Malik Henry leaving Westlake for Florida’s IMG Academy

The Westlake football program being turned upside down was imminent after now-former head coach Jim Benkert announced his intentions to go across the street and join the Oaks Christian staff last week.

The biggest name among the players on the Westlake roster to leave the program, quarterback Malik Henry, announced his decision to transfer Friday in a first person account to collegelevelathletes.com (CLA).

Henry, the No. 3 rated quarterback in the 2016 class, according to Scout.com, is headed to the Sunshine State and Florida’s IMG Academy. Henry is a Florida State commit who has said previously he would like to play football and basketball at Florida State like former quarterback Jameis Winston was able to do, will be much closer to the Seminoles campus.

"My decision came down to Long Beach Poly and IMG," Henry told CLA. "I just thought IMG would prepare me better for the next level.

"I’d love to play in front of my family and friends in Long Beach but the was the best decision for me."  

Henry’s former teammate, running back Chase Jasmin, reportedly will be transferring to Agoura. Theo Howard, the last of Westlake’s potent offensive trio from 2014, has yet to make a decision.

Players are free to transfer and play immediately as long as there is a change of address. However, transferring for "athletic reasons" is not permissible by the CIF Southern Section.

For those wondering why don’t the players transfer across the street to Oaks Christian to follow Benkert? Players are not allowed to go from one school to another to follow their coach according to CIF Southern Section rules.

Henry, who threw for 2,051 yards, 15 touchdowns, and five interceptions last season, will join and IMG Academy program that is coached by former Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke. The Ascenders finished 10-1 last season and were the No. 4 in the state of Florida.

IMG Academy is a college prep school located in Bradenton, Florida that pairs "elite academics with world-class athletic training," according to the school’s website.

"You’re surrounded by 5-stars no matter what sport you’re playing –tennis, soccer, baseball, football, basketball," Henry said. "Everyone has one goal which is to further their education, get to  the next level, and excel at the next level."  

Before Henry’s departure, the CIF Southern Section was home to two of the top three quarterbacks  in the country. That number has been cut in half leaving Santa Margarita’s K.J. Costello — €“the No. 2 quarterback in the 2016 class, according to Scout.com — €“as the lone remaining signal caller in the nation’s top three to call the CIF-SS home.