Grass completed his staff Wednesday with the hiring of Aashon Larkins as special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach.
Larkins spent the last eight seasons at The Citadel, the last four in the positions he’ll direct at JSU. He joins a defensive staff loaded with Division I coaching experience.
David Blackwell (Fordham) and Brandon Hall (Auburn) will serve as co-defensive coordinators, while coaching linebackers and safeties, respectively. Former Cleburne County and Alabama standout Todd Bates (Idaho State) will coach the defensive line, and Nick Gentry, one of the graduate assistants promoted through the transition, will work with the outside linebackers.
The offensive staff includes long-time JSU assistant Jimmy Ogle (assistant head coach/running backs), former Alabama receiver Nick Williams (receivers), former Notre Dame recruiting analyst J.R. Sandlin (recruiting/tight ends), Trey Clark (offensive line) and Larry Smith (quarterbacks).
“It’s a great mix of guys who have a lot of energy,” Grass said, “a good mix of experience and young guys who are going to be really good. It’s a good mix there and that’s good for our players.”
While former JSU coach Bill Clark formed his staff with coaches who worked with him at various spots during his career, Grass elevated young assistants he worked with last year at JSU and relied on recommendations of BCS-level head coaches whose relationship and opinions he respects.
Blackwell came highly recommended by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Hall received a similar accounting from Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.
“My deal was to hire the best coach available,” Grass said. “It’s not necessarily somebody I personally worked with, but in those cases I definitely wanted somebody I’ve known for a long time who knows that person and worked with them.
“How good you can be is about how good the people around you are. I think we got the very best candidates we could. I’m excited to have a complete staff.”
With the staffing situation complete, Grass can turn his attention to the start of his first spring practice as a college head coach. It gets underway March 4.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.