In the FCS Huddle: Grambling embraces the SWAC target

Legendary coach Eddie Robinson always passed on the concept to Grambling State coaches and players of not complaining about what their teams didn't have because they would have to live up to great expectations regardless.

"Let's look at it realistically, we're Grambling," one of Robinson's disciples, current Grambling coach Doug Williams, said. "And Grambling has won so much for so many years, that target doesn't go whether you're picked to win the championship or you're picked to finish last. The fact that it's Grambling, it's a great notch for any team that gets a chance to beat Grambling. We always feel there's a target out there."

Grambling has lost a lot defensively from a team which rallied from a poor start to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship last season, but few are going to doubt the Tigers, who on Monday were selected as a runaway preseason favorite in the Western Division.

They are expected to get back to the SWAC title game and play Eastern Division favorite Alabama State. Last year, in Williams' first year of his second stint on the Grambling sideline, his Tigers came from behind to beat Alabama A&M, 16-15, in a thrilling finale in Birmingham, Ala.

To get there, Grambling had to overcome a 1-4 start to the season. But the Tigers put it together after a bye in early October and won their final seven games to finish 8-4.

Yeah, same 'ol Grambling.

"I'll tell you what, this is a hard-working team," Williams said. "I think what has happened, the coaching staff, we have willed our will on them as to what we expect. I think by winning the championship last year the way we won it, it gives these guys a little more incentive to try to do the same thing. Winning breeds winning."

Any questions surrounding Grambling are more on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers lost linebacker Cliff Exama, last year's SWAC Defensive Player of the Year, and return only four starters.

Still, there is talent with their 4-3 unit, including junior linebacker Jacarde Carter and defensive tackle Devon Carter, who both made the All-SWAC preseason first team. Cornerback Edward Patterson and defensive end Jomarcus Savage also are formidable returnees.

There's more back on offense. The six starters include 1,100-rusher Dawrence Roberts, who was selected the SWAC's preseason offensive player of the year. He runs behind dominant right tackle Sanford Banks, and the Tigers also return sophomore quarterback D.J. Williams, the coach's son. He has lost his favorite pass-catcher, wide receiver Mario Louis, whose 18 touchdown receptions ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision.

The SWAC's preseason defensive player of the year is Jackson State defensive end Joseph LeBeau. He ranked second nationally in sacks per game (1.41) and fourth in tackles for loss per game (2.23) a year ago.

LeBeau helped Jackson State have a conference-best nine players on the All- SWAC preseason first and second teams. Grambling State, Alabama A&M, and Alabama State had eight selections each.


(Coaches, Media and Sports Information Directors)

Eastern Division

1. Alabama State (11 first-place votes), 108 points

2. Jackson State (7), 95

3. Alabama A&M (7), 94

4. Alcorn State (1), 42

5. Mississippi Valley State (0), 36

Western Division

1. Grambling State (20), 119

2. Prairie View A&M (1), 82

3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2), 69

4. Southern (2), 54

5. Texas Southern (0), 51


Offensive Player of the Year - Dawrence Roberts, RB, Grambling State

Defensive Player of the Year - Joseph LeBeau, DE, Jackson State

First-Team Offense

QB - Deaunte Mason, Alabama A&M

RB - Kaderius Lacey, Alabama A&M

RB - Dawrence Roberts, Grambling State

WR - Rico Richardson, Jackson State

WR - Spencer Nelson, Prairie View A&M

TE - E.J. Drewery, Jackson State

OL - Jamal Johnson-Webb, Alabama A&M

OL - Terren Jones, Alabama State

OL - Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluf

OL - Sanford Banks, Grambling State

OL - Zion Pyatt, Jackson Stte

First-Team Defense

DL - Joseph LeBeau, Jackson State

DL - Carlton Jones, Alabama State

DL - Ryan Love, Prairie View A&M

DL - Devon Carter, Grambling State

LB - Todd Wilcher, Jackson State

LB - Raheem Cardwell, Prairie View A&M

LB - Jacarde Carter, Grambling State

DB - Kejuan Riley, Alabama State

DB - Qua Cox, Jackson State

DB - Saeed Lee, Alabama State

DB - Vernon Marshall, Alabama A&M

First-Team Special Teams

PK - Chance Wilson, Alabama A&M

P - Bobby Wenzig, Alabama State

Return - Terrance Lewis, Alcorn State

Second-Team Offense

QB - Greg Jenkins, Alabama State

RB - Arnold Walker, Alcorn State

RB - Trey Bateaste, Mississippi Valley State

WR - G'Alonzo Milton, Alabama A&M

WR - T.C. McWilliams, Alabama State

TE - Mike Berry, Southern

OL - Clint Marsh, Grambling State

OL - Stephen Capler, Jackson State

OL - Tre Glover, Prairie View A&M

OL - Chris Browne, Southern

OL - Justin Goodrich, Alabama A&M

Second-Team Defense

DL - Leployer Franklin, Mississippi Valley State

DL - Johnathan Billups, Jackson State

DL - Jarvis Wilson, Prairie View A&M

DL - Tim Tillman, Alabama A&M

LB - Bill Ross, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LB - Brandon Slater, Alabama State

LB - Jer-ryan Harris, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

DB - Naquan Smith, Grambling State

DB - Virgil Williams, Southern

DB - Casey Freeman, Alcorn State

DB - Tyree Hollins, Grambling State

First-Team Special Teams

PK - Carlos Sanchez, Mississippi Valley State

P - Fabian Carter, Grambling State

Return - B.J. Lee, Jackson State