The Jacksonville State Gamecocks are the new kids on the FBS block, making their debut in Conference USA this fall. Earlier this year, we introduced you to a brief history of the program and now it’s time to get familiar with the Jacksonville State coaching staff who will lead this Gamecocks team into the 2023 college football campaign.
Jacksonville State Gamecocks Coaching Staff
Head Coach, Rich Rodriguez
Rich Rodriguez was appointed as the Jacksonville State head coach ahead of the 2022 college football season. Despite the program’s ineligibility for a conference title due to their transitional status, the team achieved a remarkable 9-2 record in his first season at the helm, including an unbeaten 5-0 conference record. This performance would have secured an FCS Playoffs berth and a conference crown.
With their success in 2022, Rodriguez immediately proved the program’s leadership right in selecting him as a head coach capable of bringing his FBS-winning experience to facilitate their transition to the highest level of college football. Although his career has encountered its share of challenges, his up-tempo offenses have consistently led to remarkable on-field success throughout his coaching tenure.
Rodriguez made his head coaching debut at the young age of 24, and his journey has seen him receive the Coach of the Year award five times from three different conferences, most recently in 2014 from the Pac-12. Boasting a 172-121-2 record as a head coach, his comprehensive college coaching résumé can be found below.
- West Virginia (student assistant, 1985)
- Salem (defensive back and special teams coach, 1986; assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, 1987; head coach, 1988)
- West Virginia (outside linebacker coach, 1989)
- Glenville State (HC, 1990-1996)
- Tulane (offensive coordinator and QB coach, 1997-1998)
- Clemson (OC and QB coach, 1999-2000)
- West Virginia (HC, 2001-2007)
- Michigan (HC, 2008-2010)
- Arizona (HC, 2012-2017)
- Ole Miss (OC and QB coach, 2019)
- Louisiana-Monroe (assistant HC, OC and QB coach, 2021)
- Jacksonville State (HC, 2022-2023)
Defensive Coordinator, Zac Alley
Zac Alley joined the Jacksonville State coaching staff for the 2022 college football season, assuming the roles of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Gamecocks. He arrived in Jacksonville after becoming the youngest defensive coordinator in the FBS while working at Louisiana-Monroe in 2021.
Alley made a transformative impact with the Warhawks, taking a defense that was one of the worst in the nation and elevating them to a mid-ranking position across several defensive metrics. The improved defense played a crucial role in turning a winless team in 2020 into a four-win program during his sole season on the Bayou.
The Jacksonville State defensive coordinator gained valuable coaching experience under Dabo Swinney at Clemson, where he began his career as a student assistant during his freshman season at Death Valley. While working with the Tigers’ defensive tackles and linebackers, he was involved in two national title runs and had the opportunity to coach some of the nation’s top defensive talent.
Although Alley honed his coaching skills at Clemson, his first full-time coaching role came at the Group of Five powerhouse, Boise State. From 2019 to 2020, he served as the Broncos’ co-special teams coordinator and outside linebacker coach, and his exceptional performance in coordinating the special teams units earned him national recognition.
Offensive Coordinator, Rod Smith
In assembling his coaching staff at Jacksonville State, head coach Rodriguez relied on familiarity and FBS experience, both of which he found in offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Rod Smith. Smith brings 26 years of college coaching experience, with 21 of those years spent coaching at the FBS level.
The connection between Smith and the current Gamecocks head coach goes back even further. They first teamed up as player and coach at Glenville State, where Smith excelled as an All-American quarterback under Rodriguez. Smith then continued to serve as the quarterback coach for Rodriguez at West Virginia, Michigan, and Arizona.
Smith has played a pivotal role in developing two of the most dynamic playmakers in the history of college football. He helped Denard Robinson rise to national prominence at Michigan and guided Pat White to multiple accolades at West Virginia. Prior to his college career, Smith held his first offensive coordinator position at Franklin High School in West Virginia. You can find his detailed coaching résumé below.
- Urbana (OC, 1998-1999)
- West Virginia Tech (OC, 2000)
- Clemson (graduate assistant, 2001)
- West Virginia (graduate assistant, 2001)
- USF (passing game coordinator and QB coach, 2001-2004; OC and QB coach, 2005-2006)
- West Virginia (QB coach, 2007)
- Michigan (QB coach, 2008-2010)
- Indiana (co-OC and QB coach, 2011)
- Illinois (OC and QB coach, 2018-2020; interim head coach, 2020)
- Virginia (offensive analyst, 2021)
- Jacksonville State (OC and QB coach, 2022-2023)
Special Teams Coordinator, Pat Kirkland
Another disciple of Rodriguez on the Jacksonville State coaching staff, Pat Kirkland joined the program as the special teams coordinator and bandits coach for the 2022 college football season. Kirkland previously worked with Rodriguez at West Virginia but has spent the past 10 seasons contributing to the success of the Charleston Golden Eagles as a head coach, accumulating a 70-41 record.
Wide Receiver Coach, Ryan Garrett
Ryan Garrett, an all-conference high school pass catcher, transitioned to coaching during his time as a student at Ole Miss. In 2019, he worked with quarterbacks for the Rebels under head coach Rodriguez before joining West Virginia State. Garrett reunited with his former head coach at Louisiana-Monroe before joining the Jacksonville State coaching staff as the wide receiver coach in 2022.
Defensive Line Coach, William Green
William Green returned to the Jacksonville State coaching staff in 2022 as the defensive line coach, having previously contributed to the Gamecocks’ success with a 28-13 record over four seasons as the defensive line coach and run game coordinator. As a former lineman for the Florida Gators, he also gained coaching experience with his alma mater and spent time coaching at Louisiana-Monroe before his return to Jacksonville.
Cornerback Coach, Terry Jefferson
Terry Jefferson, a new addition to the Jacksonville State coaching staff for the 2023 college football season, will coach the Gamecocks’ cornerbacks after fulfilling the same role at Jackson State during the 2022 college football campaign.
MORE: CUSA CB Rankings 2023
Jefferson brings recent experience playing in the defensive backfield, having been recognized as an all-MEAC selection at safety during the 2017 FCS season.
Running Back Coach, Rod McDowell
After rushing for almost 1,700 yards with 14 total touchdowns during his playing career at Clemson, Rod McDowell began his coaching journey with his alma mater in 2019. Following his contributions to the Clemson Tigers’ consecutive ACC Championships, he joined Louisiana-Monroe as the running back coach before becoming a part of Rodriguez’s inaugural coaching staff at Jacksonville State in 2022.
Tight End Coach, Michael Nysewander
Former Alabama tight end Michael Nysewander joins the Jacksonville State coaching staff for the 2023 college football season. He initially started his coaching career as an offensive and special teams quality control assistant at Samford and served as the RB coach in 2019. However, the majority of his coaching experience has been with Lane Kiffin at FAU and Ole Miss.
Safety Coach, Kelvin Sigler
Kelvin Sigler, a team captain at Alabama who recorded six interceptions for the Crimson Tide from 1995 to 1998, spent time at his alma mater before becoming the CB coach at South Alabama. He joined the Jacksonville State coaching staff in 2018, working with the Gamecocks’ safeties while also serving as the defensive coordinator for multiple seasons.
Offensive Line Coach, Rick Trickett
Having started his career in 1976, Rick Trickett is an experienced hand on the Jacksonville State coaching staff. He has achieved tremendous success, coaching over 40 offensive linemen to receive all-conference accolades. Notably, Trickett was the offensive line coach at FSU when the Seminoles won the national title in 2013, fueled by one of the most explosive offenses in the nation.