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3-star DE Jerzhan Newton flips from Maryland football to Illinois

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The Terps lose their first commit of early National Signing Day.

@Johnny5Newton / Twitter

After committing to Maryland football in August, three-star defensive tackle Jerzhan “Johnny” Newton flipped his decision Wednesday, opting to sign with Illinois instead.

The 6’3, 255-pound defensive end would have provided Maryland with reinforcement at a position of need with five starters in the front seven set to graduate. While head coach Mike Locksley has worked on building his program on both sides of the ball, it is the defensive side that needed the most help.

Maryland allowed nearly 450 yards per game — dead last in the Big Ten. The defensive line struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks, sacrificing big-play potential that the opposition ultimately capitalized on frequently.

Newton showcased his versatility at Clearwater Catholic High School, playing multiple positions on both sides of the football through his four years there. In addition to defensive end, he spent time at defensive tackle, running back and tight end for the Marauders.

Newton was a prime target for Locksley and company — especially linebackers coach Brian Williams — but the deal wasn’t done without some uneasiness regarding Newton’s loyalties. Despite verbally committing in August, Newton visited the heavily pursuant Illinois Fighting Illini on Dec. 6.

Maryland was able to add to the defensive end position prior to signing day, as three-star Florida native Riyad Wilmot committed to the Terps on Dec. 15. He was ranked three spots higher than Newton, as the No. 52 defensive end in the 2020 class. The Terps are also expected to sign three-star JUCO defensive end Mosiah Nasil-Kite, who committed Dec. 9.