Seantrel Henderson, USC’s top football recruit and a player many experts considered the No. 1 college prospect in the nation, was released from his scholarship by the Trojans on Tuesday.
Henderson, a 6-foot-8 offensive tackle from St. Paul, Minn., could not be reached for comment but it is clear he requested his release.
He verbally committed to USC in February but waited until March to sign his letter of intent because he was concerned about the NCAA’s investigation into the Trojans’ football program.
When USC received four years’ probation, a two-year bowl ban and a reduction in scholarships, Trojans coaches attempted to reassure Henderson by traveling to Minnesota to meet with him. And they made a second trip recently when he did not show up as scheduled for summer school.
Henderson can now enroll elsewhere without having to sit out a season because USC’s release, Coach Lane Kiffin said, came “with zero penalties and no restrictions.”
“Seantrel has been great through the whole process and we wish him the best of luck in his decision,” Kiffin added.
Henderson is reportedly considering Miami and Ohio State.
“I’m kind of surprised they let him out, but I also think it will go a long way toward showing that they are compassionate and understanding of what has been a very difficult decision-making process for Seantrel and his family,” said Jeremy Crabtree, national recruiting editor for Rivals.com. “It’s a signal that they are trying to be good to the players, even if they don’t get a chance to coach him.”
Two other USC signees also are not attending summer-session classes.
Soma Vainuku, a fullback from Eureka, Calif., and Glen Stanley, a linebacker from Florida who played at Eastern Arizona Community College, are attempting to address academic issues.
Stanley, according to Internet reports, is considering asking for a release from his letter of intent. “We anticipate Glen being here by fall camp once he has taken care of everything,” Kiffin said.
Henderson’s release comes a day after reserve defensive end Malik Jackson said he would transfer to Tennessee.
Jackson and Jordan Campbell, a linebacker who is transferring to Louisville, are the only players who have publicly said they were leaving USC since the sanctions were announced.
No other players have informed coaches that they planned to leave, Kiffin said. However, he acknowledged problems have been caused by the NCAA exemption that allows USC juniors and seniors to transfer without sitting out a season because of the two-year bowl ban.
“It presents our guys with a number of opportunities where they can just go at any time — there’s no cutoff date,” Kiffin said. “Anyone can come in and recruit them and say, ‘You can play more if you come,’ so I’m sure people will continue to try.”
Despite the loss of some players and the potential loss of others, USC apparently remains a destination of choice. On Monday, the Trojans received a verbal commitment from Kent Turene, a linebacker from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. Turene gives USC 11 verbal commitments in the Class of 2011.