McKeesport (Pa.) head coach Jim Ward has had two of his athletes squarely in the cross-hairs of Texas Tech throughout the fall in defensive tackle Delvon Simmons, and defensive end Branden Jackson. With the departure of James Willis as the Red Raiders' defensive coordinator, there has been some question as to how that might affect Tech's relationship with the two 2011 standouts. Apparently the effect has been minimal.
"It didn't effect things, not at all. Some other people wanted to make it a bigger deal than what it was, but what I've reminded our guys of is Tommy Tuberville's tremendous defensive reputation," Ward said. "It's not like Coach Tuberville is an offensive coach and is rebuilding one side of the ball where there's not much clear leadership. There is undoubtedly clear leadership on that side of the ball for Texas Tech, and with his experience and his background I have full confidence that he'll pick someone to lead his defense that will be very capable."
"If you look at his background of hiring coordinators, there's no reason to doubt anything about the direction of his defense. Coach Willis leaving had no impact on the guys' decision and there's no hesitation for me about Texas Tech just because there isn't a defensive coordinator in place. They'll get the position filled and it will more than likely be someone who is very capable of running out an elite defense."
Simmons is currently in San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American game where he had planned on announcing his decision. Indications are that a fifth visit to Florida could be in the works for the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder, thus preventing him from deciding this weekend.
"As of today, Delvon won't be deciding at the U.S. Army game like he had originally hoped. He stated that he thought he wanted to take that fifth visit and see Florida just to make sure he's explored all options. I don't want him to decide in San Antonio just for the sake of doing it there. I want him to do it when he knows exactly what he wants to do and is comfortable in that decision. I'll be down there on Thursday with him and we'll certainly visit about it."
It seems as though Simmons' teammate Branden Jackson may also schedule a fifth visit in the final few weeks before National Signing Day.
"I kind of told Brandon that he needs to start figuring out when he wants to make a decision. He's talking about taking another visit just to see another place and take advantage of the whole experience. I know he's wanting to make sure he's explored all options before making a decision on anything," Ward said. "Texas Tech is still very high on his list and there's not one thing he dislikes about it at all. He's got a great relationship with Robert Prunty and his family really respects him as well. He just has to make sure he feels comfortable with that decision. We're obviously winding down so he'll be making one pretty soon.
Coach Ward mentioned that Colorado, Miami (FL), and Michigan State could all be in the running for that fifth visit.
"I would think that if he were to take a fifth visit, that it would probably occur sometime next weekend. I know that Texas Tech is very high on his list and he's really excited about what they've got to offer. He's looking forward to finishing the recruiting process, and I think he might bring it to an end in the next two weeks."
"So he's going to be deciding in the next few days who he wants to see, if he wants to take a visit at all. He may be satisfied with what he's seen so far and decide not to take a fifth visit at all. I would hope that we'll have more clarity on any potential visits by the end of this week."
Whatever the future may hold for the pair as far as visits are concerned doesn't change the fact that Texas Tech is still in very good standing with both.
"In regards to Texas Tech, Delvon is no different than Brandon in the way he feels about their program. He really liked the people there, more-so than anything else. The coaches he's gotten to meet, and just the people in town he got to be around really got his attention," Ward said. "I know the chancellor made a big impression on him, and Coach Tuberville and Coach Prunty have a great relationship with him."
"They're some of the better people that I've been around in any recruiting process. Texas Tech has my blessing to take anybody we've got because I feel that comfortable in knowing that they'll take care of them, and care about them, as more than just athletes."
Coach Ward emphasized the commitment part of the decision as something that is very high on his list of priorities with any of his athletes who have the chance to play on the next level.
"They want to be sure about what they're feeling and we want them to end this process with no regrets," he said. "There will be no decommitments as far as our guys go. That's just one of our rules we have, unless there is a coaching change. So I want them to be sure about their decision before it happens. That may be why it's taken a little longer for our guys maybe than some others. But Texas Tech sits very well with them right now, no doubt about it. They are a very legitimate contender for both of these kids and we'll see what happens in the next week or two."
Simmons currently holds offers from Cincinnati, Florida, Iowa, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, Rutgers, and Texas Tech among others. Jackson is holding offers from Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State, Oregon, Pitt, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Virginia, and West Virginia.
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