Tag: John Grass

Hot Take: Is John Grass in the hot seat?

Garrett SandersSports Correspondent

John Grass is one of the most prominent head football coaches that Jacksonville State University football has ever had in its 115-year football history. With a 55-14 record in a span of six seasons, one would think his job is safe and secure. However, even with the recent success of Grass, he could be under fire.

Grass has taken the JSU Football program from the dead and has resurrected it into being a feared football program, not just in the OVC, but the FCS as well. He has won five straight Ohio Valley Conference Championships and has made the FCS Playoffs in every year he has coached. So, what’s the big deal? How is Grass’s coaching job in question?

Is it a lack of recruiting talent for JSU? When you have star players like Eli Jenkins, Troymaine Pope, Josh Pearson, Marlon Bridges and recent NFL draftee Siran Neal? There is no issue there.

What about winning games consistently? During Grass’s time at Jacksonville State, he has only lost an Ohio Valley Conference game twice in five years! That’s very impressive for someone of his caliber in coaching, coming from a small FCS school like JSU. So, if recruiting and regularly winning year by year isn’t the issue, what is?

During Grass’s tenure at Jacksonville State, he has made the FCS playoffs all five years he’s been head coach. But what if I told you out of those five years, he has only four career playoff wins?

Out of those five years, Grass has only made it out of the second round of the playoffs one time! That, of course, was the year JSU went on to a deep playoff run and were runners-up to the eventual National Champion North Dakota State in 2015.

Grass, to say the least, has had trouble making a deep playoff run throughout his five years at JSU, but there is also one more significant factor that has recently caught the attention of JSU fans everywhere. That is the fact that Grass has struggled in the past 11 games. He has gone 7-4 and keep in mind that a regular season in the FCS is 11 games.

During Grass’s five years at JSU, he has never lost more than three games in an 11 game FCS regular season. These past 11 games are certainly not the norm for JSU football. Perhaps this is a step in the wrong direction.

Greg Seitz has been very patient with Grass and the JSU football program during the time Grass has been at JSU, but with the recent track record, tables could be turning if Grass doesn’t start producing wins regularly that JSU is accustomed to seeing.

With the recent controversial football hype video that has gone viral, it seems the football program has lost control of its class act. Not to mention the fact that JSU has been making heavily careless mistakes on the football field. This comes from a general lack of discipline on the team.

Winning is a significant factor in what makes JSU football flow. However, with the recent “downfall” of JSU’s football program, it could be time for Greg Seitz to pull the plug on Grass.

On the other hand, Grass could start winning and this discussion could be irrelevant. But until the wins start coming in, we must ask the question, “Is John Grass in the hot seat?”

Let the debates begin!

‘One for the thumb’: Gamecocks win fifth straight OVC ring

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(Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
The JSU  Football team celebrates winning their fifth consecutive OVC title after their 41-14 win over Tennessee State on Saturday.

Five in a row.

For the fifth time in five years under Coach John Grass, the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks have won the Ohio Valley Conference Championship.

“It’s a pretty special thing. I don’t know many college athletes that have four championships, let alone five,” Coach Grass said at Monday’s press conference. “These guys have got one for the thumb. It’s very impressive when you look back at it.”

For the first time under Grass however, that conference championship wasn’t pretty.

After losing to Southeast Missouri State earlier in the year, snapping their 36-game win streak in the OVC, Grass’s Gamecocks needed outside help for the first time to win the conference outright.

They got that help on Saturday, as Murray State completed a 31-point comeback against SEMO with a wild finish that included 20 points in the final 1:42 of game time and a game-winning kick return for touchdown with just three seconds remaining on the clock. Murray State left the door open for JSU with a 40-38 victory.

The Gamecocks took advantage of the opportunity with their 41-14 win over their final OVC opponent of the season, Tennessee State, securing the title once again.

Quarterback Zerrick Cooper had a big day in the conference-clinching win, throwing for 272 yards and three touchdowns. Two went to Jamari Hester and one to Josh Pearson, who extends his school-record receiving touchdowns mark to 16 on the season. Cooper also tied Ryan Perrilloux’s single-season school record for passing touchdowns in a season with 23.

