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Diamond in the Rough: Syracuse Adds Athletic Delaware DT Isaiah Johnson

His head coach says the Orange just picked up a great athlete with terrific work ethic.

Syracuse looked like it had its seventh commitment for the Class of 2013 with RB Charles Davis, but that strangely fell apart. It didn’t take long for Lucky #7 to join the mix as defensive tackle Isaiah Johnson of Elkton, MD chose Orange Thursday afternoon.

Johnson joins Wayne Williams along the Orange D-line, and both could become mainstays for Doug Marrone’s newly crafted defense. The 6’5” 272 lb. powerhouse received other offers from Wake Forest, UMass, Temple, Marist, and Hawaii, along with several others.

Johnson, along with 30+ teammates and head coach Dwayne Thomas, are moving from Red Lion Christian Academy (Delaware) to Eastern Christian Academy (Maryland) due to changes at Red Lion. Isaiah’s old school is downgrading from a national level football program to a Delaware independent league. So ECA is accumulating talented players who have already made commitments to some of college football’s finest institutions.

Johnson was primarily a basketball star with Red Lion, but Coach Thomas says he sees vast potential on the gridiron:

“He’s got extremely long arms. He’s very agile and explosive for a kid his size. He’s like a basketball forward with a lot of strength.”

Perhaps we should forward some of this scouting report Jim Boeheim’s way, since size along the hoops front line is always a priority. Thomas also believes Johnson has play-making ability and a killer-instinct, something SU has targeted over recent seasons. Johnson is uniquely mobile for a DT, and keeps his balance at the line of scrimmage with his strong frame.

Thomas runs a program known as FLASH, an intense, year-round conditioning program that helps improve physicality and mental toughness. Thomas noted that Johnson thrived in his program, due large in part to his commitment to get better. He said Marrone probably noticed that as well:

“When Doug Marrone and Coach (Donnie) Henderson saw film of a kid that was  dedicated to being the best he could possibly be – and he’s very physical and ran well – (a scholarship offer) was a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.”

Defensive Backs Coach Donnie Henderson rarely pops up in recruiting discussions, but it’s always encouraging to hear more assistants making an impact for SU. Henderson has been along Marrone’s side since their days with the New York Jets.

Not only did Johnson get props from the coaching staff, but also from current Orange RB Jerome Smith, who congratulated Johnson on Twitter. Smith is from nearby Bears, DE. The two players are just across the border from one another, so perhaps we are seeing yet another instance of players convincing players to come to SU. And to top it all off, Johnson has family in Buffalo. 

Making impact plays is the goal for a newly reshaped defense for Marrone. Commits LB Marquez Hodge played for a winning team in Florida, and LB Devan Carter is a close-to-home star are part of that vision now too.

The fact his coach speaks so highly of him in just one year of playing football speaks to a great work ethic:

“I think Syracuse is getting an extremely talented athlete who has played basketball most of his life. He started to play football last year, came out and dedicated himself to the conditioning program and has really blossomed into what I would call a diamond in the rough.”

Posted: Brendan Glasheen

21 Comments on this Post

  1. Norma Stitz

    Nice to see a big DE being brought on board. Close to Chan Jones size, lets hope he is as athletic and stronger.

  2. Ya know something I was thibnking the same thing Norma. he is the same size as Jones and if he stays committed to learning then the sky is the limit for this fine young man… GO SU

  3. Russell MacEachern

    Yeah,can you imagine him and Wayne William’s stuffing running game’s and speed from the edge creaming opposing QBs!!

  4. Russell MacEachern

    How would you like to see that puss attached to 300lbs staring at you from the other side of the line of scrimage?

  5. Hey people! I’m just wondering if Randy Edsell likes having Syracuse come into maryland and snatch a player with this much strenght and size.
    He’s only a junior and by the time he arrives,he will probably tip the scales at around 310 lbs. The team is really starting to get some character and I can’t wait for the season to start.

    Another good job by Coach Marrone and staff.

    GO CUSE;

  6. The way we’re adding insane size and athleticism to the defensive line, we’re going to terrorize QBs and tire out offenses. Can’t wait to see it!

  7. Norma Stitz

    He was offered at and playing DE this year so I think they will want to have him stay close to the same weight. But great points he is gonna be a terror on the DL.

  8. Norma Stitz

    Also that picture is not the same picture, actually looks nothing like, the picture that I have seen on other recruiting sites for this kid.

  9. i’m really liking the recruits were getting. i guess going into the acc wasn’t such a bad idea after all. were definately getting bigger.

  10. @Norma and Lou – Yeah I see a little bit of a comparison between Johnson and C. Jones. I am anxious to see how well Johnson gets to the QB, and if at all he can match Jones’ ceiling. Coach gave him plenty of props. I think the best is yet to come from a kid who has only played 1 YEAR of football.

    @Russell – I immediately thought of WW after this aquisition. Both of them could be the cornerstones of this defense. QBs will for sure have to account for their atheltic ability.

    @Ron – Couldn’t agree more. Johnson is still growing and still has a lot to learn. And yeah by the way his coach speaks of him, he great character and really wants to improve. Never seems satisfied with himself. So he may not be the 4/5 star player(he is only 2), but he is willing to learn and contribute the best he can. Good pickup.

    @Derek – Yeah it is great to see. I think its huge how SU isn’t just focused on big bodies, but bodies that can also be active. Marrone has not thrown any curveballs at us when it comes to his recruiting strategy. He is sticking to his word when he has said all along about making more big impact plays, offensively/defensively.

    @Norma – Yeah you raise a point. But I think the FLASH program the coaching staff runs will not only keep his weight in check, but he can still build outrageous strength.

    @Bruce – The move to the ACC I think is an extra push of motivation not just for current players, but for the coaching staff. They don’t want to enter the conference as immediate underdogs. SU wants to enter with a bang and prove its willing of being there and has the personell to exceed expectations.

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