Jackson State

Deion Sanders sought out Mike Leach to find his new OC

Jackson State Head Coach Deion Sanders comments on how the Jackson State Tigers are looking and performing after his first full off-season.

Jackson State head football coach Deion Sanders recently sat for a talk with Chris Neely of Thee Pregame Show from the comfort of his Mississippi home, and in typical Deion Sanders fashion, he didn’t hold back.

See part one of the conversation here:

Deion Sanders on his first full season as head coach

“I love what I’m seeing, I do,” Sanders said. “The two most problematic areas that we had, offensive line and defensive line, I love what I’m seeing.”

Sanders says to say they are much improved would be an understatement.

“It’s an understatement,” Sanders said. “When I can sit up here and make the statement that there may not be a starter on the offensive line that started a year ago. There may be one starter on the defensive line that started a year ago. That’s why I’m excited.”

“But we just got to go through that process like you said of getting the pads on, getting the installs in,” Neely said. “You know when you get to where we are now, you’ve had summer conditioning, and we had two sessions, and this is your first time as Jackson State head coach having that kind of off-season.”

“Yes, a complete off-season,” Sanders said. “A whole spring and a whole summer, where we’ve had, I would say, upwards to 98 percent attendance. The only reason it wasn’t 100 was because we just got some guys in and some guys had to finish school prior school obligations and graduate before they were released.”

Picking up where James Houston left off

Last season, Jackson State brought in James Houston from the University of Florida as a graduate transfer. He dominated on the field and was selected in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions in the sixth round. It’s a tough loss for any program at the FCS level to have a player that departed for the NFL, but Sanders is confident JSU will be just fine moving forward.

“I think we got four to five guys that can go get it,” Sanders said. “James Houston is a freak of nature, I’m not minimizing what he contributed to this program by any means. But we have some guys that’s like that, that I see now. I can’t wait to see if it comes to pass in the same way during the game in the consistency that James performed with. But on tape, and with natural vision, they could go get it.”

“Because we understand now what the coaches expect,” Sanders said. “There’s a better understanding of that. You gotta understand, James Houston only was with us, I think, towards the second session of the summer. Think about that. So it’s a higher level of understanding and a relationship with the coaches where they say one word and you respond. That you know what we expect on a daily basis.”

Everything is Competitive

If there’s one thing that Deion Sanders preaches, it’s competition.

“Everything’s competitive. First of all, we have several new coaches and they got to understand everything is competitive. Don’t think you’re just going to go out there and the defense is going to allow you to run up and down the field or the offensive allow you to blitz them and do whatever. No. Don’t think that. Everything is competitive and they need to know that, that it’s always competition going on.”

Sanders says he hopes that high-level competition in practice translates to in-game performance in 2022.

“I hope that’s the case,” Sanders said. “That’s not demeaning any other schools that’s on our schedule because there’s some phenomenal talent on our schedule, but I will put our talent up against anyone.”

It’s not just the players that are competing, Sanders says, but the coaches as well.

“Then they’re able to flip it and tell them this is what I did, this is what I see,” Sanders said. “This is why we’re able to see your vulnerability in that formation, this is why we’re able to take advantage of that when you show this defensively. It’s certain things that it’s all competition and we love it and it’s a healthy competition but it’s going to make us better in the long run.”

Practicing with Purpose and passion

“We love this stuff so much and the kids are in love with it right now,” Sanders “They’re not just practicing to practice, they’re practicing with purpose. They’re practicing with a passion, they’re practicing with an understanding of assignment and they’re flying around full speed. I love it. And we’re in way better physical shape and condition, and the bodies of the kids are so much better. They look like football players.”

Conditioning has been a point of emphasis for JSU this offseason.

Yeah, we went and got a guy from the University of Georgia, national champs,” Sanders said. “He was a catalyst to their program and carried so much of the load although he wasn’t the head strength and conditioning coach there. Trust me, all the phone calls that I got and the phone calls that I made when we were getting ready to acquire Mo and hire Mo, they were ecstatic about it. It was volumes spoke of him about how he went about his business, and now I see.”

Changes We Needed

Jackson State went 11-2 last season but changed offensive coordinators in the offseason, bringing in

“We needed it,” Sanders said. “We needed it by several reasons. Although we won, we weren’t dominant. We didn’t exploit some situations that we could have exploited. Although we won, we didn’t take advantage of certain things that I felt like we should have taken advantage, due to somewhat of the offensive line having all this dysfunction.”

Sanders called it a lack of physicality.

“But, you got to think about it, one of the most profound coaches in college football that has been that way for years is Mike Leach,” Sanders said. “I mean you could you could take it as far back as you want to. You could go back to Texas Tech and even before that. Mike Leach knows how to put the ball in the end zone, okay. Knowing that, you got to say, okay. Come on, man, I know you got some young stunners that are waiting for an opportunity.”

Sanders says Leach gave him several names, including Bret Bartolone.

“And we went through the interview process and several of us were involved in the interview process. We made a few different calls, a few different opportunities to make sure you got it, then make sure you got it again, so you’re not missing anything. Then the third time, now I need to see you face-to-face. Make sure you are who you say you are face-to-face, because sometimes the interview can be wonderful but when you meet them face to face it’s not a connection, it’s not a click. Then you got to make sure the quarterback clicks, too.”

Apparently, Bartolone clicked with both Deion Sanders and Shedeur Sanders and now he’s in charge of making sure JSU’s offense runs smoother from start to finish in 2022.

Deion Sanders sought out Mike Leach to find his new OC
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