Coaching with Grass

~ Steve Lathan/JSU

John Grass enters the 2014 football season as head coach of the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.

This is Grass’ second season coaching with JSU and his first season as head coach with the Gamecocks. Coach Grass was the Gamecocks’ assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for his first season in 2013. As offensive coordinator, Grass’ offense set a total of 49 school records, 13 Ohio Valley Conference records and three NCAA records. The Gamecocks finished the 2013 season with an overall 11-4 record.

Now that the 2013 football season is over, Coach Grass looks to have another successful year, but this time as head coach. However, one coach can’t do it all, so that’s where the staff comes in to help. Coach Grass will be accompanied with some familiar faces as well as some new faces in his coaching staff.

Alongside Grass are 10 staff coaches. Six of the 10 staff coaches are in their first season as a coach at Jacksonville State. Todd Bates is the defensive lineman coach. This is Bates’ first season at Jacksonville State. Bates coached under Coach Grass at Oxford High School in 2008. At Oxford High School, Bates was the assistant football coach as well as the strength and conditioning coach. Last season, Coach Bates coached the defensive line at East Central Community College.

David Blackwell is the inside linebacker coach and the co-defensive coordinator. This is also Blackwell’s first year coaching at Jacksonville State. Coach Blackwell was the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach at Fordham the previous two years. He also has experience at South Florida, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Illinois State and East Carolina.

Another coach in his first season at Jacksonville State is Brandon Hall. Hall is the co-defensive coordinator and the safeties coach. Hall, who served as the safeties coach under Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State in 2012, followed Malzahn to Auburn as a defensive assistant in 2013 and helped the Tigers advance to the FBS National Championship game against Florida State.

Aashon Larkins begins his first season on the Jacksonville State coaching staff as the cornerbacks coach and the special teams coordinator. For the previous eight years, Larkins coached the linebackers, the defensive backs and was the special teams coordinator at The Citadel.

J.R. Sandlin is in his first season coaching at Jax State as the tight ends coach and the recruiting coordinator. Last season, Sandlin was the recruiting analyst at Notre Dame. Sandlin is familiar with JSU head coach John Grass since he was under Coach Grass as the tight ends coach, the chief football administrator and the director of player personnel at Oxford High School in 2009.

Nick Williams begins his first season on the Jacksonville State coaching staff as the wide receivers coach. After graduating from Alabama with a degree in Business Management in 2012, Williams began his coaching career as an intern offensive analyst for the Crimson Tide.

There are three coaches in their second season at Jacksonville State. Larry Smith enters his second season as the quarterbacks coach once again. Smith was coached by former JSU coach Bill Clark at Prattville High School. Last season, Smith served as a graduate assistant and helped the 2013 Gamecock offense set 42 school records. 

Nick Gentry is also in his second season as a Jacksonville State football coach and will coach the outside linebackers. Gentry was a defensive graduate assistant last year. He joined the Gamecocks after playing a five-year career at the University of Alabama under Nick Saban. He helped the Crimson Tide win BCS National Championships in 2009 and 2011.

The offensive line coach will be Trey Clark once again as he approaches his second season on the JSU coaching staff. Clark was a graduate assistant in 2013 as he helped the Gamecocks offense set 42 school records. He also played under former JSU coach Bill Clark at Prattville High School.

Jimmy Ogle is the one coach on the Gamecocks coaching staff that has been coaching with JSU the longest. This season is Ogle’s 15th season at JSU and his 14th straight season coaching the running backs. Ogle has one of the best rushing attacks in the Ohio Valley Conference after leading the league in rushing six times, including a 239.1 average in 2013 (12th nationally).

Marvel Robinson

Sports Editor

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