Head Coach John Grass is almost done filling out his first coaching staff at Jacksonville State with the hiring of his new Defensive Coordinator earlier this week. David Blackwell comes to Jacksonville from Fordham, where he spent the past two seasons.
Two years ago Blackwell stepped into the DC role for a Pioneer League program that had just gone 1-10.
This past season, the Rams made the 24-team playoff field with a 12-2 record.
“The job they did at Fordham was outstanding,” said coach John Grass. “It was pretty impressive what they’d done there. What we want is to continue to get the kids to play at a high level.”
If everything meshes well, next year’s defense has the potential to be one of the fiercest and toughest in the nation. JSU led the FCS in sacks last season, and now they bring in the coach whose defense led the FCS in total takeaways.
Blackwell’s Fordham defense was ranked first in the FCS with 40 takeaways, 19 fumbles (2nd nationally) and 21 interceptions (3rd nationally).
“I’m coming into a defense that also made great strides and kind of hit its stride late in the year,” Blackwell said. “If we can continue to emphasize taking the ball away and play well in the red zone and couple that with some of the things they were able to do this past season, we have a chance to be a very special defense.”
Prior to Fordham, Blackwell had coaching stops at South Florida, Clemson, Pittsburgh, East Carolina and Iowa State.
Blackwell will be closely assisted by Brandon Hall, another defensive hire this past week. Hall comes from Auburn, where he followed Gus Malzahn from Arkansas State. He was linebackers coach and likely will land that same role in Jacksonville, but also was handed the title of Co-defensive coordinator by Grass.