GRAMBLING — During Grambling’s media day on Aug. 17, coach Doug Williams was asked about the maturation and growth process of his team.
Without hesitation, he swiftly replied his team will have to eat their Wheaties, and eat them fast.
By Saturday morning, he hopes their bellies are full.
Grambling has just five seniors on the 2013 squad, meaning a boatload of youngsters will see the field for the first time Saturday in the season opener against Alabama A&M, which finished 7-4 in 2012.
But Young and inexperienced doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to Williams, whose team finished 1-10 last season.
“We’ve seen a lot of good things out of a lot of young guys. Last year, we were real, real young. This year we’re just young,” Williams said Monday at Grambling’s weekly press conference. “We’re going into the season with five seniors on this football team, but we feel real good where we’re at as a football team.”
The toughest part of Saturday’s game is not the lack of experience, but rather the challenge some of the underclassmen will face in the days leading up.
Williams said the last week of practice is some of the best football he’s seen throughout camp and hopes that carries into this week before the mental side comes into play.
“The next four days is going to be about being mentally prepared,” he said. “Mistakes and things like that is what we’re trying to prevent against.”
Limiting mistakes, especially in the first game of the season, is what wins ball games, although Grambling turned it over just 16 times in 2012 and still lost 10 games. The problem was they forced only 15 turnovers.
Grambling brought in Dennis ‘Dirt’ Winston to take over the defense with hopes of generating more turnovers using an aggressive style of play. Winston brings a traditional 4-3 defense to the fold as the Tigers abandon the 4-2-5 scheme.
“He’s taking a lot of the thinking away from the game from these younger guys and given them an opportunity to play football with the skills and abilities they have,” Williams said.
Williams prefers Alcorn opener
Most GSU fans are familiar with Alcorn State, a neutral game at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport or the MEAC/SWAC Challenge to open the season.
In years past, Grambling has played Alabama A&M in the fourth or fifth week of the season. The SWAC changed things up a bit this year, and while Williams still said there should be a strong crowd, he would prefer to play Alcorn.
“The only thing I hate about them moving up is that the conference changes the natural rivalry game,” Williams said. “There’s no doubt in my mind with the fans playing Alcorn first would been have been so much better than A&M, but that’s out of my hands.”
Grambling lost to Alcorn, 22-21, last season and took home a 21-14 win in 2011.
The last time Grambling opened the season at home was in 2004 against Alcorn.