Skip to main content

What to Expect from Deion Sanders' Hiring of Mike Zimmer at Jackson State

What should the Jackson State faithful expect from Mike Zimmer joining the Tigers' football staff?

Why did Deion Sanders need Mike Zimmer to join his staff? 

It's simple. Zimmer is a defensive specialist who served eight seasons as the Minnesota Viking's head coach and has 43 years of overall coaching experience. 

Deion Sanders and Mike Zimmer

Before his demise in Minnesota, he led top-ranked defenses in the NFL. The Vikings had a No. 1 ranking in 2017, No. 3 in 2018, and No. 4 in 2019. Injuries with key personnel took their toll on the Vikings' defense, and they significantly fell to lows in '20 and '21.

What is a Mike Zimmer Defense?

Warren Ludford wrote about Zimmer as a first-year defensive coordinator for "Dallas, Cincinnati, and Minnesota, team defense improved dramatically in the first years under Mike Zimmer. The only exception was Zimmer's one-year stint in Atlanta, which was aborted with Bobby Petrino's quick abandonment." 

He continued with the Key Scheme Elements of a Mike Zimmer Defense:

Scroll to Continue

Read More

  • 4-3 base scheme, frequent use of 4-2-5 nickel package in passing situations
  • primarily press-man coverage
  • extensive blitz variations, including signature double-A gap blitz formation, but does not blitz frequently
  • Stop the run first mentality

Questions Remain About the Hire

Why did Jackson State turn to Mike Zimmer? The Tigers' defensive coordinator is Dennis Thurman. Did Coach Sanders notice deficiencies in his defense before and during Fall camp that quickly needed to be addressed? How will Thurman and defensive line coach Jeff Weeks integrate Zimmer's suggestions into the Tigers' defensive scheme?

For Jackson State to take advantage of Zimmer's defensive prowess, they must have the personnel to execute it on the field. Besides senior linebacker Aubrey Miller Jr, junior defensive back Shilo Sanders, and freshman sensation cornerback Travis Hunter, Jackson State's roster doesn't have many recognizable defensive players.

The press-man coverage could work well with Hunter and Senior Isaiah Bolden holding down the corners. Miller Jr and the linebackers could attack the double-A gap with the blitzes, but the defensive line is a question mark. In the Celebration Bowl, the line received a thrashing from South Carolina State. What new personnel could be ready to implement stopping the run for Jackson State?

The Tigers face a demanding schedule out the gate against Florida A&M, Tennessee State, and Grambling State in their first three contests. The defense will need to show up in the stretch of games from Campbell, Southern, Texas Southern, Alabama A&M, and Alcorn. These battles could determine if Jackson State repeats as SWAC East Division Champions.

Will Zim's defensive methodology work at Jackson State this season? Is it too late for implementation before the new season kicks off to be effective? We shall see.