarterback Owen Holt.
The outcome for could either be disastrous or joyous depending on what school lands one of the Lone Star State’s most versatile backfield weapons, though.
IF HENRY CHOOSES THE BEAVERS
It’s bad enough a 2017 one-win Oregon State team has to share conference space with the likes of UCLA, USC, and Oregon. It’s doubly so when it’s going to lose it’s leading running back Ryan Nall in 2019 with no real options to replace him.
Outside of Nall, who doubles as a running back and tight end, the other 12 rushers with at least one carry gained 856 yards. If you’re counting, a dozen players accumulated only 46 more yards than a single back.
The good news is seven of those players will either return next year or enter the season as juniors or redshirt sophomores. The bad is none of them have the high-level resume of Henry.
If Houston Lamar’s 5-foot-8 dual-purpose game breaker does decide to make the 2,288-mile trek to Corvallis, the Beavers could have both an immediate answer to its running back carousel and a weapon to combat more heavily stacked teams in its conference.
IF HENRY OPTS IN AS A RED RAIDER
The distance between Texas Tech and Oklahoma and TCU only got larger with Jaquaylyn Crawford and Tanner Mordecai’s signing with the former and Hunt’s signing to the latter.
The Red Raiders will not only need to depend on their defense to slow multi-faceted offenses led by either Oklahoma heir apparent Kyler Murray and former Richmond speedster Foster CeeDee Lamb or TCU’s Hunt, Manning, Reagor, Robinson, and Snell.
They will also have to outscore those opponents. If Henry signs with Texas Tech, he would give whichever quarterback that replaces Corsicana’s Nic Shimonek a weapon that’s versatile enough to be a secondary option as a receiver and talented enough to slow the opposing pass rushes.
IF HENRY GOES WILDCARD
If the divide between Texas Tech and Oklahoma is great, the one between the Sooners in the Horned Frogs is only slightly less.
It’s true that Head Coach Gary Patterson has quietly built an point-scoring machine capable of keeping pace with even the most potent of offenses, but Oklahoma is no slouch — partly because of Lincoln Riley‘s creative play calling and partly because of an over abundance of talent on its roster. Henry could be the dynamic, every-down back to eventually replace Kyle Hicks and pair with Darius Anderson.
His steady hands could also give Patterson a nearly in exhaustible amount of combinations to attack defenses with four or five receiver sets.
Reagor, Manning, Snell, Henry, and Jaelen Austin? No problem — if you’re TCU.
Hunt, Manning, Reagor, and Austin? Watch out.
Austin, Hunt, Reagor, and Anderson and Henry in the backfield? Hard to find an answer for that type of speed.
Austin, Manning, and Reagor as wideouts and Henry and KaVonte Turpin in the backfield? Good luck.
And while Henry would provide another proverbial bullet in TCU’s handgun, Nebraska may need his star-power to lure other talents to Lincoln.
The Huskers finished 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten in 2017 after suffering blowout losses to Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — by a combined margin of 34 points. Their leading running back, Devine Ozigbo, gained 516 yards in 10 games.
Nebraska didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiver last season and hasn’t had one in more than a decade. The last century-mark rusher the Huskers had was Ameer Abdullah in 2014.
Ozigbo and Mikale Wilson are both entering their senior seasons. Six-foot Jaylin Bradley will be a sophomore when the new season begins. The three running backs combined for 983 yards — 383 fewer than Henry did in Texas’ largest classification.
Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of TexasHSFootball, covering prep football throughout the Lone Star State and collegiate and professional football throughout the country. Follow him on Twitter, @TheMJMatthews, and read more of his content here.
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