JACKSON, Miss. – Jackson State head football Deion Sanders is excited to announce his inaugural coaching staff. The staff includes a unique blend of coaches at the NFL, intercollegiate, and prep levels.
“We have a great group of coaches, and I’m thrilled they’ve decided to join me on this journey at Thee I Love Jackson State University,” Sanders said. “We have a group of men that will serve as mentors in the field of competition and in the classroom. This staff knows how to win and win at a consistent level.”
Michael Pollock will serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. A veteran prep coach across the southeast, Pollock was the head coach at Lincoln County in Georgia. Pollock’s 2019 team rebounded from the program’s first losing season in 46 years and finished 9-3, and the quarterfinal showing marked the best playoff run since 2013.
Pollock also has coached at Habersham Central High School, Americus-Sumter High School, and Valdosta High School. He has coached 10 Under Armour All-Americans and placed dozens of his student-athletes at Power 5 programs throughout the country.
A veteran coach with 32 years of experience, Dennis Thurman will serve as the defensive coordinator.
Thurman most recently was the defensive coordinator for the Memphis Express of the upstart Alliance of American Football. From 2015-16, he was the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills and coached under Rex Ryan. He developed Stephon Gilmore into an All-Pro cornerback.
During 2008-14, Thurman was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for the New York Jets. In his tenure, he coached Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie and the duo were vital parts of the Jets defense, especially during the Jets’ playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010. Under Thurman’s coaching, Revis was described as “one of the best” corners in the league. In 2013, Thurman’s defense finished with a top-five rushing defense.
From 2002-2007, Thurman coached the defensive backs for the Ravens and was Sanders position coach in 2004-05.
He coached from 1993 to 2000 for his alma mater, the USC Trojans, where he mentored future NFLers Chris Cash, Kris Richard, Daylon McCutcheon, Brian Kelly, and Troy Polamalu.
Mike Markuson, a veteran with more than 35 years of experience at the college level will lead the offensive line.
Markuson comes from the Houston Nutt coaching tree and spent 20 years on his staff, beginning in 1993 at Murray State. After suffering two consecutive losing seasons at Murray State in 1993 and 1994, Nutt and Markuson turned the program around. From 1995 to 1996, the Racers posted a combined record of 22–3. Nutt was hired as the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks in December 1997 and brought Markuson into coach the offensive line. In 2003, he was also named the team’s running game coordinator. Markuson coached in six post-season bowl games at Arkansas, including a Florida Citrus Bowl (1999) and two Cotton Bowl Classics (2000, 2002). Under Markuson’s offensive line coaching, the Razorbacks led the Southeastern Conference in rushing offense for nearly five consecutive seasons. Markuson coached the Arkansas offensive line from 1998-07.
No stranger to Mississippi, Markuson coached at Ole Miss from 2007-12. He was the quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator from 2007-12.
Former NFL standout Alan Ricard will lead the special teams.
He coached 2016-19 at the University of Louisiana-Monroe and 2015 at Nicholls State.
Ricard received his first coaching experience at ULM, where he played fullback from 1995-99. After playing in the NFL for nine seasons, Ricard returned to ULM as a student assistant coach in 2013. While in Monroe, he completed his undergraduate degree in criminal justice.
Following his playing career at ULM, Ricard played professionally in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens (2000-06), Buffalo Bills (2006) and Detroit Lions (2007-08). Ricard was part of the Ravens squad that won Super Bowl XXXV and in 2003; he was an alternate for the AFC Pro Bowl team after blocking for 2,000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis.
Following retirement from the NFL, Ricard spent two years with the Comcast Sports Network in Baltimore, Maryland, where he broke down matchups for upcoming games, as well as provided halftime and post-game analysis.
Veteran Gary Harrell will lead the running back corps.
Harrell comes from Alabama State University and was the running backs coach. Prior to joining ASU, he served a two-year stint under Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic University.
At FAU, his attention was given to the wide receivers who rotated throughout the season seeing the quarterbacks use a total of nine receivers. Senior Kalib Woods was named the Conference USA Championship MVP, and Willie Wright — just a freshman — was the team’s most consistent wideout and led the Owls with 56 catches and a total of six scores. Following the year, Wright earned a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman team.
