JSU’S Virtual Playbook


JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Jackson State football team has a way to train their quarterbacks without them hitting the field.

In a 10×10 room in the corner fo the T.B. Ellis Football Complex, the quarterbacks are training for the upcoming football season.

The QB group is using the Virtual Augmented Reality system, known as VAR. The system was developed by first-year quarterbacks coach Austin Smith.

“It was years ago, sitting there as a 20-year-old offensive coordinator in south Louisiana, and only being two years removed from high school football,” Smith said.  “I could see there’s a learning curve difference with how you teach players.”

Smith, who grew up playing sports, has also always been very tech savvy. 

So, back in 2009, he used that skill to develop what would eventually become the system his quarterbacks are using now.

“I created a Techmo Bowl type of game to teach the playbook,” Smith said. “Now they’re involved, now they’re getting it. They’re engaged. They weren’t trying to fall asleep on their phone when i’m on the chalkboard.”

Instead, their eyes are getting a 4K view of practice video while taking multiple mental reps.

“It was wild to me just coming in seeing it the first few times you do it,” said JSU redshirt sophomore quarterback Derrick Ponder. “You’re a little blown back by what you’re taking in. it’s something you get used to but it’s extremely beneficial.” 

Meanwhile, freshman Jack Strouse just got to campus last month but is all caught up on the Tigers offense.

“I’ve already been through every single spring practice,” Strouse said.  “Almost three times with some of them. So I’ll be out there, just mental reps, knowing what’s gonna be out there already. I’ll be ready to go.”

And that’s not only due to the software, but to the three days a week these quarterbacks come into the film room to practice on their own.

Head coach Tony Hughes says that kind of dedication could be the difference for his team this fall.

“If you want to be good, then you’re gonna have to spend time in the summer working on your craft,” Hughes said.  “Whether that be film or throwing 7-on-7 or early morning workouts or whatever they may be. This is all a part of that process.”

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