Deion Sanders put his stamp on a spring football game as only ‘Coach Prime’ can do Sunday afternoon – and donned a Jackson State sweatshirt with Sanders’s own Twitter handle -- @CoachPrime – stenciled across his shoulders.
All in front of a national television audience on ESPNU, as Sanders’s Jackson State program became the first Historically Black College & University to have its spring game featured on a live broadcast.
“Everybody wants exposure,” Sanders told ESPN. “The only way to have exposure is to give people the access.”
Sanders made his team redo its opening kick off, benched his starting center mere moments into the intrasquad contest after multiple muffed snaps and then immediately featured consensus five-star 2022 signee Travis Hunter, who enrolled at the school in January and scored the game’s first two touchdowns on passes from Shedeur Sanders, ‘Coach Prime’s’ son, and also intercepted a pass.
Deion Sanders wore a microphone and interacted throughout the broadcast with ESPN’s broadcast team, including allaying any concerns about a potential injury to Hunter – “he just bumped knees.”
“Oh my God … he showed us enough,” Sanders said of Hunter. “He’s a guy that wants it, wants all of it.”
Sanders again stressed his program-building philosophy as it pertained to roster assembly.
“We recruited really good last season,” said Sanders, whose JSU signing class was among the most highly regarded ever at the Football Championship Subdivision level, “and we brought in some guys from outside (via transfers).
“We live in the (NCAA Transfer) Portal, we got an apartment in the Portal and we love it.”
Sanders also utilized that opportunity for another recruiting pitch – with a number of recruits having been on the Jackson, Mississippi, campus this weekend.
“We’ve got some guys that can really go get it, we have several pass rushers that can really get to the quarterback,” Sanders said. “Right now, we’re trying to shore our defense up.
“I saw quite a few guys this weekend on visits that we can use. They can come right in and pay dividends immediately.”
Sanders also took a moment to praise his coaching staff and singled out new offensive coordinator Brett Bartolone, whom Sanders said carried an endorsement from none other than Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach – one of the founding fathers of college’s air raid offense.
“We’ve gotta move the ball, be a lot more creative,” Sanders said of the challenge for his offense. “Who do you got to? A guy like Mike Leach (and say) ‘Gimme three guys you think can do the job.’ … Brett won it out.
“He’s been doing a phenomenal job.”
Sanders couldn’t resist taking a shot at last season’s Tigers’ offense, which three times was held to a single touchdown though the JSU defense carried the team to the SWAC title and Celebration Bowl berth.
“They pretty much were calling out our dern plays last season, we were that dern predictable,” Sanders said. “If you have a run game, that means you’ve got an option and you’re not predictable.”
As he took questions live via Instagram submissions during the game, Sanders declined to single out any game on the Tigers’ 2022 schedule – though he did acknowledge Alcorn coach Fred McNair and touted his ambitious plans for the NFL Draft.
“Coach McNair, what’s up? I love you baby,” Sanders said. “My prayer is five kids to 10 get drafted this year, and then next year 15.”