Prior to his stint at Florida Atlantic, his alma matter came knocking on his door and asked the Miami native to return to the program, but as the head coach in 2011. All told, Harrell served as Howard University’s head coach for five seasons. During his Howard tenure, student-athletes worked under the premise that athletics and academics were evaluated equally. In 2012, he was honored by the D.C. Touchdown Club as the Local College Coach of the Year at its inaugural awards dinner. During his time at Howard, he finished with a 20-36 overall record, including a 7-4 mark in 2012.
Before going to Howard, Harrell spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator for Bowie State from 2009-10. Harrell began at Morgan State in 2008 where he remained through 2009 before seizing the opportunity to move from a position coach with the Rattlers to an offensive coordinator position at Bowie State. He was a part of a team that finished 6-6 in 2008 and 6-5 in 2009. While at Morgan State, he also served as the wide receivers coach for Team Michigan, a member of the All-American Football League (February 2008 – May 2008).
Harrell got his start in coaching at his alma mater, focusing on Howard’s wide receivers from 2002-04. Howard posted a 6-5 record in 2002, a 4-7 mark in 2003 and a 6-5 mark in 2004, including splitting two overtime games. He moved away from his alma mater to gain collegiate coaching experience in another environment. He served as a Texas Southern University assistant coach, for wide receivers, from 2004-06. Harrell returned to the east coast as an assistant coach in 2006.
Harrell, affectionately known as “The Flea,” played two NFL seasons, seeing action in four games in 1994 and ’95 with the New York Giants. He also played one season (March 1996-June 1996) for the World League’s Frankfurt Galaxy and two seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes (1996-97).
He was a four-year letter winner as a wide receiver and punt return specialist. He started every game for Howard’s undefeated 1993 team and was a member of the MEAC Championship team that same season. Harrell holds the Howard record for most receptions in a game (13) and in a career (184). He was inducted into the Howard University Hall of Fame in November 2005 and also received a proclamation from the City of Miami declaring it Gary “Flea” Harrell Day. Prior to attending Howard, he was a varsity athlete for Miami’s Northwestern High School.
Former NFL standout Kevin Mathis will coach the defensive backs. Mathis previously coached with Sanders at Trinity Christian. He helped lead TCC to three-straight Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) titles and a TCAL national championship.
Mathis was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after the 1997 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he played in all 16 games, recorded 23 tackles, five passes defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 12 special teams tackle’s and also returned punts.
Mathis then signed with the New Orleans Saints and started all 16 games in the 2000 season. He helped the Saints reach the playoffs for the first time since 1992 and win their first-ever playoff game.
Mathis was a standout at Texas A&M – Commerce and three-time NCAA Division II All-American.
Andre’ Hart will coach the linebackers. Hart was previously the head coach at Trinity Christian and helped lead the program to three-straight Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) titles and a TCAL National Championship. Hart has 13 years of coaching experience and played at Ranger Junior College and Kansas State.
Veteran Jeff Weeks has been tapped to lead the defensive line. Weeks has more than 25 years of coaching at the NFL, college, and prep levels. He most recently served as a linebackers coach for the Buffalo Bills under Rex Ryan.
During his first season with the Bills, the defense consistently displayed the ability to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks – holding opponents to a 57.7 completion percentage, which was top five in the league. Weeks’ work with the team’s defensive line also helped lead the Bills to tank third in goal-to-go scoring.
Before his arrival in Buffalo, Weeks worked from 2013-14 as a Jets defensive assistant and defensive line/linebackers coach.
Weeks originally joined the Jets in 2009 as a defensive assistant and was promoted to defensive line coach midway through the season, helping the team advance to the AFC championship game.
In 2007 and in 2012, Weeks coached at the prep level at Tuloso-Midway in Texas. Before that, Weeks made stops at Texas A&M Kingsville, Southeastern Oklahoma State, Trinity Valley Community College, Fort Scott Community College, University of Oklahoma, Glendale Community College, and Western Kentucky.
T.C. Taylor joined the Jackson State coaching staff in January 2019 and is the tight ends coach.
He comes from North Carolina Central University, where he coached the previous five years as quarterback’s coach and offensive coordinator.
