Football Preview: Grambling State
With less than a week before the first game of the 2017 Division I college football season, the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) will be releasing team previews for all 10 SWAC schools each business day for the next couple weeks in the lead up to the kickoff opener between Texas Southern at Florida A&M on Saturday, August 26 at 11 a.m. scheduled be to broadcast on ESPNU.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – On the heels of a largely dominant 2016 campaign that saw Grambling State take its place atop the HBCU football mountain once again, the Tigers head into 2017 as the team to beat in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The Tigers were a sparkling 11-1 (9-0 SWAC) in 2016, claiming the SWAC football title and a Celebration Bowl victory. Coach Broderick Fobbs’ unit does lose impact players, but for the most part there are enough returning standouts to where the G-men’s talent level is good enough for a title defense.
Starting in the backfield, reigning SWAC Offensive Player of the Year Devante Kincade will again lead the offense at quarterback. Kincade was one of the most efficient signal-callers in the nation last year, throwing for 3,022 yards with a stunning 31 touchdowns to just four picks. Alongside him at running back is perhaps the premier all-purpose weapon in the league in Martez Carter.
With Jestin Kelly having graduated, Carter – who has bulked up compared to last season – stands to be leaned on even more to power the lion’s share of the running game with Lyndemian Brooks offering some pop as well. That said, expect Carter to make an impact all over the place, as he accounted for 1892 total yards (876 rush, 625 return, 376 receiving) and 14 scores on 184 total chances in 2016, good for a first-down-per-touch average.
Grambling State does have fellow lineman William Waddell returning up front, but all-conference performer Trent Scott – who was set to return – may be lost for the season due to injury, so there are four spots still left to sort out.
Jordan Jones remains in place as the top tight end on the team. Along with that, wide receiver is a potential area of concern as nearly 75 percent of Kincade’s yardage and touchdown totals left with the graduation of Arizona Cardinal Chad Williams and Verlan Hunter among others. DeVohn Lindsey projects as the top weapon out wide, but the preseason second-team All-SWAC pick as well as names like Darrell Clark must come along quickly as Grambling looks to remain as potent offensively as they were last season.
Defensively, the Tigers’ strength appears to lie in the back seven as the graduation of 2016 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Donovan McCray as well as Blain Winston and All-SWAC players Arkez Cooper and Samuel Reese leaves questions up front. Led by Preseason First-Teamer De’Arius Christmas, most of the linebacker corps returns, and the majority of the secondary is also set to return, though it must proceed ahead with All-SWAC defenders Guy Stallworth and Jameel Jackson (graduation)
Head coach: Broderick Fobbs; Record at GSU 28-9 (fourth year); Overall 28-9 (fourth year).
2016 record and finish: 11-1 overall, 9-0 SWAC (Won SWAC West Division, SWAC Championship and Celebration Bowl
Returning statistical leaders
Passing: Devante Kincade (218-of-341, 3022 yards, 31 TD, 4 INT)
Rushing: Martez Carter (116 carries, 891 yards, 10 TDs)
Receiving: Martez Carter (28 receptions, 376 yards, 3 TDs)
Tackles: De’Arius Christmas (69)
Sacks: Deontae Hatter (4.5)
Interceptions: Deaumante Johnson (3)
Potential game breaker: The Defensive Line. On paper, this area has the most to replace from 2016, but reports from training camp indicates that the new faces up front are more than ready to answer the bell, as the D-line is stocked with size, length and athleticism and has looked unstoppable at times in team scrimmages. If this performance carries over into the season, the Tigers’ defense may be better than it was last season and could intermittently carry the team as a potentially explosive offense continues to come together in the early goings of the 2017 slate.
Sat, Sept. 2 @ Tulane 7:00 PM (ESPN3)
Sat, Sept. 9 vs. Northwestern State 6:00 PM
Sat, Sept. 16 vs. Jackson State 6:00 PM
Sat, Sept. 23 @ Mississippi Valley State 6:00 PM Sat, Sept. 30 vs. Clark Atlanta 3:30 PM (Chicago Football Classic in Chicago, Ill.)
Sat, Oct. 7 vs. Prairie View A&M 4:00 PM (State Fair Classic in Dallas, Texas)
Sat, Oct. 21 vs. Alcorn State 2:00 PM
Sat, Oct. 28 vs. Texas Southern 2:00 PM (Homecoming)
Sat, Nov. 4 @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff 2:30 PM
Sat, Nov. 11 @ Alabama State 2:00 PM
Sat, Nov. 25 vs. Southern 4:30 PM (Bayou Classic in New Orleans, La. on NBCSN)
SWAC Football team preview schedule
Monday, August 14: Alabama A&M
Tuesday, August 15: Texas Southern
Wednesday, August 16: Alabama State
Thursday, August 17: Southern
Friday, August 18: Alcorn State
Monday, August 21: Prairie View A&M
Tuesday, August 22: Jackson State
Wednesday, August 23: Grambling State
Thursday, August 24: Mississippi Valley State
Friday, August 25: Arkansas-Pine Bluff