Nation’s No. 2 JUCO player: ‘Everything about Alabama is appealing to me’

Welcome to  SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings , a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today, we talk the latest with one of Alabama’s top inside linebacker targets. 

Lakia Henry will visit Alabama this summer

There’s not much of a difference from where Lakia Henry once was to where he is now.

Henry, the nation’s No. 2 junior college prospect from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College, moved from Vidalia, Ga. to Dodge City (roughly 160 miles west of Wichita) after high school. There’s usually an adjustment period for players who attend junior colleges in the middle of the country where there’s not much to do other than practice, sleep, study and play video games in your dorm room.

“We have a Wal-Mart and a bowling alley,” Henry told SEC Country. “I moved away from home to go back to home in a way.”

Leaving home for his new home was a result of what Henry classifies as a “stupid mistake.” Henry had the talent to play high-caliber football when he was at Vidalia High School. Henry had 95 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries his senior season playing alongside future Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nate McBride. He was also the team’s running back where he amassed 909 yards on the ground and scored 12 touchdowns.

Yet not one college expressed interest in Henry. Schools didn’t have a choice. Henry didn’t take his work in the classroom seriously. He ran the lead leg on Vidalia’s 4 x 100 track team with McBride as the anchor, but Henry couldn’t run his senior year because he was academically ineligible.

The schools that were interested in Henry knew that he wasn’t going to be able to qualify.

“I was absent a lot. I didn’t turn in the work I was supposed to do. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. I just wasn’t determined to get it done,” Henry explained. “I have to live with that. I wish I was able to go back to my 9th-grade year and start all over again.”

He got his second chance though at Dodge City. His academics are in line and he’s on track to graduate this December where he’ll have 3 years left at a university to play 2 college football seasons. Henry believes going to JUCO was actually a blessing for him. He doesn’t think he would have been ready for a university, both academically and athletically.

With being at Dodge City, he’s learned that he needs to tackle his assignments in the classroom just as strongly as the offensive players on opposing teams. Henry racked up 110 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 1 INT in 11 games this past season for Dodge City. That performance attracted some of the biggest schools in the country, like Alabama. The Crimson Tide consider Henry to be one of the team’s top inside linebacker targets in the 2019 class.

The top JUCO inside linebacker in the country plans on visiting Tuscaloosa after his semester ends in May. When Henry received his offer from Alabama in February, he knew the work he put in was all worth it.

“That was a huge, huge offer,” Henry said. “I knew I was a D1 player, but I didn’t know I was an Alabama football-like player. I don’t even know how to put words to all of this recruiting. It’s unreal, honestly. I dreamed about this when I was little. It’s all starting to happen now.”

Alabama recruiting a junior college inside linebacker makes sense. The team whiffed at the position in the 2018 class. The Crimson Tide wanted JJ Peterson, but once Jeremy Pruitt left for Tennessee, that was a done deal. The Tide also liked Vernon Jackson, but it came apparent that he wasn’t going to sign with Alabama, so the staff stopped recruiting him. The team also liked Brandon Kaho, but he surprisingly signed with Washington.

Bama did sign 3-star inside linebacker Jaylen Moody, who surely was a backup plan for the team. He got offered in the final days leading up to National Signing Day. He’ll likely redshirt this season.

Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson are the likely starters entering this season, but the latter is a candidate to enter the NFL draft at the conclusion of the year. Outside of Moses and Wilson, there are a lot of unknowns at inside linebacker and that’s why getting a guy like Henry who has college experience is of supreme importance.

“I talked to Nick Saban a few weeks ago and he told me that they don’t recruit players that they don’t think can play for Alabama,” Henry said. “He told me that they are light at inside linebacker. They’re going to need some help. He thinks I am one of those guys who can step right in and play.

It’s an appealing factor for any school. I’m not running from competition or anything like that, but I do want to go somewhere where I have a good shot to play. I don’t have 4 years to wait. If I had 4 years, I wouldn’t mind. I only have 2 playing years.”

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound prospect will make his decision before Dodge City’s season begins this fall. Alabama will certainly be one of his finalists. He named Alabama along with Iowa State, Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M and Tennessee as schools that he wants to visit this summer.

Henry said the Aggies are the team that is recruiting him the hardest at the moment. At least one coach from TAMU is in communication with him every day. He speaks with Alabama inside linebackers coach Pete Golding around twice per week. Golding has made a positive impression on Henry.

“I can tell he’s a good coach,” Henry said of Golding. “He has a nice swagger that I like about him. He’s just really confident. He knows Alabama is a good program and knows that good players are going to go there. When he talks to you, he knows he doesn’t have to sell much.”

Georgia was Henry’s dream school when he was growing up. The Bulldogs haven’t shown interest in the JUCO prospect. He said that he doesn’t have a dream school anymore. It’s all business from here on out.

But, he does have dreams of competing for a national championship.

“Alabama is the national champion,” Henry said of why he’s so interested in the Tide. “Everybody wants to play for a winner. If you want to go to a winning program, you go to Alabama.

“When I think about Alabama, I think about how crazy their fans are. I think about the championships. I think about the tradition. Everything about Alabama is appealing to me. Alabama is just one of those schools.”

Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings recruiting notebook  right here .

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