At NCCU, Taylor helped guide the Eagles to three MEAC championships (2014, 2015, 2016) and, in 2016, he went unbeaten in conference play and qualified for the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
In 2016 and under Taylor’s guidance, NCCU broke its record for total offense in a single season (4,614). Also, in 2014, Taylor’s unit set a program record for passes completed in a season (227).
From 2014 to 2018, Taylor coached 28 All-MEAC offensive players and five All-Americans.
In 2016 and under Taylor’s tutoring, Malcolm Bell was a finalist for the 2016 Black College Football Player of the Year. Bell was also a three-time All-MEAC quarterback (2014, 2015, 2016).
Bell’s name is written in the NCCU record books. He has the record for total offense (7,844 yards) and career completion percentage (56.6 percent). Bell is also second in program history in passing yards (6,340).
Taylor spent the prior two seasons (2012-13) at Texas Southern University as wide receiver’s coach and recruiting coordinator.
From 2005-11, he coached at Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale, Mississippi, starting as the quarterbacks and wide receiver’s coach and spending the final six years as offensive coordinator. His offenses ranked among the top 5 in Mississippi junior colleges in total yards for four straight seasons from 2007-10.
A native of McComb, Mississippi, Taylor played quarterback and wide receiver at Jackson State University from 1998-2001, starting off as a signal-caller for 2 1/2 seasons before switching to receiver. In just 19 games as a receiver, he amassed 188 catches for 1,793 yards.
As a senior at Jackson State, Taylor broke the JSU single-season record with 84 receptions for 1,234 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning NCAA Division I-AA Third-Team All-America honors from The Sports Network and First-Team Black College All-America recognition from Sheridan Broadcasting Network. He was also the runner-up for the 2001 Conerly Trophy, presented to Mississippi’s top college football player, behind Eli Manning.
Taylor signed as a rookie free agent with the New England Patriots in 2002, played wide receiver for the NFL Europe World Bowl XI champion Frankfurt Galaxy in 2003 and participated in the 2003 NFL preseason with the Detroit Lions before a nagging injury ended his playing career.
Taylor graduated from Jackson State with a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education, and recreation in 2005.
Otis Riddley joined the Jackson State football staff in January 2019 and is the recruiting coordinator.
Riddley comes to JSU after spending the previous two seasons at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
During his first season at Jackson State, Riddley’s offensive line unit helped pave the way for an offense that improved from 114th to 57th nationally in total offense and from 96th to 28th nationally in rushing offense. He also developed JSU’s first All-SWAC offensive lineman since 2014, Cedric Dunbar.
While at Co-Lin, Riddley developed the MACC Conference Offensive Line MVP in both seasons and one NJCAA All-American. In 2018, he was named a MACCC Assistant Coach of the Year after helping lead Co-Lin to a 6-3 record, a playoff appearance, and a national top 15 finish in total offense.
Prior to his time at Co-Lin, the Jackson native spent eight seasons coaching within the Mississippi high school ranks where he developed his reputation for developing offensive linemen. Riddley developed 11 offensive linemen that went on to play Division I football. In February 2014, Riddley was named the head coach of his alma mater, Provine High School. Riddley led the Rams to a 17-18 overall record in his three seasons as head coach.
Riddley served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Callaway High School. In 2014, the Callaway offense ranked among the best in the nation, in rushing offense, while pacing the Chargers to 2014 North State Championship appearance. During his stops at Callaway and Provine High Schools, Riddley was instrumental in the development of two Parade All-Americans, three Under Armour All-Americans, five Dandy Dozens, and a multitude of All-State and All-metro athletes.
Riddley was a standout high school athlete at Provine and went on to play at Mississippi State where he was named to the Sporting News All-SEC Freshman Team.
Michael Pollack – Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach
Dennis Thurman – Defensive Coordinator
Mike Markuson – Offensive Line Coach
Alan Richard – Special Teams
Gary Harrell – Running Backs
Kevin Mathis – Defensive Backs
Andre Hart – Linebackers
Jeff Weeks – Defensive Line
TC Taylor – Tight Ends
Otis Riddley – Recruiting Coordinator