“It’s definitely a blessing to win five conference championships since I’ve been here,” said redshirt senior lineman Tyler Scozzaro.

Scozzaro, who has been with the JSU football program since 2013, is one of five Gamecocks to have been on the roster for all five championship seasons.

EJ Moss, Emmanuel Fennel, Quan Stoudemire and Cade Stinnett will join Scozzaro in having received all five rings.

The win also secured the OVC’s Automatic Qualifier spot for the playoffs for JSU, promising a playoff berth that looked in doubt as recently as the previous week, when the Gamecocks trailed UT Martin late in the game at home, before a game-winner from Cooper to Hester lifted JSU.

JSU closes the regular season with a matchup against playoff-bound Kennesaw State, who ousted the Gamecocks in last season’s playoff opener 17-7. The game, played at the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park on Saturday, holds major playoff implications for both sides, as a win could secure a first-round bye for either quad, while a loss all but guarantees a game Thanksgiving weekend for the Gamecocks.

Armed with their five-straight conference championships, JSU will head into the playoffs in search of their first national title.

 

 

Gamecocks ready for first OVC matchup

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Coach John Grass and the JSU Gamecocks face off against Tennessee Tech on Saturday. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Josh Gilbert , Sports Writer


After their second bye week in only the first month of the season, the Jacksonville State football team is looking to continue the momentum they have after putting up record breaking numbers against Mississippi Valley State. “I thought we have handled the open weeks as best we could. We have gotten better, it is hard to tell because you don’t play on Saturdays,” said head coach John Grass at Monday’s weekly press conference. “We are looking forward to back to back weeks, we are looking forward to opening OVC play this weekend, just playing two more home games in a row is something we haven’t had a lot of recently,” said Grass.

Up next at home for the Gamecocks is Tennessee Tech, a team in which they haven’t had many issues with over the last few years. Although the Golden Eagles have started off the year with a rough patch of games against quality teams, Coach Grass isn’t letting that fool anyone. “I think they are not your typical 0 and 3 team if you look at who they have played. It has been a tough start for them, but they are doing some things fundamentally for the program that will benefit from that in the long run,” said Grass.

Linebacker Jalen Choice also touched on the importance of maintaining the momentum in which the team has carried through the beginning of the season. “I feel like everybody’s buying in to the process and we really believe in our defense now. Everybody’s trying to make the plays that they need to make, not trying to do much.”

“Seeing everything at a home game, seeing cocky, all those things, it’s a special place and it’s great to play at home,” said Grass on the impact of playing at Burgess Snow. “I think we had a packed house the other night, so we want another packed house this week. You just don’t know how much good that does our football team when you run out and the place is packed and you got an atmosphere. It’s something we’re very proud of.”

The Gamecocks kick off Saturday at 6 o’clock in what looks to be another action-packed weekend full of football.

MAYES: Gamecocks must prove they belong on the national scene, in 2018 and beyond

 

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The JSU football team huddles during their 17-7 season-ending loss at the hands of Kennesaw State last December (Katy Nowak/JSU)

Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief


By most estimations, 2017 was a great football season for Jacksonville State University.

A 10-2 finish, a fourth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference Championship, and an ongoing league-record and Division I leading 32 straight conference victories? Most schools in the country would accept that season without a second thought.

However, when you’ve had as much success as the Gamecocks have found on the field in recent years, the success of a program comes down to one factor: playoff performance. After the run to the National Championship game in 2015, two Gamecock seasons have ended on a sour note, with early exits for the higher-seeded JSU teams, on Burgess-Snow Field no less.

The two seasons saw the team fall apart in different ways, as 2016’s vaunted defense surrendered 520 yards and 40 points to eventual national runner up Youngstown State, while 2017’s squad, which was plagued by a somewhat inconsistent offense all season long, was able to muster only seven points as the Gamecocks fell to Kennesaw State.

