At the suggestion of his uncle, I talked to Jacksonville State offensive coordinator Ronnie Letson Thursday. Letson is a local, having graduated from Norcross High before going on to play quarterback at Ole Miss. Letson is just 33 but has been the Gamecocks’ coordinator since 2005.
He had some stuff to say about Georgia State that I think you’ll find interesting.
A bit about Letson: He didn’t actually intend to go into coaching after he earned a business degree at Ole Miss and even started working as a loan officer before graduation in 2000.
He took a grad assistant job at Jacksonville State, anticipating earning his MBA and moving on, but then the wide receivers coach left and Letson got a full-time job and a future profession.
“When I got here, I realized how much I loved it and (that) it was what I wanted to do and been in it ever since,” he said.
1. Letson called the shots for the offense in Jacksonville State’s upset of Ole Miss in the opener. You’ll Gamecocks outscored Ole Miss 21-3 in the fourth. Letson, who calls more than 90 percent of JSU’s plays, said the difference wasn’t the playcalling.
“To be honest with you, we didn’t run many different plays in the fourth quarter than we did in the first three,” he said. “It’s just players started making plays. We were an inch away here, a block away here, whatever it may be, and all of a sudden, players started clicking and making plays and they overcame everything that came at them.”
2. A case in point was a dump-off pass to Calvin Middleton (from North Cobb High) that went for about 15 yards in the Gamecocks’ game-tying drive. Middleton missed a blitz pickup, which allowed a linebacker a free shot at quarterback Marques Ivory (Northside-Warner Robins High). However, Middleton was quick enough to realize he missed the pickup and turned towards Ivory, who dumped the ball to him for the long gain.
Letson said the play is one reason why he (along with most coordinators, I imagine) thinks people make too big a deal of playcalling. Sometimes coordinators make the right play call and players don’t execute. Other times, they make bad play calls and the players compensate for it.
3. Jacksonville State liberally used backup quarterback (and true freshman) Coty Blanchard, even in the fourth quarter and overtime. He played less against Tennessee-Chattanooga last week, as starter Marques Ivory played more snaps. He said it is a Gamecocks strategy to get the backup snaps early in the game so he’s ready in case of injury.
4. Letson said he recruited Kelton Hill and Drew Little, but ultimately the coaching staff decided not to offer scholarships to quarterbacks for the 2009 signing class. (Quarterback Steven Coates from Southwest DeKalb signed this past spring.) Even still, the staff almost offered Hill a scholarship as an “athlete” but decided against it.
“They both actually came to our camp during the summer,” he said. “Both (were) high on our board. We have a lot of respect for those guys.”
5. On Georgia State’s defense: “Very talented on defense. Their schemes are very multiple. (Coordinator) John Thompson does a very good job. I know he’s only had a very short time of playing games, but you can tell he does a lot of stuff, tries to cause a lot of confusion and you’ve got to prepare for different things he can bring you.”
6. Defensive players he said impressed him: Cornerback Brent McClendon, linebacker Jake Muasau, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi. “They’re all pretty good,” he said, meaning all of the players on the defense. “I don’t know if they really have a weakness for a team only starting up. They’ve got a lot of good players and a lot more than what you would expect.”
7. His thoughts on Georgia State: “I don’t know much about the CAA. I know it’s a very strong conference. We don’t see them much on film. … I know it’s probably going to be a lot of travel for them, but Georgia State’s got 30,000 students. You’re in the heart of Atlanta. I don’t think that there’ll be any problems competing [in] three, four, five years. I think they’ll compete nationally, to be honest with you.”
Thanks for reading. What do you think?
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