With a packed house, President Bill Meehan and Athletic Director Warren Koegel introduced John Grass as the 14th head coach and second in two years for Jacksonville State University. Coach Grass served as the offensive coordinator last year for former JSU head coach Bill Clark who left after one year to take the same position at UAB. Coach Grass’ offense broke numerous school, OVC, and NCAA records last year with a run-first spread attack that featured running back DeMarcus James. Before taking the position at JSU, Grass was a Alabama high school coach known for his rebuilding efforts at various schools, including nearby 6A power Oxford.
For not being a “JSU man” himself, Athletic Director Koegel has a knack for hiring JSU men. Grass is a JSU alumnus and grew up in the area. Grass along with his wife, Jada, and three young children will build a house in Jacksonville and plan to become a staple in the community.
In his speech, Grass discussed how special JSU was to him and that he would not be here without former coach Bill Clark. When asked a question regarding what he learned under Clark, Grass noted he learned a lot, but he really learned most of his coaching from Bill Clark’s father, Reagan Clark, during his early years as a coach.
Grass preached character and pride during the press conference. He said he likes to keep things simple, and that philosophy is apparent in his offense. Grass then began to talk about how character and pride turn into wins. He said, “Winners do the little things right. It’s in their DNA. We will challenge our guys to be better today than they were yesterday.” Grass repeated throughout the press conference he wanted to win not one but multiple national championships at Jacksonville State.
During Q&A shown in the video below, Coach Grass said JSU will retain roughly one third of Clark’s staff, mostly on offense and graduate assistants. Rumors are the GA’s will be promoted to position coaches, but nothing is official. Grass put the fans’ minds at ease by saying, “Our position coaches will be as good if not better than last year’s staff.” This likely means he has a bigger budget for assistants than Clark was given. The Board of Trustees is beginning to learn what caused Clark to leave, and they want to retain Grass and company for many years.
At the end of the press conference, I asked about the state of recruiting and if the transition had affected this year’s class. Coach Grass stated he spent the last few days maintaining the team’s current workout schedule (which he tweeted about this morning) and trying to keep continuity through the transition. He contacted some recruits last night, and “everyone is in the boat”, according to Grass. “We will have more than we can sign,” Grass said, “Everyone has mid-major D-I talent.”
— John Grass (@Coach_Grass) January 23, 2014
In a one-on-one interview, I asked Coach Grass about the defense. Grass quickly made it clear the defense would be the aggressive, multiple defense we saw from Coach Clark. When asked who would fill the defensive coordinator position, Coach Grass said it would not be an internal promotion. It could be one of his high school colleagues or a coach with college experience. It all depends on who is a “good fit”, according to Grass.
Expect a lot more news to come out of JSU in coming weeks as Coach Grass hires his coaching staff and hopes to receive commitments from recruits on National Signing Day. The next six weeks will be crucial to JSU’s title run next year.