When McKeesport (PA) LB Branden Jackson arrived in Ann Arbor yesterday he did so in search of two things; comfort and great barbecue. The Keystone State standout's discerning palette gave the cusisine at Michigan's "BBQ at the Big House" a lot to live up to. The same could be said regarding the rest of the Wolverines' visit presentation. It needed to meet the standard set on prior visits to other schools on his list. Fortunately for the Maize & Blue, they did that and then some.
"It was good," said Jackson of his time in Ann Arbor. "It was real good. I got in (Saturday) morning around 10:40. We were the first people there. We came in and sat down with Coach Gibson and then as people came in they started to begin the tour. A guy took us all over the campus, then after that we got back on the shuttle and it brought us back over to the stadium. We went and checked out the football facilities, the weight room, and all that. It was real nice… top of the line stuff. It definitely lived up to my expectations. Michigan is everything you hear about it."
Also memorable for Jackson was the rapport he built with numerous coaches and players. The informal format of the event allowed for a great deal personal interaction, and the Wolverines made good use of it.
"(Rodriguez) was cool," said Jackson. "He was real cool. He is real down to earth. He's real enthusiastic. I like him. He was real nice. Another thing that stuck out to me was their weight room and the way they run their weight program. That really stuck out to me. And oh man, (Mike Barwis) was a ball of energy man. He was real loud. But he was cool. He's just one of those people that you seem to want to be around. You just feel like he is going to motivate you. You don't want to be in a weight room with someone who is rude and ignorant, just screaming all the time. He's screaming but he's just like, ‘c'mon!'… all rah- rah in your face. He's going to push you. I like that."
"Me and Coach Gibson got a little closer. He's cool. Me and the defensive coordinator (Greg Robinson), who would also be my position coach, he's real cool. I talked with a couple of the players and they were all real cool too. Roy Roundtree and Tate Forcier are guys I (connected) with."
Another key aspect of the visit for Jackson was the chance to share the experience with his family and then get their feedback. A late scheduling conflict for his brother prevented the elder sibling from attending, but he two others from Jackson's inner circle were able to make it.
"I ended up bringing my best friend, who is a big Michigan fan, so my friend liked it," Jackson reported. "He loves Michigan, so of course he liked it. But my mom, she really liked it too actually. She really liked it. Her favorite part of it was the study tables. They showed her the academic center and where the study tables are and how they are to be run. She liked that."
While it's clear that the Wolverines helped their chances at landing Jackson with the positive experience, the question is how much? Did the topic of committing ever arise?
"They touched upon it," he responded. "But like Coach Gibson said, ‘No rush. If you want to call next week and say, ‘You know coach, I decided Michigan is for me,' that's fine,' but they did not really push me at all. They were just mainly trying to get me to feel comfortable because they knew that was big with me. They really did not ask too much about when I would decide. Coach Gibson just said he hopes that I eventually commit to them. He said that could be a week for now, it could be after the season, or could be right before the season. He just wants to make sure that I feel comfortable."
"I would say Michigan just stepped up their game up and showed me that it was a wonderful place to go," Jackson continued. "Just driving around the city, it seems like a wonderful place to live. I know on campus it just looks like it is a good fit. This was right up there with the best of (his visits). Michigan is just everything you hear. The Big House is the biggest stadium. The stadium is huge. They are doing construction on it and going to make it even bigger. Their facilities are top of the line. Their weight room is phenomenal. They've got the best of the best stuff. But I still do not have a favorite. I do not think that I've been enough places to cover that, but I know Michigan is real good place."