Shedeur Sanders has yet to officially play in a college football game, but the son of Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders fired a loud shot across the bow toward the SWAC.
When asked to evaluate the Tigers’ offensive production during preseason practices and what that meant for the upcoming season, Shedeur Sanders — with the same genetic self-assured bravado and confidence of his Hall of Fame father — made it clear just how good he thought this team is.
“It equates to a blowout,” the freshman quarterback said at SWAC Media Day. “You’ve got to understand we not … y’all don’t really understand, like, it’s players that have different caliber of talent that all came to JSU.
“So it’s like when you compare us to a regular SWAC team, a different SWAC team, the best, like, you’ve got to understand we didn’t come here because we had to. We came here because we chose to. It’s a difference.”
Those statements will certainly be used as motivation by JSU’s opponents.
But the immediate question that comes to mind is whether Sanders is right a little more than a month before the Tigers take the field down in Miami against Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic?
Sanders has impressed in practices going all the way back to the spring when he took first-team reps despite not being eligible to participate in games.
He’s already seen — even as an inexperienced, though talented freshman — a team leader.
What about the idea that this version of the Tigers, not the group that had spectacular highs and perplexing lows, featuring “a different caliber of talent” compared to the rest of the league?
Since the day Deion Sanders was hired, the program has gone on a high-end player acquisition tear not seen since national recruiting rankings became a thing.
As it stands, a 247 Sports composite rankings put Jackson State’s 2021 haul at No. 55 in the country. To put that into perspective, the positioning is higher than an Iowa State team that played in the 2020 Big 12 Championship Game; a Central Florida program that once went unbeaten and knocked off then-No. 7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl; perennial Group of Five titan Boise State and former FCS power Appalachian State.
Sanders was a four-star prospect himself, and the highest-rated prospect ever to sign with the Tigers.
He will be joined on the roster by high-profile FBS transfers and high school standouts that have many believing JSU can run roughshod through the SWAC and beyond in the not-too-distant future.
While Jackson State as currently constructed is not a “regular” or “normal” SWAC team, at least on paper, other schools in the conference do have four-and five-stars on their rosters, too, as Alabama A&M head coach Connell Maynor famously said as part of a rant in the spring.
But JSU has just so many more of them at their disposal it seems. The next HBCU ranked by 247 Sports after JSU is North Carolina A&T at No. 138. Then Florida A&M, the second SWAC school rated on the list, is featured at No. 153.
Many SWAC coaches and players obviously will not agree with Sanders’ comments or his candid assessment of the league, with some even going as far as considering them downright disrespectful coming from a kid who hasn’t proven it on the field.
It is, however, hard to ignore the war chest of recruits Deion Sanders and Co. has stockpiled over the last 11 months.
In college football, you win on Saturdays by scoring victories through texts, emails, phone calls and face-to-face visits on every other day of the week. Jackson State has certainly run up the score on the recruiting front, so Shedeur Sanders’ conviction isn’t completely wayward.
The journey for the Tigers in the fall isn’t expected to be a waltz. Alabama A&M has one of the best quarterbacks in the country coming off a championship and is favored to win the SWAC East again. Florida A&M, Southern, Alcorn State, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff are conference title contenders in their own right.
All that now remains is to watch with a close eye whether Jackson State is as good as Shedeur Sanders advertised.