South Charleston’s Pitts Receives Carl Lee Award

CHARLESTON — The bandit and spur positions in West Virginia University’s 3-3-5 defense require players with great amounts of ability and versatility.

That fits Derrek Pitts to a T, so it’s probably no surprise the South Charleston senior has committed to the Mountaineers and is expected to take his talents to Morgantown next year.

It should also come as no surprise that Pitts will be taking a little hardware with him to Touchdown City, as he has been selected to receive the Carl Lee Award as the top defensive back of the year in West Virginia prep football.

Pitts will receive the honor at the 71st Victory Awards Dinner, set for 4 p.m. on May 21 at Village Square Conference Center in Clarksburg.

In what was thought to be a rebuilding season at SC, the 6-foot-2, 179-pound Pitts energized the Black Eagles program and — despite some physical setbacks — helped them reach the playoff quarterfinals.

He scored 10 touchdowns in a variety of ways and compiled 1,169 all-purpose yards, but his biggest impact was felt from the safety position on defense.

Pitts recorded 56 solo tackles and 34 assists, including nine tackles for lost yardage. He also recovered three fumbles and intercepted two passes, returning two of those five takeaways for TDs.

His presence was never more evident than in South Charleston’s 31-28 first-round playoff victory at No. 7 seed Huntington, when he played only defense while recovering from a strained Achilles. In that game, Pitts had five solo tackles and two assists, with a season-high four tackles for loss. He also recovered a fumble and batted down two passes.

SC coach Donnie Mays and his staff utilized Pitts’ unique talents by moving him around their offensive and defensive formations. On offense, he lined up at receiver, running back and quarterback and on defense, at free safety, rush end, outside linebacker and inside linebacker.

“I think we moved him around because of necessity,” Mays said. “We lost some pretty good skill players the year before and he had to fill some of those offensive voids. We had areas of concern and we had to plug him in all over the place. He’s done everything from catching the football to running it and even throwing it. That shows how versatile he was for us, and he will be missed.”

Mays, like most observers, thinks Pitts will be manning a defensive position in college, largely because of that adaptability.

“The defensive side of the ball is where he’ll play in college,” Mays said, “because he’s exceptionally fast and understands. He has a great instinct to find the football and is a very versatile player at his position. In that 3-3 stack that coach (Tony) Gibson runs, he can not only defend the pass, but is also physical enough to be a good run-stopper.”

So where does Pitts think he’ll eventually line up at WVU?

At spur, which is like a safety-linebacker hybrid playing close to the line of scrimmage? Or at bandit, which is like a nickel cornerback with more open space to roam? Or perhaps something completely different?

“I’m fine with anything,” Pitts said. “I can do it all. I definitely know I’ll be playing defense at WVU – spur, bandit, maybe doing a little bit of special teams also. Any offense would be a (bonus).’

Mays, for one, wouldn’t be surprised if some special-teams work came Pitt’s way in college.

“I can see West Virginia using him on kickoff and punt returns,” Mays said. “He was good for us in those categories as well. He was our leading tackler on kickoffs his freshman year, but he played sparingly there as a junior and senior because he was on the field so much the latter part of his career.”

When cornered, Pitts admitted that his favorite position on the field is safety.

“Because you never know,” he said. “You can play the run at safety or you can play the pass at safety. Safety and cornerback are the most athletic positions on the field. I feel like I’m athletic enough to play two spots if I need to.”

Pitts certainly has a good role model to look to in Lee, who was also an all-state player at South Charleston before heading off to Marshall and then spending 11 seasons as a defensive back in the NFL. Lee was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings in 2010, the franchise’s 50th season.

“I work at the South Charleston Rec Center,” Pitts said, “and I see him sometimes and talk to him. It’s great to be part of that legacy at South Charleston High and hopefully, it’s one that will definitely keep on going at our school.”