Mark Bonis hates to compare coaches – just like he hates to compare players.
Everyone has their own individuality, the Brother Martin coach says. Everyone is their own man.
But when it comes to Frank Wilson, LSU’s former running backs coach, and his replacement hired Saturday, Jabbar Juluke, Bonis is in a tough spot.
The similarities are just too much to handle.
Wilson and Juluke are both from New Orleans. They are both products of St. Augustine. They both served as an assistant coach at inner city schools in New Orleans, and then led an Orleans Parish public school to a state title game as head coach.
“A lot of people try to make the comparison,” Bonis said. “I can’t speak highly enough about both of them.”
There’s another comparison, too: They both know the Fournette family well.
“I know Juluke is close to Leonard and his dad,” said Tony Hull, head coach at Warren Easton. “They both can make each other better.”
Better? Fournette? That’ll perk up some ears.
The Tigers announced Juluke’s hire Saturday morning, swiping the ex-Edna Karr head coach a month into his new job as Texas Tech’s running backs coach.
He began his gig immediately.
Juluke was in town Saturday for LSU’s junior day event, courting around campus some of the state’s highest rated 2017 prospects. LSU expected about 40 Louisiana recruits for the day-long affair – many of them from Juluke’s stomping grounds.
Landry-Walker receiver Devonta Jason, a 2018 LSU commitment who attended the junior day as a sophomore, tweeted out a photo of him and Juluke on Saturday afternoon.
“This exactly what we needed, hands down,” tweeted LSU 2016 signee and Edna Karr defensive end Andre Anthony about the hire.
New Orleans born and bred, Juluke steps in to replace fellow New Orleanian Wilson, who coached Tigers running backs and served as recruiting coordinator for six years before leaving last month to become the head coach at Texas-San Antonio.
“Jabbar is a veteran running backs coach with strong ties to New Orleans,” coach Les Miles said in a statement released by the school. “He has a proven track record of success at both the college and high school level and he’s going to do a great job of continuing to develop our players both on and off the field.”
Juluke was not named as recruiting coordinator. A new position opened on staff Saturday as well. Receivers coach Tony Ball, who just completed his first season with the Tigers, is leaving the program to “pursue other opportunities,” the school said in a statement.
Details on Juluke’s contract were not disclosed. Ball made $310,000 a year.
Juluke made $110,000 in his final and third year as Louisiana Tech’s running backs coach last year, according to The News Star. Texas Tech hired Juluke on Jan. 13, just two days before Wilson left LSU for UTSA.
Juluke did not return a message for comment.
“I’m sorry to see coach Juluke go, but this is a lifelong dream of his,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a statement released by the Red Raiders. “He’s a Louisiana guy, and this is an opportunity for him to go home.”
Juluke, a senior safety on Southern’s black college national championship team in 1993, has quickly risen through the college coaching ranks after nearly two decades in New Orleans high school ball. He was an assistant at O. Perry Walker (1995), St. Augustine (1996-97), Brother Martin (1998) and Frederick Douglas (1999-03) before spending nine seasons as head coach at Edna Karr.
While at Edna Karr from 2003-12, he compiled an 80-39 record and capped off his tenure with a 14-0 mark and Class 4A state championship. Juluke guided the Cougars to three Class 4A state title game appearances in his final three seasons at the school.
“He always had a good running back or two in the backfield,” Hull said. “He ran the ball well at Edna Karr. He fits in well at LSU.”
More so, Juluke – his friends call him “Jab” – likely replaces Wilson as LSU’s go-to recruiting guy in the state’s biggest city and most fertile football talent area. Six of LSU’s 23-member No. 3-ranked signing class last week hail from New Orleans or the metro area.
Wilson’s connections in the city created a pipeline from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Wilson, an Algiers native, served as an assistant at Edna Karr, led O. Perry Walker to two district championships as head coach and was, even, athletic director for the city’s public schools for a year. New Orleans high school coaches spoke about Wilson as a rock star in the Crescent City.
And Juluke? He’s Frank Wilson 2.0, they say.
“Nobody can replace Frank Wilson,” Hull said. “He’s the trailblazer for coaches in our area. However, I think Jabbar can do a great job in picking up where Frank left off. They’re very similar, highly intelligent, know the game of football and both really care about people.”
“I think, like Frank, he knows the city. He grew up here. He was a JV coach, varsity coach and head coach,” said JT Curtis, head coach at John Curtis. “He’s been through the ropes. I think he knows the ins and outs of the city. He’ll establish himself as an excellent recruiter.”
Juluke inherits one of the nation’s best running backs. Fournette, a Heisman Trophy favorite early during last season, will likely play his final year at LSU this fall. He’s already broken a host of school records and is on pace for several more.
The 230-pounder is expected to be the workhorse of a run-heavy unit that returns 18 of 22 starters and is picked by many to start next season in the top 5 nationally.
“Jabar is very familiar with Leonard,” said Emanuel Powell, coach at Landry-Walker. “He goes way back with the family.”
So, kind of like Frank?
“Both have great rapport with the different high school coaches in the area,” Powell said. “He’ll do an outstanding job of recruiting New Orleans kids. Like Frank, people can relate to Jabbar.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.