Pine-Richland’s Miguel Jackson becomes 3rd WPIAL senior committed to Liberty

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 | 1:21 PM

Pine-Richland’s Miguel Jackson visited Liberty’s campus on Independence Day weekend and saw some fireworks on the drive home.

The “oohs” and “aahs” came a few days later, once he called the school’s football coaches to commit.

“They were excited and surprised,” said Jackson, who committed to Liberty on July 8, but waited until Tuesday to reveal his decision on Twitter.

The 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman is now the third WPIAL rising senior committed to play football at Liberty, an independent FBS school in Lynchburg, Va. Pine-Richland teammate Harrison Hayes also committed to the Flames, along with Montour’s Jaiden Hill.

Coaches want Jackson as a pass-rusher, either at defensive end or as a “3-technique” tackle. He had 23½ sacks in the past two seasons combined for Pine-Richland.

“They could move me back and forth,” he said. “I’ve got the size to play both positions, so it’s just finding the best mismatch on the guard or tackle.”

Liberty went 8-5 last season under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, with a victory in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl. It was the team’s first full season at the FBS level after transitioning from FCS.

Jackson hasn’t met in-person with Liberty’s coaches since the NCAA enforced a recruiting “dead period” this spring on the recruiting calendar and extended it multiple times. The latest extension lasts through August in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

That proved difficult, but Jackson instead built relationships electronically.

“Their coaching staff is great,” he said. “They have a winning mentality. They just got there, and last year they won a bowl game. They know what they’re doing.”

Jackson revealed a Top 9 list last month that also included Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Coastal Carolina, Delaware, James Madison, Louisiana-Monroe, Old Dominion and Villanova. He visited five of the nine and felt convinced Liberty was the best fit.

“It had a great campus, a great atmosphere and a great vibe,” he said. “I liked seeing where I was going to spend my next four years.”

Liberty’s campus was closed when he visited, so he couldn’t tour the buildings. He was able to look inside the $29 million indoor practice facility that opened three summers ago, and see Williams Stadium, which expanded to 25,000 seats before the 2018 season. Those upgrades prepared the program for FBS competition.

“I have a feeling on game days it gets rocking down there,” Jackson said. “It feels like a great atmosphere.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at


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