JACKSONVILLE – Now the Jacksonville State head coach, John Grass doesn’t spend as much time mapping out the offensive plan of attack as he did last season as a coordinator.
He has assistant coaches who do some of the analysis work that took up a lot of his time a year ago. But when JSU plays at Michigan State in its season opener tonight and the Gamecocks’ offense prepares to approach the line of scrimmage, Grass will be the one calling the play.
Although he has delegated some other responsibilities, he hasn’t given up that one. And for the Gamecocks — who set 49 school offensive records last year with Grass calling plays — that seems like a good move.
"I am still going to call the plays,” Grass said. “I’m not as heavily involved day-in and day-out as I was last year, but as far as game plan-wise, I’m still in the room and breaking down opponents and finding ways to attack them.
“It changes a little but because last year, I did not have to worry about special teams or defense. Now that you are back to being a head coach, you have to make sure all three areas are doing what they need to do."
Grass said he enjoys calling plays.
“I’m more of a hands-on type of guy,” he said. “I think it is enjoyable for me and hopefully I’m decent at it. I don't ever just want to be a CEO because this business can make you one of those if you let it.”
However, don’t be surprised if Grass allows his staff to have their say in play-calling. He pointed out assistant head coach Jimmy Ogle and quarterbacks coach Larry Smith as being involved with the responsibility.
Grass said he could see himself calling “70 to 80 percent” of the plays — or even just half, as his offensive staff gains experience.
“I believe in surrounding yourself with great people, and that is what we have done here,” he said. “I have confidence in Coach Ogle and Coach Smith in calling plays, and I think Coach Smith has a bright future in calling plays. We are grooming those guys right now and everyone in the room has a voice and has input on what we are doing.”
But the final decision will rest with Grass, who said one of the keys is to not make the initial plan too complicated.
“In the past, we were not as productive when we took too much (offensive plan) into the game,” Grass said.
At least one JSU player — Max Holcombe, who has started three years at center — is pleased to know the Gamecocks will have Grass calling plays again this season. He said he believes Grass’ strength as a play-caller is the work during practice in the week leading to the game.
“His preparation is elite level,” Holcombe said. “Because of that, he always has us in the right spot at the right time. He knows all the defensive tendencies, and we’ll be prepared for every situation in the game.”