Jackson State coach Deion Sanders on facing Eddie George, Tennessee State football
A former NFL star making the transition to a first-time college football coach.
Jackson State coach Deion Sanders can relate to that. He did it a year ago.
Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL All-Pro running back Eddie George is embarking on the same transition at Tennessee State.
And it just so happens the two will be the main storylines for the Southern Heritage Classic at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN3).
Sanders, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, had nothing but glowing remarks about George on Tuesday.
"Unbelievable individual what he's going to do there, he's going to provoke change each and every day he's on campus," Sanders said on Tuesday's SWAC conference call. "He's a winner. That's who he is, that's who I understand how he is how he gets down."
Sanders said it's going to take George some time to get the players he truly wants in the locker room.
George lost his coaching debut Sunday, a 16-10 setback to Grambling State in the Black College Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
Sanders said he saw some similarities in the Tigers' style of play.
"They're going to play tough, man," Sanders said. "They're going to take on the personality of Coach George. He was tough, he was strong, he was big, he was fast. He was something to deal with on every play and well conditioned. I see some of these similarities on (Tennessee State's) film. We have not, in its totality, studied everything about them because it's only been one game, but they fought hard (against Grambling State). They fought hard and then they're going to be a tough team. We got to be on our Ps and Qs."
Jackson State won its season opener 7-6 over Florida A&M in Miami on Sunday.
"Those guys really put us through the test, thank God we persevered," Sanders said. "Our team, coaches, everyone fought hard, fought tough. Made some mistakes, but we overcame all adversity that was thrown up against us and we're elated about this opportunity we have this week versus Tennessee State."
Sanders said the Tigers had one of their best early week practices Tuesday since he's been at JSU. The second-year coach credited defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman with how well he's prepared the defensive unit.
Tennessee State played three quarterbacks - Geremy Hickbottom, Deveon Bryant and Tucker Pope - in the season opener. Hickbottom an Bryant missed practice time on game week due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
"We don't care who's back there," Sanders said. "I mean that, I think that's a problem when you have three different quarterbacks it's pretty much telling everybody you don't trust one. That's what that really does, but having three different quarterbacks is not a problem for us, that's a problem for them."
Contact Rashad Milligan at 601-862-6198 or Jmilligan@gannett.com. Follow @RashadMilligan on Twitter.