In the case with most head coaching changes in college football, the new guy wants his guys to fill his new staff.
Coach Clark felt JSU was the place for his family, and it didn’t take long for him to bring on some of the members of his coaching family to JSU as well.
New offensive coordinator John Grass is also returning home to Jacksonville State, where he graduated in 1990.
His ties with Bill Clark go back to the days the two were on campus in the late eighties.
Grass began his coaching career in 1990 as an assistant at Ashville High School. He became a head coach for the first time in 1995 at Ashville and guided the program for the next five years. After a 10-0 season in 1999 (the first in school history), Grass left to become the offensive coordinator at powerhouse Hoover High for two years, where the Bucs posted a 28-2 record in route to two 6A state championship games, winning the 2001 state title.
After short stints at Albertville, Moody, and Spain Park High, Coach Grass took the head job at Oxford in 2008, where he’d been for the past five years prior to joining the JSU staff. While at Oxford, his Yellowjackets posted a 41-16 record, reaching the playoffs in all but one season.
Total between all his stops his high in the high school ranks Grass compiled a 122-61 (.666) record and was twice named AHSAA Coach of the Year. He brings with him a spread offense, which has led to success in the past, and has indicated that the Gamecocks will move in that direction on that side of the ball.
Next year, senior quarterback Coty Blanchard would work well in the system, with a nice arm that he’s shown during his playing time in his first three seasons, and has great mobility as is proven by his talents as a star shortstop on the Gamecock baseball squad.
Baseball poses the question if Blanchard will return for his senior year, and if he chooses not to it leaves true freshman Jayce Barber, who is already on campus this spring for workouts, and probably junior Steven Coates, who seemed to have the position of third string QB last season behind Ivory and Blanchard.
The new defensive coordinator for the Gamecocks is Duwan Walker. Walker graduated from Troy in 1996, where he played cornerback for the arch rival Trojans.
He began coaching as a graduate assistant at Troy for a few years before teaming up with Clark, who he’s coached with ever since.
Coach Walker first joined Clark’s defensive staff at Prattville High in 1999 and was soon promoted to defensive coordinator in 2001.
Walker was a vital part of the program during the successful run of eight playoff appearances, which resulted in two state championships and an overall 91% winning percentage.
Walker earned Defense Coordinator of the Year in 2006.
In 2008, Walker left Prattville behind Coach Clark and joined the South Alabama defensive staff.
With the Jaguars, Walker coached cornerbacks and along with Clark the duo put together a defense that pushed USA from an FCS program to a full-time FBS program in the Sun Belt conference.
Last year the Jaguars defense was second in the entire conference.
Coach Walker plans to run the defense out of a basic 3-4 formation, which features three down linemen on the line of scrimmage, but he expects to have other formations involved to specialize talent and schemes to put together the best possible defense.