The fact of the matter is; the Gamecocks have to turn those problems around if they hope to continue to establish themselves as a consistent power on the national scene. JSU’s been given the benefit of the doubt in the national rankings and playoff seedings, but that will begin to disappear as the Gamecocks’ reputation shifts to one of a “good regular season team in a bad conference.”

Because, recent improvement of Austin Peay aside, the OVC is just not the type of league that churns out battle-tested, playoff ready teams. Sure, JSU can probably cruise through the OVC undefeated again with the occasional squeaker like the 2017 UT Martin game or the 2016 SEMO contest, but I don’t know how much this helps the Gamecocks get prepared for playoff time.

This year, the Gamecocks add to their OVC schedule two non-conference tests that will hopefully provide that much-needed experience to get them ready to go come December.

JSU’s OVC slate is bookended by an opener against last year’s undefeated HBCU champions North Carolina A&T and a closing game in Atlanta against the very same squad that ended JSU’s playoff hopes last season, Kennesaw State.

Hopefully for the Gamecocks, these games will give them what last year’s schedule couldn’t. UTC and Liberty were counted on to provide that test for the Gamecocks in 2017, but those teams didn’t pan out as the powers they were billed to be.

With a new-look backfield on offense and some fresh faces on defense, the Gamecocks are thrown into the fire with that test against the Aggies, but, win or lose, the non-conference contest will be an important barometer for the Gamecocks heading into a vital season for JSU’s future.

Are Grass and Company ready to prove that the 2016 and 2017 finishes were blips on the radar for a budding national power? Or will 2015 prove the exception to the rule for a program that can dominate on a conference scale but can’t make noise when it comes to playoff time?

Either way, 2018 will certainly be a fork-in-the-road season in Jacksonville.

Don’t pit Zerrick and Zion against each other

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

Scroll through the Twitter feed. Rewind those highlight tapes. Talk to them after practice.

You’ll see the praise. You’ll see that Zerrick Cooper and Zion Webb are good at a lot of things.

Cooper was in Death Valley last Saturday for Clemson’s Spring Game and was honored alongside the seniors during halftime.

Stop and think about that.

Cooper, now a sophomore, spent two years at Clemson — including his redshirt season — and did things the right way so well that he was honored despite transferring to Jacksonville State in January. Look at the replies on Twitter to ClemsonTigerNet, who tweeted Cooper was in Clemson last weekend, and you’ll see nothing but positivity.

Webb, who is a redshirt freshman out of Central-Phenix City, has been in the system for over a year now and came to Jacksonville as a highly-touted recruit. Many consider Webb a steal after most schools backed off the 6-foot, 200-pound quarterback after suffering a season-ending injury during his junior year of high school.

According to Jacksonville State head coach John Grass, both Cooper and Webb “bring something different and similar to the table” in terms of helping the Gamecock offense.

“Both of them throw the pass accurately and both have good arms and both of them can run the football,” Grass said after JSU’s non-traditional J-Day Spring Game last Thursday night. “But both have different kinds of styles running. However, both of them are being leaders and commanding the offense really well.”

Webb signed with JSU after hundreds of thousands watched former All-American Eli Jenkins set numerous records over the last four years. Having the same skill set as Jenkins, fans and alumni automatically assumed Webb would be the guy, which is no knock on All-OVC performer Bryant Horn, for years to come.

Then Cooper announced his intentions to transfer and many took to social media to express their interest and desire in the 6-foo-2, 220-pound quarterback.

But here’s the thing — don’t pit the two in a competition because they’re different guys trying to achieve the same goal, which is helping Jacksonville State back to the FCS National Championship Game.

“They both do their own thing because they each have their own thing they’re good at,” said JSU quarterback coach Cody Wells. “I think both are doing a great job of leading the offense when it’s their opportunity. I think, at times, we still have places to grow and things to get better at, but they’re moving along in the right direction.”

Just give everything time and don’t be upset if Grass and company roll out the two-quarterback system to start next season because these are two guys who can play.