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Pitts’ choice wasn’t family-oriented, Jackson’s certainly was

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Some signing day thoughts:

=When Pitt coach Todd Graham offered a scholarship to Jevonte Pitts, some viewed it as a way to lure teammate and cousin Lafayette Pitt to the Panthers. But, Lafayette said Wednesday that’s not why he signed with Pitt. “That didn’t affect my decision at all,” he said, but added that he was looking forward to the two playing together. “Who wouldn’t want to play with their cousin? We’ve been playing together since we were four. That’s always been a dream, (but) his decision didn’t affect mine, and mine didn’t affect his.” Besides, Lafayette said, they could have gone elsewhere together. “He could have waited and seen Rutgers next week, but he decided that he wanted to stay here,” said Lafayette, who had committed in January to Rutgers before changing his mind days before signing day.

=Lafayette Pitts was recruited to play cornerback, but his days playing offense might not be over. “Both (Pitt and Rutgers) wanted me to play corner,” Pitts said, “but Pitt also talked to me about putting in a little package for me to play wildcat quarterback or slot receiver. Just like my uncle told me: ‘There’s probably a couple players who could do the two things I can do. But there’s not a lot of players that can do the five things I can do.’ I feel that’s what Pitt gave me the opportunity to do – explore those five opportunities.” At Woodland Hills, Pitts starred at tailback, cornerback and kick returner. He was also the Wolverines’ punter, but his kicking days probably are over.

=McKeesport’s Branden Jackson surprised many when he chose to sign with Texas Tech. Maybe even himself. The standout defensive end/linebacker said Wednesday he was uncertain which to pick – Oregon USC or Texas Tech – until minutes before the signing ceremony at the district’s administration building. “I was set on coming out here and going to Oregon or USC,” Jackson said following the 11 a.m. announcement. “It was out of those two. I was sitting and contemplating. But while I was sitting there thinking, I was looking at all my family and thought: I’ve got to go where I feel most comfortable, where my family loves. That’s Texas Tech.”

=For Jackson, Texas Tech’s family approach was key: “I think by going to Texas Tech, I’ll become a better person, because they’re more people-oriented. That’s the feeling I got from them. They made sure they got in touch with my family – my mother, my grandmother. A lot of these places want you as a football player, which is fine because this is a business and you’re there to win games. But there’s another side to it.” Jackson’s offer from Southern Cal came at 10 p.m. Tuesday, and he was very tempted, calling USC his favorite team. But he had trouble picking a place he’d never visited. “I’m a family-based man. Without my family, I wouldn’t be here. I feel like: ‘If you’re taking me, you’re taking my family, too, because they travel with me.”

=Jackson said Thursday he’s upset with speculation elsewhere that he might not qualify academically. That’s not true, he said, adding that his recent SAT scores were acceptable and he will be eligible.  

=North Carolina was Delvon Simmons’ favorite as early as July or August, when he and Jackson took an unofficial visit to the Chapel Hill campus. They developed a bond with recruiting coordinator/D-line coach John Blake, but Blake later resigned in the midst of an NCAA investigation. “That affected me a lot,” Simmons said. “I had a good connection with coach Blake. So did Branden. I think, if coach Blake were still there, Branden would be going there, too. That hurt him a lot, too, because coach Blake is a good guy. When something like that happens, you start to wonder. They could possibly get sanctioned and all that other stuff, but I decided to go. I didn’t think it was that bad.” Jackson agreed, later saying he’d probably be heading to UNC had Blake remained.

=Pitt made a significant push for both Simmons and Jackson, but neither recruit seriously considered the Panthers. “They (Pitt coaches) kept calling me (Tuesday) night, but I wasn’t answering any calls, because I had my mind made up,” Simmons said.

– Chris Harlan (charlan@tribweb.com)

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