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On Football: Could Coach Prime jump from SWAC to big-time?


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Sitting on a steel folding chair simply past the tip zone of Mississippi State’s observe subject, Deion Sanders is alone watching the Bulldogs scrimmage on a muggy spring day.

Coach Prime snagged his new offensive coordinator for Jackson State from Bulldogs coach Mike Leach’s employees this offseason. On this present day, Sanders had made the 90-minute drive to Starkville with a number of different members of his employees to check how Mississippi State operates.

“I need to be nice,” Sanders mentioned the following day, again on campus at JSU. “So once I go to locations like I went yesterday, that’s for me, too. That’s simply not for my coaches. I need to see how that is run. I need to see how can I enhance observe. I need to see what can I do completely different or the place am I falling quick, and I challenged myself to go to a different degree.”

Final season, Sanders’ second as Jackson State head coach, the Tigers went 11-2 and gained the Southwestern Athletic Convention. Then Sanders signed two Energy 5-level recruits to the HBCU, an unprecedented recruiting feat.

Heading into the 2022 season, Sanders has emerged as perhaps essentially the most fascinating potential head-coaching candidate in school soccer.

Including to the intrigue is the state of Sanders’ old fashioned. As soon as-mighty Florida State started 12 months 3 beneath coach Mike Norvell attempting to snap a string of 4 straight dropping seasons.

“I don’t look down the road that far. I dominate the second, man,” Sanders advised AP.

Latest hiring tendencies in main school soccer are working towards Sanders leaping straight from Jackson State to a Energy 5 convention faculty.

Simply going from the second-tier of Division I soccer, the place Jackson State competes, to the Bowl Subdivision is an more and more uncommon transfer. Making the soar from an HBCU to FBS is even rarer and going from the SWAC to a Energy 5 faculty is exceptional.

Then once more, Sanders, 55, has at all times been one-of-one.

Prime Time made cornerback a glamour place throughout his time at Florida State within the late Nineteen Eighties. He performed 10 years of Main League Baseball whereas concurrently being among the finest gamers within the NFL all through the Nineteen Nineties.

“You don’t get to grow to be thought of the very best, operating with the remaining,” Sanders mentioned.

Sanders has mentioned job openings with officers from not less than three Energy 5 colleges, together with Florida State when it employed Norvell in 2019.

“Killed it. Nailed all of the interviews,” Sanders mentioned.

He impressed not less than one athletic director sufficient {that a} preliminary dialog, performed as a favor to Sanders’ then-agent, led to a second, extra formal interview.

Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek mentioned he went into his preliminary assembly with Sanders again in 2019 with no expectations.

“I used to be blown away,” Yurachek advised AP. “He was very nicely ready. He had performed analysis on our program. He had performed analysis on recruits. He may discuss in regards to the SEC.”

At the moment, Sanders was nonetheless teaching at a Dallas-area highschool that he helped launch. His lack of expertise was an excessive amount of to beat.

Nonetheless, Yurachek thought of the potential affect Sanders may have on the recruiting path within the SEC, attempting to sway among the most sought-after highschool gamers within the nation away from Alabama’s Nick Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Sensible.

“Can the identify Deion Sanders and his presence within the house of a younger man be enticement sufficient for that younger man to return right here establishment?” Yurachek requested himself.

Apparently so.

Final December, Jackson State was the story of signing day when five-star cornerback Travis Hunter backed off a longtime commitment to Florida State in favor of Sanders and the Tigers. Then in February, JSU signed four-star receiver Kevin Coleman.

Sanders swooping in to swipe Florida State’s prime recruit was yet one more stinging loss for beleaguered Seminoles followers.

Sanders concedes he had a falling out with Florida State after the Bobby Bowden and his longtime defensive coordinator, Mickey Andrews, have been nudged into retirement by the varsity in 2009.

That’s all behind him now. The Hunter state of affairs was nothing private.

“I ain’t obtained no quarrels with Florida State,” Sanders mentioned. “Every part is competitors. Travis didn’t belong to them.”

Might a return to Tallahassee be in Sanders’ within the close to future? It doesn’t appear doubtless.

Norvell has robust help from athletic director Michael Alford, who prolonged the coach’s contract after the ’Noles bounced again from an 0-4 begin with a 5-3 end in 2021.

Even a small step ahead in 2022, ought to be sufficient for Florida State to remain the course. The Seminoles opened the season with an easy victory against Duquesne final week, however face a a lot stiffer check Sunday towards LSU.

Florida State can’t afford to be impatient with Norvell. The varsity remains to be paying off Willie Taggart’s $14 million buyout, and one other eight-figure payout to a fired coach can be tough to soak up —particularly with Florida State targeted on bettering outdated amenities and infrastructure.

“We simply needed to modernize our operation and present investments in this system,” Alford mentioned.

Nonetheless, followers are extra fickle than ever today. There’s a level — 4-8? 3-9? — the place the query turns into: Will it value extra in fan and donor apathy to maintain this coach than it does to fireplace him?

And does that calculation change if Coach Prime remains to be killing it at JSU?


Observe Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and hear at http://www.appodcasts.com


Extra AP school soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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