Ansonia (Conn.) High School running back Arkeel Newsome is used to being pursued. If opposing defensive players aren't after him, then it's college football coaches who are trying to chase him down.
Newsome, who completed his junior season by leading Ansonia to the Class S state championship Dec. 8, may be the most sought-after recruit in New England next season. He received scholarship offers from the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts last summer, and that list of offers will certainly grow.
“In the last week Rutgers, Penn State and Syracuse have been in,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said the week before Christmas. “He's even getting some interest in the state of Florida -– Florida and Florida State. I would guess between now and May he'll have another 15-20 [offers].
“Almost everyone wants him to carry the ball as a tailback. He has the whole skill-set that great backs have: speed, vision and hands. He'd be a great receiver if he wasn't a tailback. Some college is going to be very fortunate to have him in uniform.”
Newsome made plenty of headlines as a sophomore, when he set Connecticut's single-season rushing record by gaining 3,763 yards. Some media outlets listed him as the nation's leading rusher. Others had him at No. 2.
He gained 2,245 yards and and 34 touchdowns on 227 carries as a junior, when Ansonia stretched the program's winning streak to 28 games by beating North Branford 59-26 in the Class S championship game. He set the state record for career rushing touchdowns in the Class S semifinals, and will enter his senior season with 119 rushing TDs.
Newsome said Boston College, Connecticut, Florida, Miami, Penn State, Pittsburgh, South Florida and Syracuse are the schools he hears from the most.
“I like making people miss,” he said. “It's a little early to say anything about recruiting. I'm happy with the two offers I have right now. UConn was the first school to offer. I can definitely see myself there.
“I don't know too much about UMass. I haven't seen them play.”
If there's a knock against Newsome it may be his size (5-foot-8, 180 pounds). Brockett insists colleges aren't concerned.
“Not one college who has seen him in person has expressed concern with his size,” Brockett said. “He carries his weight very well.
“He's a physical back. He's a tough, durable back who doesn't come off the field. “
Newsome, who also plays defensive back, isn't lacking speed. He said his best time in the 40-yard dash is 4.49 seconds.
Still, Brockett said Newsome's vision and ability to change direction is what separates him from most backs.
“You have a lot of kids with speed, but those players who can cut on a dime are hard to find,” he said. “Arkeel is humble, he's a hard-worker and he's a great weight room kid. Just by talking to him you'd never know he's the best player in Connecticut.”
MORRIS LIKES THE LOOK OF BROWN
LaSalle Academy (Bristol, R.I.) running back Josh Morris ended his recruitment last week, when he decided to play Ivy League football at Brown. Morris also had offers from Yale, Bryant, Monmouth and Valparaiso. In addition, he had a preferred walk-on option at Northwestern.
Morris said remaining close to home was among the factors that weighed in Brown's favor.
“At Brown I'm going to be able to get in the weight room right away, get in the meetings right away and meet all the players right away,” he said. “By the time camp comes in the summer I'll be tuning my craft rather that learning it.
“By me going to Brown it carried many great perks. The coaching staff is the best staff I've met. They're ready to make me the best player I could possibly be. Not all of us can go to the NFL. If I'm fortunate enough to then that's great, but if I don't I'll have a Brown University degree. And to me that's priceless.
Morris was Rhode Island's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011, when he rushed for 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns on 134 carries. He also caught nine passes for 175 yards, and averaged 39.8 yards per kickoff return.
He was bothered by an ankle injury for much of last season, but still rushed for 1,442 yards (8.1 yards per carry). Morris injured his ankle during a victory over South Kingstown on Oct. 5, but scored three touchdowns in a 41-24 triumph over Bridgewater-Raynam the following week.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien turned to New England to fill his quarterback shortage. Salisbury (Conn.) School QB Austin Whipple and Worcester Academy quarterback D.J. Crook were each offered – and accepted – preferred walk-on positions in mid-December.
Crook threw for 8,126 yards and 77 touchdowns at Barnstable High School before he enrolled at Worcester Academy last fall.
“He's a hard-worker and he wanted to play at the highest level he could,” Worcester Academy coach Tony Johnson said. “He ran the ball in my system more than he's used to, but he really improved his release. I think they have only four quarterbacks, so he'll get evaluated.”
Whipple's father Mark was the head coach at the University of Massachusetts when the Minutemen won the Division I-AA national championship in 1998. O'Brien was the inside linebackers coach at Brown in 1994, Mark Whipple's first year as the head coach there. He is currently the quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns.
Whipple led Salisbury to a 29-26 victory over a Jonathan DiBiaso-led Phillips Exeter team in the Jack Etter Bowl last November. DiBiaso, who played at Everett High School, will suit up for Dartmouth next season.
Crook ran for two TDs in a 27-21 loss to Salisbury last season.
Everett offensive tackle John Montelus, the top-ranked recruit from Massachusetts in the Class of 2013, will begin practice for Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Monday. The game will be played at the Alamodome in San Antonio and can be seen on NBC.
Montelus has committed to Notre Dame.
Xaverian defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. can be seen in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl one day earlier. The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl will be played Friday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and will be televised by the NFL Network.
Hurst, the No. 2 recruit in Massachusetts, has committed to Michigan.
Recruiting information about high school or prep school players in New England can be sent to Roger Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.