Football Recruiting Notebook: Hawkeyes Active in Sunshine State

May 6, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – When the Iowa staff turned over earlier this decade, head coach Kirk Ferentz indicated the program wouldn’t be spending much time recruiting in Florida. It was met with consternation from fans.

The Sunshine State supplied the Hawkeyes with high-end talent throughout the years. Abdul Hodge, Colin Cole, Fred Barr, Brad Banks and others starred for them.

As more staff change came about recently, Iowa has dipped back into the Florida. Current team members Mekhi Sargent, Calvin Lockett and Dane Belton all prepped there.

More offers are being extended in Florida for the 2020 cycle and beyond. Assistants Derrick Foster, Kelton Copeland and Phil Parker all have a presence there.

The Hawkeyes traveled through the state last week. They handed out new opportunities and connected with players they’d previously offered.

Jerzhan Newton (6-3, 250) picked up an Iowa offer on Saturday. The Clearwater Central Catholic defensive lineman was caught off guard.

“The offer from Iowa was a big surprise. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he told HN. “I was in the car and coach Derrick Foster gave me a call and we talked for about 30 minutes and he gave me the offer. I like Iowa. It seems like a nice and stable program.”

Florida, West Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Kentucky, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech are among a large group of schools that have offered Newton.

“I talk to Miami, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, UCF, USF and Toledo. Those are the schools that talk to me the most,” he said.

Newton doesn’t know much about the Iowa program but did notice two former Hawkeyes, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, were chosen in the first round of last month’s NFL Draft.

“Coach Foster and coach (Kelvin) Bell are recruiting me. I talk to both. They seem like cool people. They keep it real with me, and I respect them for that,” Newton said.

“I plan on taking a visit to Iowa, maybe an official. I don’t know when it will be. We’re talking about that right now.”

Newton is deciding between committing on his birthday (Aug. 31) or waiting until after his senior season. He’s open to changing time zones.

“I don’t mind playing far from home. I just want a chance to play,” said Newton, who is considering majoring in Petroleum or Mechanical Engineering.

A few days before offering Newton, Iowa extended an opportunity to Tampa Chamberlain High receiver Kaleb Long (6-5, 178). He also has reported offers from Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Miami, Ole Miss, Syracuse and others.

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“I was surprised by the Iowa offer. Coach Foster came to my school. I didn’t know much about him or Iowa. I think he’s a great coach,” Long told HN.

Like Newton, Long said playing half a country away from his home is not a concern.

“It doesn’t matter how far I go as long as I ball and find somewhere that’s good for me,” he said.

Long is hoping to get a closer look at Iowa.

“I would visit. I just got to find a good date,” he said.

Lockett chose the Hawkeyes after playing for Largo head coach Marcus Paschal, a former Iowa defensive back. They’ve returned to the school for a player in the secondary.

Cornerback Keylen Gulley (6-0, 165) is getting to know Foster. While he doesn’t have an offer yet, Iowa is showing a lot of interest.

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“He tells me to just keep doing what I’m doing, playing physical and fast, and also attacking the classroom,” Gulley told HN. “Coach Foster is amazing. He’s a real cool dude.”

Gulley reports a scholarship offer from Southern Mississippi.

Other Class of ’20 uncommitted Floridians reporting Iowa offers are running backs Henry Parish (Miami) and Jaylan Knighton (Deerfield Beach), receiver Deajaun McDougle (Deerfield Beach) and Jaquan Smith (Port St. Lucie), tight end Jonathan Odom (Tampa), offensive lineman Connor McLaughlin (Tampa) and safety Jalil Cole (Seffner).

Odom Considering Official: Speaking of Odom, his impressive recruitment continues marching along. He told HN that his relationship with Iowa keeps growing. Foster visited with the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder at Tampa Jesuit last week.

“Things are good with Iowa. I might possibly take an official there,” he said.

Odom spoke with HN back in March after he unofficially visited the Hawkeyes. He came away impressed.

Odom, one of the most sought-after players at his position, officially visited his father Jason Odom’s alma mater, Florida, and LSU last month. That left him with three more officials visits per NCAA rules.

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“Iowa, FSU, Miami, Ohio State and Alabama,” Jonathan said when asked what schools were in the running for his last three officials.

In Line with Uihlein: While the staff is focusing on filling out the ’20 class, it’s still working diligently on the cycles behind it.

The Hawkeyes jumped in with Lake Forest (IL) sophomore linebacker Mac Uihlein, offering him a scholarship on Friday.

“The Iowa offer was a big surprise, similar to the rest of these offers. Coach (Seth) Wallace is recruiting me, and I’ve had a couple of great conversations with him,” Uihlein told HN.

Uihlein (6-1, 205) also reports scholarship offers from Louisville, Purdue and Wisconsin. Illinois, Northwestern and others are showing him interest.

“I’m definitely looking forward to a visit (to Iowa) in the future, sometime in June,” he said.

“I’m not putting a timeline on a decision. I’m just taking everything in and exploring options.”

Nothing New to Report: Iowa played host to tight end Travis Vokolek, a transfer from Rutgers, for a multi-day visit a few weeks ago. He told HN that he enjoyed it.

After leaving Iowa, he planned to take more visits. Kansas State and Arkansas were showing interest.

“I’m doing well. I haven’t set anything else up yet,” he told HN on Monday.

Last week, Iowa announced it was hiring former Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann, whose son, Nick Niemann, is a junior linebacker. It put a smile on the face of Vokolek, whose father is an assistant at Northern Iowa.

“I think it’s great. Being a coach’s kid, I know that his son is excited to be playing with his dad on staff,” Travis Vokolek said.

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