- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
It is split down the middle for four-star athlete Juwann Winfree (Englewood, N.J./Dwight Morrow). He has 18 total offers, and it is pretty much an even split as to which side of the ball schools project him. Half say receiver, and the other half tell him defensive back.
The No. 8 prospect in New Jersey has a preference, although he admits whichever gets him on the field quickest is OK with him.
“I love making plays and scoring touchdowns,” Winfree said.
That is where two of Winfree’s favorite teams plan to play him, too. Winfree is high on Pittsburgh and Rutgers, although he stopped short of calling them an official top two, just noting each has made a strong early impression. He will come out with a top group this summer before deciding close to signing day.
Winfree was at Rutgers this past weekend for the spring game, and he guesses it was his eighth time visiting already.
“I saw a lot of improvement,” Winfree said. “I only talked to Coach [Kyle] Flood. He asked about what I’m looking for in a school -- education, comfort and an opportunity to play early.
“I like a lot of what I see.”
Pittsburgh assistant Desmond Robinson has built a strong relationship with Winfree, who says Robinson is one of the best coaches recruiting him. The Panthers were the first school to offer Winfree, which holds significant weight for the 6-foot-2, 180-pound athlete.
The Panthers coaches are in touch with Winfree just about every day, as Winfree said he exchanges messages with recruiting assistant Dann Kabala regularly throughout the week.
“They gave me the first chance and said I can play early,” Winfree said.
Winfree does not have any set visit plans but wants to make it out to Kansas, Vanderbilt and West Virginia. He likes Clemson and Tennessee, but has only early interest from the two programs.
He would like to make it to Michigan soon, too, as he has quickly struck up a tight bond with new recruiter Roy Manning. The two spoke on the phone a couple times before, but Manning and fellow assistant Curt Mallory were in the school last week.
“He’s great. He keeps it real with me,” Winfree said of Manning, who he called one of the most down-to-earth coaches he talks with.