A couple of days after Georgia State resumed all activities on Jan. 2, the official announcement of Shawn Elliott’s new coaching staff was delayed until Jan. 5. Human resource workers were on winter break, so finalizing all necessary paperwork was put on pause.
Coach Elliott couldn’t speak on his assistants specifically before the contracts became official, but he did give the general characteristics he was looking for while hiring his staff.
“We’ve got to hire guys that I can trust and certainly, hire guys that you can respect,” Coach Elliott said. “Respect means, they’re good coaches. They’re good fundamental guys that you can trust to go out there and you don’t have to be on top of them to do their job.”
Offensive Coordinator – Travis Trickett
In the 2016 season at Florida Atlantic, Trickett’s running back corps set the school record for rushing touchdowns and rushing yards in a season. As the co-offensive coordinator at Samford in the 2015 season, the Bulldogs averaged 34.6 points and nearly 480 yards a game while using the two-quarterback system. Trickett ended his four-year reign at Samford by improving the team’s scoring average in three consecutive seasons. Trickett began his college coaching career in 2003 as a student assistant at West Virginia, where he worked with quarterback Pat White. He moved on to the University of Alabama and Florida State University to work with quarterbacks like John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy, Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel as a graduate assistant under Nick Saban, Bobby Bowden, and Jimbo Fisher.
On Dec. 18, Trickett tweeted that his new staff already started recruiting.
Defensive Coordinator- Nathan Fuqua
As the defensive coordinator at Wofford, Fuqua recruited the players from central west Georgia, which include the cities Fayetteville, Columbus, Macon, and McDonough. In 2015, Fuqua’s defense at Wofford led the Southern Conference by only allowing 148.5 rushing yards per game. The total defense ranked third in the league, scoring defense was sixth and the red zone defense was ranked second. As a player at Wofford, Fuqua became inducted into the program’s hall of fame in 2008 after finishing his career as the third all-time leader in tackles for a loss with 50.
Offensive Line coach – Cedric Williams
Williams followed Coach Elliott from the University of South Carolina, where he served as an assistant strength coach. Williams previously was the offensive line coach at Newberry College in South Carolina and in 2011, his team allowed the second fewest sacks nationally in Division II. As a player, Williams was a first-team all-SEC lineman in 2000 and was a four-year starter for the Gamecocks from 1999-2002.
Running Backs coach – Josh Stepp
Stepp was a high school coach at Lexington High School in South Carolina. In 2015, The State’s newspaper named Stepp the Coach of the Year after leading Lexington to its first state championship game since 2000. He finished his career at Lexington with a 36-17 record.
“Coaching college football has been my ultimate goal and it is a great opportunity to work for a great coach who is beginning his time there,” Stepp said to The State about Elliott and Georgia State. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Wide Receivers coach – Trent McKnight
McKnight served as Samford’s tight end and slot receiver coach for four seasons. In 2014, as the wide receiver coach, McKnight coached All-SoCon receiver Karel Hamilton, who brought down 55 catches for 877 yards and six touchdowns. McKnight once coached the receivers at Georgia Military College, where he also recruited the state of Georgia.
Defensive Line coach – Jess Simpson
Simpson coached as an assistant and head coach at Buford High School for 10 of its 11 all-time state championships. In 11 seasons as the head coach, he led the Wolves to a 164-12 record, which is good for a 93.18 win percentage. In those 11 seasons also came 10 state championship games, nine region titles, and seven state titles.
Inside Linebackers coach – Rusty Wright
Wright was the linebackers coach at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he coached at least one linebacker to the first team All-Southern Conference honors in each of his four years with the Mocs. At Chattanooga, Wright recruited in the East Central area of Georgia, which includes the high school football hotbed Gwinnett County, Clarke County and Greene County. He also served as the defensive coordinator for Reinhardt University for two years, a program that played its inaugural season in 2013. In his playing career, Wright lined up next to Terrell Owens at tight end for Chattanooga.
Cornerbacks coach – Sam Shade
In seven seasons at Samford, Shade’s secondary led the nation in 2014 for passing yards allowed with 131.9 yards per game. Shade played for the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL from 1995 to 2003. His last two years with the Bengals, his defensive coordinator was NFL Hall of Fame coach Dick LeBeau.
Safeties coach – Chris Collins
Collins is another Southern Conference product, playing as a safety and outside linebacker for Western Carolina from 2006-2009. Collins was most recently a linebackers coach with the Catamounts. Collins also coached at Division II Catawba College, where he coached former San Francisco 49ers safety L.J. McCray.
After finalizing the necessary paperwork to make these hires official, Coach Elliott’s staff looks to continue recruiting, preferably within a two-hour radius of Downtown Atlanta, using Turner Field as the top pitch.
“That facility is going to propel us to the forefront in recruiting, in this conference as far as what we can offer student-athletes,” Coach Elliott said. “A tremendous amount of space. We can house everything under the sun, including the entire athletics department in that facility. To call that home- a place where you can go eat, sleep, win, train, cry, I mean you can put a church over there. We’ve got that kind of spacing. To have it have it where we can do it our way, it’s just amazing.”
Star wide receiver Penny Hart was granted a medical redshirt last season following his injury and is cleared to participate in winter workouts. The specifics of spring practice aren’t solidified, but Coach Elliott is aiming to begin in March.
“Our coaches have to get in here with one another, they have to teach one another and develop that first and foremost,” Coach Elliott said.
Welcome to the family
- Five of the new coaches are coming from the Southern Conference (SoCon).
- Former Buford High School Head Coach Jess Simpson lost only 12 games in 11 seasons with the Wolves.
- Elliott, the former offensive line coach at the University of South Carolina, hires Georgia State new offensive line coach Cedric Williams from the University of South Carolina.