Williams, Grambling expect to win
By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
He's only an internet search away, but Doug Williams laughs that some of his Grambling State football players may not know a lot about what he has accomplished within the storied program or during his NFL career.
"Those young guys, sometimes they don't keep up with stuff. They might not," he said, chuckling.
"They don't have to embrace me. I think it's important they embrace Grambling - the legacy and the history of Grambling."
There's no escaping that Williams has been a big part of the program that legendary coach Eddie Robinson built, first as a player from 1973-77 and then as Robinson's successor during a six-year coaching tenure from 1998-2003.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference university in Louisiana still feels like home to Williams. And to him, home is where the championships should be, so he's excited to be back on campus to try to make that happen during his second coaching stint. Spring practices are underway already.
"We just have to pick the pieces from where they are and just keep going forward," said Williams, the first African-American quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. He guided the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos as the MVP of Super Bowl XXII.
LB Cliff Exama was Grambling State's leading tackler each of the past two seasons.
As a quarterback at Grambling, Williams led the Tigers to a 36-7 record and three SWAC championships. He was fourth in the voting for the 1977 Heisman Trophy.
During his first coaching tenure, Grambling won nearly three-quarters of its games (52-18) and three SWAC titles.
The talent Williams inherits the second time around is much stronger than the first time. In 55 seasons under Robinson, the Tigers didn't suffer back- to-back losing seasons until they slipped to three straight to end his career. Williams quickly revived the program with his successful run. After he left to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' front office in 2004, the Tigers won two more SWAC titles in seven seasons as well as going 9-2 last year under head coach Rod Broadway.
"I think it's a little different from the standpoint of when I first got here. We had a whole rebuilding process to go through," Williams said. "I don't think we are completely at that point. I think we are at a point that I have to still wait and see exactly - with the change on offense and things like that - what we're going to have to work with.
"If I compare this group with the group that I inherited when I first came here, I'll take this group home with me and make sure they don't get away. "I feel pretty good. Like I said, there's still some pieces that have to be put in place."
While Williams hopes for continuity during the transition process, the fact the defense dominated during the Tigers' first intrasquad scrimmage of spring practice is a tell tale sign for him that the offense will have some growing pains.
All-America running back Frank Warren departed with his 1,537 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns, so the Tigers are looking for a leader to emerge this offseason. It might be hard for Anthony Carrothers, last year's No. 1 quarterback, to assume that role because Carrothers isn't guaranteed the starting role again. Williams and new offensive coordinator Vyron Brown are implementing a pro-style attack after Carrothers ran the spread last season.
"We can cry about (spilled) milk and everything else, but Frank isn't coming back. Frank's gone," Williams said.
"We've got to find that guy. It's not going to happen overnight."
Grambling has more talent returning defensively, where Cliff Yoshida was retained as the coordinator. The defense will be led by senior linebacker Cliff Exama, the team's tackling leader in each of the past two seasons. The senior class also features the likes of returnees Antonio Leonard (defensive end), Bruna Foster (cornerback) and Desmond Lenard (safety). Defensive tackle Jomarcus Savage is a key junior.
One player whom Williams is quite familiar with is his son D.J., a quarterback out of Tampa, Fla. He signed as a part of Grambling State's recruiting class before Williams was hired again last month.
Grambling State head coach Doug Williams is directing the Tigers through spring practices.
The SWAC will be quite competitive this season, especially in the West Division, where Texas Southern edged Grambling to get into the 2010 SWAC Championship and then win it against Alabama State. Jackson State, behind quarterback Casey Therraiult, also will be particularly strong out of the East.
Williams may not win the SWAC title in his first season back on the job, but he's expecting to capture his share in the near future.
He's happy to be home again.
"Going to Grambling, I never felt a burden, especially after playing here, playing for Coach Rob," Williams said. "I always thought it was a pleasure to be at Grambling. (That) I had the opportunity to come back and coach makes it that much better. So I never looked at it as a burden or pressure or anything like that. I know who we are and I know Grambling expects to win. So I understand what I'm dealing with. I wouldn't have taken this job if I thought it would have been a burden. I took this job because I think we're still capable of doing the things we've done."