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Former Armwood standout Noah Johnson transfers to USF

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Former Armwood standout Noah Johnson

Noah Johnson always wanted to play for USF —as a quarterback. Five years ago, the Bulls were unwilling to do that. 

Instead, they extended him an opportunity to play receiver.

The Armwood standout was not interested in making that move. So Johnson went to Alcorn State, becoming the Southwestern Athletic Conference offensive player of the year as a quarterback and the MVP of the SWAC title game two years ago.

Now, Johnson is coming home. 

On Thursday, he announced on his Twitter page that the NCAA approved his medical waiver and gave him another year of eligibility. That allowed Johnson to transfer to USF — this time as a quarterback. 

“I’m super excited and so thankful for this opportunity,” Johnson said. “I’ve been a USF fan since I was a kid and always dreamed of playing here.”

The circumstances have changed dramatically since Johnson went through the recruiting process in high school five years ago. After all, the Bulls have gone through three coaches in that span. Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott took over at USF this offseason. Scott overhauled the staff, bringing in Florida Atlantic’s Charlie Weis Jr. as offensive coordinator and Alcorn State’s Pat White as running backs coach. 

The hires made by Johnson’s hometown team played a factor, too.    

“There were a ton of schools that were considering me, but I knew where I wanted to play once I figured out I was going to transfer,” Johnson said. “After talking with Coach Scott and Coach Weis that pretty much did it for me.”

Johnson, a multidimensional force, put up impressive numbers with the Hawks, accounting for more than 70 touchdowns while leading the program to two straight title game appearances (2013-14). Still, the stat that mattered, at least when it came to colleges, was height. The 6-foot Johnson was considered too short to play at the Division I-A level. 

Former Armwood standout Noah Johnson
Former Armwood standout Noah Johnson/Photo credit: Chris Wilson, C&V Photography

Other schools, such as Bowling Green, FIU and Indiana, wanted him to become a receiver, too. 

Johnson would not budge. 

Alcorn State, a Division I-AA program, was the only school willing to take a chance on Johnson as a quarterback. And that only happened through the connections Armwood defensive coordinator Kyle Warden had with the staff. 

The Braves ended up offering without even watching film. 

After redshirting, Johnson saw limited action. He performed well when given the chance. In 2016, Johnson accounted for eight touchdowns against Mississippi Valley State, tying the school’s single-game record originally held by Steve McNair. 

Johnson continued to draw comparisons to McNair because of their dual-threat capabilities. In Johnson’s MVP season two years ago, he had more than 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. He hoped to build off that performance last year but ended up missing most of what was supposed to be his final college season with a separated AC joint.

That setback was one the toughest he had to endure. But Johnson did not sulk. He refused to give up. 

Now, Johnson has a chance to finish strong.

Though he joins the Bulls as  quarterback, he is not guaranteed to start. Johnson will be competing with North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin and former Plant standout Jordan McCloud.

“I believe when you look at what Coach Scott did at Clemson and Coach Weis was doing at FAU and what I did at Alcorn, the offenses are similar in a way,” Johnson said. “I am a very confident player, and we’ll see how things turn out. I’m just very excited to be able to be presented with this opportunity.”

Returning to the area also gives Johnson the opportunity to help out others. At Alcorn State, Johnson volunteered mostly with sports camps, including the De’Lance Turner Clinic in New Augusta, Miss. 

In high school, Johnson met Justin Miller, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a condition that causes rapid muscle deterioration. The two bonded at an MDA 7-on-7 football camp put together by former Plant coach Robert Weiner, who became the quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator at Toledo in January. 

The interactions prompted Justin’s older brother, James, now a linebacker at Indiana, to transfer from Madison County to Armwood six years ago. 

Now back home, Johnson said he will be more involved with MDA camps.   

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Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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College Football

Tre McKitty goes to Chargers in the third round

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Georgia tight end Tre McKitty, who spent time at Wesley Chapel and Tampa Catholic before transferring to IMG Academy, was selected at the end of the third with the Los Angeles Chargers’ compensatory pick (97th overall). 

He becomes the first player with area ties taken in this year’s draft. 

A three-star recruit at IMG, McKitty started his college career at Florida State, where he played in 35 games and caught 50 passes for 520 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

McKitty (photo above courtesy of UGA Athletic Association) went to Georgia as a graduate assistant this past season. He finished with six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. 

The Chargers have a knack for bringing in local talent. Former Admiral Farragut standout Rayshawn Jenkins was selected in the fourth by the Chargers in 2017. Sean Culkin (Indian Rocks Christian/Missouri) and Artavis Scott (East Lake/Clemson) spent time with team as undrafted free agents.  

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