IU’s Jerome Johnson chooses to pursue pro football in 2021

Indiana defensive tackle Jerome Johnson has decided to pursue professional football in 2021 rather than return to the college level for another season.

That’s the final major announcement the Hoosiers were waiting on. Of the seniors who were eligible to return for 2021, receiver Whop Philyor and center Harry Crider have also elected to pursue the professional route. The only non-senior to declare for the NFL Draft has been junior safety Jamar Johnson.

“No one knows exactly what the future holds but I would like to think that it holds many great things for all of us,” Jerome Johnson wrote on Instagram. “I would like to thank my family, coaches, teammates, and friends for experiencing this chapter of my life with me, but with that, this chapter must come to an end.

“I will not be returning for another season at IU as I will start a new chapter pursuing my dream of playing at the professional level.”

Along with Johnson, defensive tackle Jovan Swann, a grad transfer from Stanford who played the 2020 season at IU, has also decided to pursue pro football opportunities.

On the other hand, several seniors have opted to return for the 2021 season, using the extra year granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic. At the top of the list is Big Ten receiver of the year Ty Fryfogle, along with safety/linebacker Marcelino Ball, defensive back Raheem Layne, offensive guard Mackenzie Nworah, and defensive end Mike Ziemba.

Johnson, a fifth-year senior, will try and take his underdog story to the NFL. When IU offered him a scholarship out of the high school ranks, the only other Division I program in pursuit was Jackson State. IU coach Tom Allen recalls digging through a highlight of a Mississippi-Alabama all-star game to convince his fellow Hoosier coaches to take him.

After redshirting the 2016 season, the Bassfield, Miss., native played in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman, and he was tops on the team in sacks as a sophomore and junior. Johnson, named first-team All-Big Ten in 2020, registered four sacks in his final season, behind only linebacker Micah McFadden’s six.

Before the Outback Bowl, Johnson and Crider were invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl’s virtual events. There is no game this year because of the pandemic, but prospects will be able to speak with NFL scouts and participate in virtual training sessions.

Jamar Johnson and Jerome Johnson’s exits do leave a couple of holes in a defense that otherwise returns all its pieces. The Hoosiers do have two experienced defensive tackles in sophomore Sio Nofoagatoto’a and junior Demarcus Elliott but both have manned the nose position, rather than Johnson’s three-technique spot. IU could look to redshirt freshman C.J. Person, who often lined up as a defensive end versus opposing offenses’ “heavy” sets, for more time at the three-tech.

IU also has a highly touted freshman, Damarjhe Lewis, who didn’t see much time in 2020 but could be in line for more snaps in 2021.

The Hoosiers have added one piece to the defensive line room this offseason, but it’s a defensive end, Ole Miss transfer Ryder Anderson. IU announced the 6-foot-6, 270-pound senior’s addition Tuesday.

“Ryder has proven to be an excellent football player in the SEC,” Allen said in a statement. “He is long, athletic and plays extremely hard. Ryder brings a high level of leadership to our defensive line room and his addition makes us a better football team.”

5 comments

  1. Good luck Mr Jerome Johnson on your new path. I hope NFL coaches see the same thing in you coach Allen did when recruiting you. IU will need a couple of promising players to step up in 2021 to make the defense better than it was this past year. I think IU has those players to do just that and look forward to seeing them develop.

  2. Good decision. Although IU will miss him, it made no sense for Jerome Johnson to return for a fifth season of college FB. If he gets drafted and makes a team, that could be more valuable to the future of IU FB than had he stayed for another season. I hope he is successful writing the next chapter in his “underdog story” and that other “below-the-radar” High School players will be inspired by it and consider IU a great place to develop to their full potential.

  3. I noticed that Purdue hire Hagen to be D-line coach. He left IU to do the same job at A&M, then left A&M for TX. And recently he got swept away with the rest of the TX coaching staff. In a sense, he’s now come full circle. It would be interesting to see what his income was at A&M, TX and now Purdue and whether it was worth it for him to leave IU in the first place.

  4. Hagen went from $550k at Texas to $275k at Purdue….Hope nothing but the best for Jerome Johnson. I thought he had kind of a disappointing season in ’19-20 but really put it all together in ’20-21. He runs the risk of not doing as well if he returned for another year. I hope he has a long NFL career. This also makes room for Damarjhe Lewis. That kid is going to be special.

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