July 04, 2010
USC coaches have literally gone the extra mile to keep coveted signee Seantrel Henderson in the fold, having flown to Minnesota en masse at least twice since the nation's top-rated offensive line prospect failed to report for freshman orientation in the wake of major NCAA sanctions against the Trojans last month. Those efforts haven't elicited any public response from Henderson's camp, but in this case, actions speak louder than words: Days after his no-show at USC, Henderson was reportedly leaning toward a defection to Miami, even if it cost him a mandatory transfer season on the Hurricanes' bench.
And just days after that report made the rounds, the 18-year-old behemoth was allegedly spotted in Miami for the holiday weekend, according to his hometown St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Seantrel Henderson, the 6-foot-8, 350-pound Cretin-Derham Hall offensive lineman who committed to Southern California before the Trojans were severely penalized by the NCAA, was in Miami on Saturday. The Hurricanes were believed to be Henderson's second choice behind USC, which has been futilely waiting for him to report.
Henderson would have to be released from his tender by USC to be eligible to play elsewhere next season. Evidence exists that USC coach Lane Kiffin assured Henderson there would be no major penalties for football, and that could be used in a waiver request to leave USC.
When Henderson initially committed to sign with USC in February, his father, Sean, told the New York Times that Kiffin told the family "there shouldn’t be anything going wrong [with NCAA sanctions] because there was no knowledge of anything going on by the staff." The message resonated strongly enough to finally land Henderson's reluctant signature a month later. Now that things have in fact gone very wrong with NCAA sanctions, it could be Henderson's ticket out of his Letter of Intent, if the NCAA decides he was swayed by false advertising. (It wouldn't be the first time Kiffin's apparent promises on the recruiting trail threaten to cost a school a top-ranked prospect: Most observers in Tennessee believe running back Bryce Brown, improbably wooed to Knoxville as the nation's most hyped recruit in 2009, remains in limbo there at least in part due to the failure – either by Kiffin himself last fall or by the Vols' new coaching staff – to honor assurances that Brown would play a prominent role in the offense.)
It's uncertain whether the argument that gets Henderson out of his commitment to USC could also get him on the field at Miami (or anywhere else besides USC) this fall, without serving a mandatory redshirt year as a transfer. Most likely, it won't. If he's willing to leave his first choice for a year on the bench somewhere else, it's a safe bet that the decision wasn't made over a bowl ban or scholarship restrictions alone: Seantrel sounds like one huge, jilted kid.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.