Looks Like University Of Illinois - Jer'Zhan Newton
OK so I know that he goes by "Johnny Newton" and his Twitter handle is "@johnny5newton" so I'm going to claim that the Johnny5 there is a reference to the 1986 Steve Guttenberg/Ally Sheedy cult classic Short Circuit with everyone's favorite robot "Johnny 5". Which means that I am right now laying claim to any and all "JOHNNY FIVE ALIVE" tweets when Newton sacks the Iowa QB. He wears number 8 in high school - can we get him the number 5 once Eifler graduates? Feed Five (some quarterbacks).
Let's start with his offers. I've been grouping these lately in categories, so we might as well name them. There's "early" offers which sometimes stick and sometimes don't stick. For example, he got an offer from Florida in January of his sophomore year. Is that offer still alive today? Could he have picked Illinois over Florida? Probably not. It informs us of the type of player he was early in his high school career, but it's not a "he picked the Illinois hat instead of the Florida hat" kind of thing.
That's not to say he didn't have big-time offers. There's also "junior day offers" and "assistants out on the road" offers. (These names are awful, Robert.) In January and February, a lot of offers go out to players based on their junior film. Some of these offers happen when schools have "junior days". A bigger barrage of offers go out when assistants (but not head coaches) can go out on the road from April 15th to May 31st. A few players are discovered at camps in June, and then, by the 4th of July, you basically have a good ranking of 90% of the solid, ready-for-Power-Five-football recruits. (The other 10% is filled in with senior year breakout recruits).
So here's Newton's offers.
- In terms of "early" offers (after his freshman and sophomore seasons in high school), he had South Florida, Cincinnati, Boston College, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Syracuse, West Virginia.
- His offers during "junior days": Kentucky, Virginia Tech, UCF, Georgia Tech.
- Assistants hit the road in April/May and his offers increase: Miami, Iowa, Rutgers, K-State, Florida State, Maryland.
He names a final five of Florida State, Maryland, Kansas State, and the local schools (UCF and USF) and picks Maryland in August. Then - and I think it's worth noting here that Maryland went 3-9 while Illinois is going to a bowl game - he visits Illinois in December and flips to us on Signing Day. I think I need to expand on that.
If this works - IF the Daniel Barker touchdown was really the rebirth of Illinois football and everything goes up from here, and that's still a very big "if" - then we're going to look at these last four recruits (Davis, Spann, Riggins, Newton) as a recruiting turning point. Meaning, we began to reap the fruit of turning the corner and recruiting moved up a level. And for that we must thank the Lakewood High School Athletic Director.
(I'm writing the LLUOI post for Johnny Newton and here I am rambling about other recruits and high school AD's. I'll bring this back around I promise.)
Lakewood's AD placed a bye week in their schedule: October 18th. Because of that bye week, two Lakewood players - Deuce Spann and Tre'Von Riggins - were able to visit Illinois for their game against Wisconsin. Which just so happened to be the biggest Illini win in 12 years.
That Wisconsin win led to a bowl game. And that bowl game led to two December flips: Cooper Davis flipped from fired-their-coach Missouri to Illinois and Jer'Zhan Newton flipped from 3-9 Maryland to Illinois. And it's worth noting that Newton knew both Spann and Riggins growing up (Newton played HS ball in Clearwater; Riggins and Spann played in St. Petersburg).
So if you're tuning in to the 2023 Outback Bowl and you see Newton with three sacks while Spann throws for 200 and rushes for 150 and the announcers are talking about how all of these players who grew up within 20 miles of Raymond James Stadium are having this little homecoming, well, remember this timeline. McCourt's kick is good, Spann and Riggins are there, they convince their friend to join them, and off we go.
(Or maybe we're 3-9 again and Spann leads Auburn to the College Football Playoff and we're all just wandering around mumbling about how we'll always be Illinois. Whichever.)
OK, Newton. Love him. Great film. So explosive. I spent a lot of time hoping we'd get Willis Singleton this summer and then we land Newton who is, I think, significantly better than Singleton (who eventually picked Iowa State). Newton is that hybrid DE/DT guy where you can add weight and make him a DT or maybe even pull some weight off and make him a strongside DE. I think they'll use him like they currently use Deon Pate (who has seen a tiny bit of time here and there at DE but is mostly a DT). Perhaps Jamal Woods is a better comparison there.
For an Illini comp? I'll say Glenn Foster. Made the journey from DE to DT over his Illini career, was a huge part of that great 2011 defensive line with Whitney Mercilus, burst onto the scene with that great game at Penn State in 2010 and then was a big part of the line the next 2.5 seasons.
Really like this pick-up. Really solid group of four players from Florida in the week before signing day. Davis got 3 Cruises, Spann 4, Riggins 3, and Newton...
Jer'Zhan Newton - Three and one-half Tom Cruises