Notre Dame: Stephon Tuitt plays the waiting game with NFL decision

Notre Dame: Stephon Tuitt plays the waiting game with NFL decision
December 13, 2013, 10:00 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Stephon Tuitt won't decide whether to enter the NFL Draft or return for his senior season at Notre Dame until after the Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 28.

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The junior defensive lineman, a projected first-round pick next spring if he does declare, said Friday he's "50-50" on whether to stay or go. He still wants to get his degree -- he's a psychology major one year away from graduating -- though could consider coming back to Notre Dame at a later date to finish it off if he leaves early for the NFL.

Tuitt said the most important voice for him in his decision is his mother, as well as his high school coach (Clifford "Gator" Browning) and mentor Chuck Smith.

"Benefiting my family, what me and my family want to do," Tuitt said when asked what his deciding factors were. "Family is going to be a key role in it the decision."

Something Tuitt said won't play a key role in his decision is Bob Diaco leaving to take the head coaching job at UConn, and who the team's next defensive coordinator is. That's a 180 from a tweet (which was quickly deleted) sent by Tuitt Wednesday after the news of Diaco's departure broke.

[MORE: Diaco excited for opportunity at UConn]

"Lol this program!!!! Everything is kept a secret!!!! I guess this is called come here make something out of yourself and leave," the tweet read.

Said Tuitt on Friday: "I'm very happy for him and glad that he got the head coaching job at UConn."

While the allure of a first-round selection and big NFL payday may be difficult to pass up, Tuitt said there is a significant benefit to returning to Notre Dame for another year.

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"You can always come back and be better, break some records, enjoy one more time with the boys," Tuitt said. "I came up here with my class, finish it off with them. There's a lot of things you can get out of it."

A number of Notre Dame juniors have returned to the program in recent years, including Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert, Manti Te'o, Zack Martin and Louis Nix. None of those players, though, were projected as sure-fire first-round picks after their junior seasons.

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Tuitt, though, said the decisions those players made before him won't affect the call he makes in late December or early January.

"Those are respected players," Tuitt said, "but I'm my own player and have my own decisions to make for my family."