It's the day before game day, which means things: I'm concerned about whether the Slingbox I bought will be set up in time for me to watch the game, and time for to check in with the other side. Unlike most teams that TCU will play this year, however, Grambling has no SBNation blog (the only other team on the schedule to lack a blog is also the one that lacks fans- SMU) so we're left to turn to friend of the Frog Jerit Roser of the Monroe News Star to answer our questions on all things Grambling. Make the jump if you will, as we discuss hurricane Isaac, nepotism, Doug Williams and more.
HawkeyedFrog: Being in Louisiana, Grambling State has had to deal with concerns over hurricane Isaac already this season. To what degree did the hurricane disrupt the practice schedule before Alcorn State and do you think it played any part in the loss?
Roser: I don't know that Isaac had much of an effect on Grambling's preparation, and the coaches would certainly downplay any effect it did. Both schools had to work around some weather concerns, and dealing with adversity and uncertainty is all part of the game. The Tigers also started the game extremely well before wearing down some in the second half as Alcorn State began to click.
HawkeyedFrog: Grambling legend and former Redskins Quarterback Doug Williams is back for his second go round as Grambling's head man. What would you say the biggest difference is between Doug Williams now and when he was the coach who succeeded Eddie Robinson in 1998?
Roser: I didn't move to the area until before the 2010 season, so it's difficult for me to judge the difference between now and more than a decade ago. One thing that I can say is Doug Williams talked plenty last season about the process of changing general offensive and blocking philosophies and personnel from former coach Rod Broadway's style to Williams'. This was probably not as much of an issue the first time around when Williams took over for long-time coach Eddie Robinson, who served as Williams' college coach and mentor. Following Robinson's footsteps certainly provided its own set of challenges, although probably a different brand.
HawkeyedFrog: Coaching your son is always a tricky proposition in football, particularly when the son is the quarterback- the most visible position on the team. Is DJ Williams definitely the top Quarterback on the team, or is there a little nepotism going on in Grambling?
Roser: There were certainly some questions regarding whether nepotism was involved in the quarterback decision early last year. That's going to be the case any time a coach's son earns a high-profile spot in the starting lineup. And the Tigers utilized both D.J. Williams and Frank Rivers at times in 2011, which one could say either points to Doug Williams giving both players an opportunity or only opened up the situation to further questioning. Both D.J. and Frank had their ups and downs during their first full season of action, but there's little questioning how strong D.J. came on down the stretch after returning from a nagging turf toe injury -- particularly his performance in the final two regular season games. D.J.'s participation in spring practice in 2011 played a big role in his garnering the bulk of the load last season. D.J. was again available throughout this past spring, while Frank balanced football and baseball duties. And Frank is also attempting early this season to rebound from an ankle injury he suffered during fall camp.
HawkeyedFrog: Eddie Robinson is the winningest coach in college football history again, though the less said about what happened to make it that way the better. Obviously the history is fantastic, but what is the biggest legacy that Robinson left for the program?
Roser: Coach Robinson obviously won a lot of games, but what really stands out is the off-field mark he left on all aspects of the athletic department and university. Robinson served in many, many roles during his time at Grambling, and individuals from various walks of life at the school often reference him and the lessons he preached. A common one touches upon the United States as the greatest place in the world because of individuals' ability here to succeed as a result of the hard work they put into something. Another references "what are you going to do when they let the air out of the ball" -- basically football, or whichever sport, will take a student-athlete so far, but what he or she has when a playing career is finished is just as, if not more, important. Doug Williams, despite all his accomplishments, is among the easiest coaches to work with at any level, and part of that probably comes as a result of his time with coach Robinson who, like many other influential members of the Grambling community, seemed to put incredible value on treating individuals with respect. Grambling officials often tout the university as a place where "everybody is somebody."
HawkeyedFrog: TCU has serious depth issues on the O-line and at linebacker this season as a result of operation Purple Haze. How is Grambling equipped to attack those weaknesses?
Roser: Unfortunately in this instance, Grambling has its own depth issues on an inexperienced defensive line where a true freshman went start to finish in the season opener. The Tigers' offensive line has a bit more seasoning, and that side of the ball also boasts several solid running backs, including SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Dawrence Roberts. It's difficult to compare an FCS school's potential depth to a high-caliber FBS school's depth, though. Each side deals with a completely different set of circumstances as a result of completely different levels of resources.
HawkeyedFrog: Grambling is one of the FCS teams that everyone (at least in the South) knows, but what we don't necessarily know is how good they're going to be this year. What's your prediction for the score of the TCU game, and what record do you see Grambling finishing with this season?
Roser: The big goal for Grambling is to play well, prepare itself against high-quality opposition and make itself better for the upcoming conference slate. FCS upsets of high-profile FBS teams garner a lot of attention -- because they're few and far between, which all goes back to the different levels of resources, etc. Grambling should be a solid SWAC title contender again this season, and that's where its focus lies. The overall record will probably lie somewhere between 5-6 and 7-4, any of which could be good or bad. The perception primarily depends on whether the Tigers are playing for a conference crown in Birmingham, Ala., and if so, how that game plays out.
HawkeyedFrog: I'll interpret that as predicting a Frogs win without actually predicting a Frogs win. As always, our thanks go out to Jerit Roser for answering our questions again. Good luck to Grambling the rest of the season and if you're interested in catching on Grambling as the season goes on, check in on the Monroe News Star online.