Jerit Roser of the Monroe, Louisiana, News-Star gives the scoop on the Grambling State Tigers.
In Frogs o' War's last installment for GRAMBLING STATE WEEK, we learn the whereabouts of Bud Patterson, a non-qualifier from TCU's 2008 recruiting class. Jerit Roser, a writer for the Monroe News-Star, covers Grambling State (and Louisiana Monroe, our long-time readers will remember). Mr. Roser was kind enough to answer some questions from Frogs o' War about TCU's first opponent in 2012, Grambling State.
How did Grambling get Doug Williams back as head coach? Is this Williams' last job before retiring?
- Not really sure the process of Doug coming back as coach. Former coach Rod Broadway left kind of shadily, denying just before Signing Day that he was heading for the job he took in North Carolina (I think it was NC A&T) and calling Grambling home and then not showing up for scheduled NSD media availability and taking the new job the next day or day after. Doug said his phone started ringing then and eventually GSU announced him as its coach once again. He's easily the most popular living figure, and he had a lot of success his first time around, so he was kind of a no-brainer if he was willing to come back from his professional pursuits.
Is the QB battle between DJ Williams and Frank Rivers really over?
- Doug will tell you the QB battle's over. D.J. started the season with the job, and Frank's starts in the middle of the season came on the heels of a turf toe issue for D.J., then D.J. played well when he began to slowly retake the reins. Doug said in the spring that the job was D.J.'s to lose and praised his son and all the quarterbacks after the Black and Gold Game. The offense particularly came alive in that game when Frank began playing just before halftime, though, and you can be sure Frank will continue to push for playing time and people will say he should get it if D.J. doesn't start the season well.
What kind of offense does GSU run?
- Grambling's back to a more multiple-looks, pro-style offense after running more of a spread with Broadway. Doug referenced that transition numerous times as one of the reasons for the slow start last year, saying particularly that the offensive line had to adjust its style of blocking.
Aside from turnovers, did GSU outperform expectations last season?
- The outperforming expectations bit depends on whose expectations you're talking about. GSU was the preseason favorite to win the West in polls, but Doug downplayed those rankings frequently and dramatically saying the people who voted in those polls obviously hadn't seen his team during the spring. He, at least to us, approached the season with more of a let's-see-what-we-can-do-amid-all-these-adjustments-and-with-two-young-quarterbacks attitude than necessarily touting "we should finish here, here or here and accomplish this, this and this." I think the Tigers probably finished about where they should've record-wise and were fortunate no one else in the West proved particularly dominant. There was tons of parity much of last season.
Who are GSU's coordinators?
- Vyron Brown, a former running back, runs the offense, and Andre Robinson, a former linebacker, is entering his first season as the defensive coordinator after the departure of Cliff Yoshida. Robinson's been around the program a while though, was the interim head coach and associated head coach and so on and so forth, so he should be fine.
Rising sophomore receivers Damian Jefferson and Junior Bakari Maxwell didn't shine in the spring game; are they expected to play this season? Who's going to step up at WR?
- Honestly, I don't remember either even playing in the spring game if my memory serves me correctly. Anthony McGee and Robert Bailey were probably about as impressive as any receivers in the Black and Gold Game. Musa Mahmud and Richard Wilson made a couple plays as well. Doug's hoping to have several guys who can share the load there. The odds of a star like Mario Louis proved to be last year are slim, but then, no one saw Mario Louis coming last year until the fall rolled around.
Who are the starting five on the o-line?
- The offensive line is still a little uncertain. Sanford Banks, Julian Wyndon, Clint Marsh and Andre Gunn should all start, with the other spot (likely the left tackle unless they move people around) still somewhat open heading into the fall. Former LSU and NFL center Ben Wilkerson is in his first year coaching the unit.
Was defensive end Jomarcus Savage playing at full strength in the spring?
- Savage was a little hindered during the spring, but still among the brightest spots, particularly among a front seven replacing a lot of people.
Is Grambling's D-line going to suffer with all of the turnover this offseason?
- I think the defensive line will probably be all right. They've got a couple of guys coming in with some playing experience and a couple other guys Doug likes who had been waiting their turns. They have a JUCO end (Antoine Gardner) and a big former North Texas tackle (Kyle White) joining the mix too, although neither finished the spring with a lot of praise from Doug after getting plenty of it at the start.
Is there hope for GSU's secondary? It was worst in the SWAC last season.
- Doug actually expects the secondary to be the defense's strongest suit and the most improved unit on the team. Former TCU[-signee] cornerback Edward "Bud" Patterson will hold down one side with rising sophomore Tyree Hollins and incoming speedster De'Vontay Hogan battling across from him. Naquan Smith and Tyler Smith should be the safeties with some experience under their belts.
Is punting Fabian Hunter back in '12? How about return man Edward Patterson? Does GSU have the best special teams in the SWAC?
- Fabian Carter will be back and should be one of the SWAC's top punters. Patterson will likely leave much of the return duties this year to some speedy newcomers. Doug specifically mentioned Shreveport native Justin Fortson and Scotlandville (Baton Rouge area) native Ka'Jandre Domino as possibilities there. The placekicking situation was really rough in the spring, although it improved some during that span. Some transfer guys will come to potentially shore up that spot, but until that happens, I wouldn't necessarily call GSU among the conference's top special teams units, just because they have such a big question mark there. Their former Zoltan Riazzo was a sure-footed guy they had a lot of trust/faith in, and he continually proved worthy of it, knocked in a 53-yard field goal in the Bayou Classic, etc. They won't have that certainty this season.
TCU is going to start the season with some inexperience at o-tackle and linebacker, and maybe at quarterback. Does GSU have the horses to exploit those weaknesses and put up points on the Frogs? Can GSU win this game?
- Grambling might be able to give TCU some trouble, particularly early, if the Frogs don't play well at those spots of inexperience you mentioned, but with the level the Horned Frogs have reached as a program in recent years, it would be a huge upset and surprise if the Tigers could go out there and steal a win.