As college spring football practice begins, eyes will be on Jackson, Mississippi, and head coach Deion Sanders. Sanders and the Tigers won their first SWAC title in 14 years in 2021. They also clinched the school’s first 11-win season in program history. All the while, trotting out a subpar offense but dominant defense.
The offensive struggles didn’t sit too well with Coach Prime, who has goals of making Jackson State the first HBCU “destination spot” for elite recruits and also getting his son Shedeur into the NFL. So this offseason he hired offensive guru Brett Bartolone, previously at Nevada.
Bartolone will run a semblance of the “Air Raid” attack he just used with the Wolfpack. It also showcased the talents of strong-armed quarterback Carson Strong, who in turn made himself an NFL prospect, passing for 4,186 yards, 36 touchdowns, against eight interceptions.
Sanders will be looking for similar production from Shedeur, who passed for 3,231 yards, 30 touchdowns and threw eight interceptions but has much room for growth and struggled in the SWAC title game and Celebration Bowl, where he threw for a combined 270 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Shedeur Sanders connects with Joshua Lanier For his 1st career TD pass to get JSU on the board. pic.twitter.com/bffmilHvRh
— Andscape (@andscape) September 11, 2021
Bartolone Has A Lot Of Weaponry At His Disposal
This will be Bartolone’s first time calling plays, but his cupboard is hardly bare. He inherits an offense that also features some talented pass-catchers like Malachi Wideman, the Tennessee transfer who stands 6 feet 5 and runs a 4.5. Last season he caught 34 passes for 540 yards (16.0 per catch) and a team-high 12 touchdowns. He touched paydirt four times in a blowout of SWAC rival Bethune-Cookman.
The @GoJSUTigersFB are lighting it up now!
Shedeur Sanders finds Malachi Wideman for their fourth touchdown connection on the day🔥pic.twitter.com/uW5HiiXsUB
— Andscape (@andscape) October 23, 2021
The new OC also has two top-50 recruits in No. 1 overall recruit Travis Hunter and No. 44 ranked recruit Kevin Coleman.
The addition of tight end Keveon Mullins, a former four-star recruit, gives the Tigers another tall receiver like Wideman. Mullins goes 6’2 and 245 pounds.
Sanders Made Changes To Offense In Season: Wasn’t Happy With It Early On
Although the Tigers were sitting at 3-1 through four games, Sanders let it be known he wasn’t happy with the offense. He took play-calling duties from Jason Phillips and turned them over to T.C. Taylor. Taylor went out and led the offense to a 496 total yards in a 61-15 blowout of the Alabama A&M Bulldogs.
— COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) March 11, 2022
At the time of the switch Sanders told reporters that “It had nothing to do with a person not doing the job. I thought Taylor was ready. He stepped up to the challenge and did a phenomenal job. Much love to T.C. he called a heck of a game.”
Sanders was looking for that perfect balance of run/pass and some innovative play-calling and Taylor seemed to provide it.
Taylor described his coaching experience under Deion’s leadership as challenging and elevating.
“He’s very demanding, he doesn’t accept mediocrity at all,” Taylor said of Coach Prime. “That’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week and that’s culture that’s been established around here. You know you can’t cut corners with him. He critiques everything. He sees everything. He’s very detailed. And it makes us detailed as coaches and players as well.”
Spring practice is where the nuts and bolts of the offense are implemented. The quarterback also begins to work on timing and getting in sync with his receivers. With the offensive scheme they’re installing, it’s going to take time, but once it’s up and running the SWAC could be in a world of trouble.
Sanders has been adamant that he wants to dominate and bringing in a new OC/passing game coordinator is a direct sign that he’s looking to do just that. The Tigers should average 35-40 points a game this season, and stress defenses weekly by using the entire length and width of the field.