Grambling State Football Preview

Grambling State University has the pieces in place for another banner season.

Fourth-year coach Broderick Fobbs' Tigers enter the season riding an 11-game winning streak. After dropping a fiercely-contested 31-21 decision to Arizona in the season opener, the G-Men rattled off 11 straight victories en route to claiming their second straight SWAC West championship. Grambling (11-1, 9-0) went on to defeat Alcorn State 27-20 in the SWAC championship game for its 25th conference title, and its first since 2011. Advancing to the Celebration Bowl, the Tigers trimmed North Carolina Central 10-9 to claim its first HBCU national championship since 2008.

With six starters returning on both sides of the ball joined by an influx of talented transfers, the Tigers are back for an encore.

Senior quarterback Devante Kincade, the reigning SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, returns to direct a balanced and lethal offense. Grambling led the SWAC in passing (282.2 yards per game), total yardage (486.1 ypg) and third down conversions (43.6 percent), while ranking second in scoring (39.8 points per game) and fourth in rushing (203.4 ypg).

Kincade completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 3,022 with 31 touchdowns against only four interceptions in 341 attempts. He also accounted for 264 yards and four scores with his feet.

Behind Kincade on the depth chart are sophomore Ouachita alumnus Charles Wright, and redshirt freshman Geremy Hickbottom.

Senior Martez Carter (116 carries, 891 yards, 10 TDs), who averaged 7.7 yards per carry en route to earning first-team All-SWAC acclaim, heads up a deep backfield. Carter, a former Richwood Ram, is also the team's top returning receiver with 28 catches for 351 yards and 3 TDs.

Senior Dré Fusilier has returned to the fold after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1 at Arizona. A power runner, Fusilier carried 18 times for 139 yards and 2 TDs in 2015. Jones County (Miss.) Junior College transfer DeSherrius Flowers, who originally signed with Alabama, has also joined the fray.

Grambling's receiving corps was depleted by the loss of three of the team's top four receivers, including first-team All-SWAC honoree Chad Williams (90 receptions, 1,337 yards, 11 TDs). Selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round, Williams became Grambling's first NFL draftee since Jason Hatcher was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys in 2006.

Sophomore Lydemian Brooks (44 carries, 285 yards, 2 TDs; 2 receptions, 35 yards) is a projected starter after switching from running back in the spring. Junior Devante Davis (4-53-1) and sophomore Quinton Guice out of Neville both played sparingly last season. Among the others vying for playing time are redshirt freshmen Darrell Clark, Raylon Richardson and Kobe Ross, and true freshmen Lyndon Rash, Malik Route and Dorrell James.

Two-time All-SWAC right tackle Justin Miller is among three departed starters on the offensive line. Senior Trenton Scott and sophomore right guard William Waddell are the only holdovers. Scott, who has started all 23 games over the past two years, can play guard or tackle. Waddell started all 12 games as a true freshman.

Sophomores Carl Wilmer, former Ouachita Christian standout Ché Manning and John Allen have the inside track at the remaining three spots.

Grambling must replace four first-team All-SWAC performers from a defense which led the conference in points allowed (16.1 ppg), rushing (121.1 ypg), total yardage (332.1 ypg), third down conversions (27.7 percent) and red zone defense (59.4 percent), tied for first in sacks (38) and ranked second against the pass (211 ypg).

The defensive front will have four new starters following the departure of tackle and SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Donovan McCray (36 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 fumble returns for TDs) and end Samuel Reese (37 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks).

Junior end Brandon Varner (12 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) is the most experienced D-lineman in camp. Bastrop High product and East Mississippi CC transfer Rodney Jackson, Mississippi State transfer Anfernee Mullins, junior Linwood Banks and senior Chris Johnson are expected to contribute.

Despite the loss of leading tackler Arkez Cooper (74 tackles, 17.5 TFL, 6 sacks), the Tigers return three veteran linebackers. Junior D'Arius Christmas (69, 7.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks) spearheads the group, which also includes senior Deonta Hatter (40 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and junior Malcolm Williams (39 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks).

Jameel Jackson (42 tackles, 4 INTs) and Guy Stallworth (70 tackles, 1 INT), a pair of first-team All-SWAC honorees, are missing from the secondary. A trio of experienced seniors return incornerbacks De'Aumante Johnson (27 tackles, 3 INTs) and Ja'Terious Pouncy (37 tackles, 2 INTs), along with safety Derrick Dixon (35 tackles, 1 INT). Junior Percy Cargo Jr. (31, 1 INT) and Oregon State graduate transfer Kendall Hill are also in the picture at safety.

Grambling will have a new kicker as former Rayville Hornet Jonathan Wallace handled both the place kicking and punting duties.

Carter has thrived in his role as a return specialist, accounting for four touchdowns over the course of his career.

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2017 GRAMBLING SCHEDULE

(All Times Central and subject to change)

DATE OPPONENT TIME

Sept. 2 at Tulane 7 p.m.

Sept. 9 Northwestern State 6 p.m.

Sept. 16 Jackson State* (High School Day) 6 p.m.

Sept. 23 at Mississippi Valley* 6 p.m.

Sept. 30 at Clark Atlanta (at Chicago) 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Prairie View (at Dallas) 4 p.m.

Oct. 21 Alcorn State* 2 p.m.

Oct. 28 Texas Southern* (HC) 2 p.m.

Nov. 4 at UAPB* 2:30 p.m.

Nov. 11 at Alabama State* 2 p.m.

Nov. 25 vs. Southern* (Bayou Classic) 4 p.m.

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The SWAC preseason Media Day poll with school, followed by total points:

Eastern Division

Alcorn State 80

Alabama State 66

Jackson State 59

Alabama A&M 45

Mississippi Valley 20
Western Division

Grambling State 85

Southern 68

Prairie View A&M 59

Texas Southern 37

Arkansas-Pine Bluff 21