Arriving late to the part actually paid off in a big way for East Carolina’s football coaching staff last weekend.
At least 23 Football Bowl Subdivision teams had already extended scholarship offers to Deerfield Beach, FL, wide receiver Leroy Henley when the Pirates first came calling last month. Those offers included such prominent programs as Auburn, Florida, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
But ECU wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan proved to be a very convincing recruiter in just a short time as Henley became the 17th player to make a verbal commitment to the Pirates’ Class of 2017 on December 9th.
“They actually came in late,” Deerfield Beach coach Jevon Glenn said Monday. “But it doesn’t matter how long you’ve recruited a player. It’s how good you pursue them. Coach McGeoghan did an amazing job with Leroy.”
In Henley, the Pirates landed a consensus three-star prospect who 247Sports.com rates the nation’s No. 46 receiver, while Scout.com had him No. 73 and Rivals.com No. 86.
So many scholarship offers had been extended between Henley’s sophomore and senior seasons that the recruiting process had gotten “confusing,” according to Glenn. Henley had experienced plenty of places, having attended summer camps at Alabama, Florida State and Tennessee, and taken unofficial visits to Louisville and Miami.
By July of this year, Henley was listing West Virginia as his favorite from a list of 11 finalists that also included Central Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Pittsburgh and South Carolina.
Enter McGeoghan, whose impressive coaching resume includes seven seasons at the professional and major college level in the state of Florida. McGeoghan was receivers coach for three seasons at South Florida, two of them spent working under former ECU head coach Skip Holtz. He spent the four years before joining Scottie Montgomery’s staff at ECU working with the the NFL Miami Dolphins’ receivers.
Undaunted by the number of big programs already pursuing Henley, McGeoghan jumped into the fray and quickly made an impact, according to Glenn.
“Some kids are Hollywood,” Glenn said. “Leroy is not Hollywood. He looks for the meat and potatoes in every situation. I think he saw something similar there with coach McGeoghan and East Carolina. A lot of places were probably intimidated by [Henley’s] offer list. But the names of the big schools didn’t bother coach McGeoghan. I think that confidence, and the fact East Carolina has a great system in which he could best use his skills really gave Leroy confidence and helped them close the deal.”
Glenn only coached Henley for one season, but he was aware of the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder’s talent many years before.
Henley’s father, Leroy Sr., played football alongside Glenn back in the late 1990s at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach. Glenn followed the younger Henley’s exploits during his first three varsity seasons at Fort Lauderdale’s Cardinal Gibbons High School, where he became one of the best receivers in school history. Over a three-year career there, Henley caught 99 passes for 1,259 yards to rank third on the school’s list in both categories. His 16 career touchdown receptions are fourth on the all-time, while Henley’s 52 catches as a sophomore in 2014 also rank second on Cardinal Gibbons’ single-season list.
Henley made the difficult decision to leave Cardinal Gibbons and transfer to Deerfield Beach because he wanted to graduate in December. “He couldn’t do that at Cardinal Gibbons,” Glenn said.
Playing for the Bucks, Henley enjoyed the most productive season of his prep career. He caught 64 passes for 968 yards and seven touchdowns on a team that went 10-3 and reached the state 8-A semifinals. Henley teamed with Alabama commit Jerry Jeudy at wide receiver.
“He and Jerry are two different receivers, so they were a dynamic duo,” Glenn said. “Leroy is a big receiver with great hands. He’s tenacious. He’s very physical, is great route runner and is very smooth. He has an incredible work ethic. He sort of reminds me of (former Florida State receiver) Anquan Boldin.”
As an example of what kind of playmaker Henley can be, Glenn recalled a big play he made in the playofffs for the Bucks.
“Early in our first-round playoff game against Western, they had us completely covered,” Glenn said. “Our quarterback made a bad read and tried to throw the ball to Leroy. Leroy kind of jumped over the defensive back to take the ball from him. It was like a 60-yard bomb and he made the quarterback’s stats look awesome at the end of the night.”
Henley joins an impressive class of receivers ECU has compiled. Previously committed were Blake Prohel from Charlotte Providence, Jayden Borders of Shelby and Mydreon Vines of Greenville Rose.
NOTE TO READERS: Click the link below for new thumbnail sketches on Altamonte Springs (FL) Lake Brantley HS RB TRACE CHRISTIAN and Batesville (MS) South Panola HS via Itawamba (MS) CC OL DQMARCUS SHAW.