USC releasing recruit Henderson

USC is releasing offensive tackle recruit Seantrel Henderson from his national letter of intent, coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday.

Henderson, an incoming freshman and one of the nation's top recruits, signed with USC after initially delaying past national signing day over concerns the program might face NCAA sanctions, which indeed occurred.

Henderson also strongly considered Miami, Ohio State and Minnesota during the recruiting process.

Kiffin could have kept Henderson bound to his national letter, requiring him either to report or to enroll elsewhere and pay his own way for a year before being eligible in 2011. Instead, Kiffin and USC are essentially allowing Henderson to enroll at any school immediately and be eligible to play as early as this season.

USC is still hopeful that Henderson will decide to enroll at USC.

"We are releasing Seantrel Henderson out of his national letter of intent with zero penalties and no restrictions. Seantrel has been great through the whole process and we wish him the best of luck with his decision," Kiffin said.

USC could have limited the other schools Henderson could pursue, such as eliminating schools within the Pac-10 or schools USC will face in the next few seasons. Instead, Kiffin took the approach that he wanted players on campus who know they want to be Trojans.

Henderson, who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, played for Cretin-Derham High School in Minnesota. Henderson was ranked by ESPN's Scouts Inc. as the top offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 8 player in the ESPNU 150.

Kiffin landed 15 four- and five-star recruits for what ESPN's Scouts Inc. ranked the seventh-best class in the nation.

The NCAA recently banned USC from bowl games for two years and imposed severe scholarship restrictions following an investigation surrounding Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Reggie Bush dating to the Trojans' 2004 national championship.

USC was penalized for a lack of institutional control in the ruling by the NCAA following its four-year investigation. The coach who presided over the alleged misdeeds -- Pete Carroll -- is now with the Seattle Seahawks.

The penalties include the loss of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season. USC has appealed, arguing the sanctions are too severe and "inconsistent with precedent."

Defensive end Malik Jackson announced Monday he will transfer to Tennessee. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound junior from Los Angeles has two years of eligibility left. He appeared in 13 games last season and had 18 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

NCAA rules allow juniors and seniors to transfer without sitting out a season following the sanctions.

Joe Schad is a college football reporter for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.