The Grambling football team is in the middle of (hopefully) its final week of preseason practice, preparing for the lengthiest year in the Tigers’ illustrious history.
The G-Men could tee it up 20 times in 2021. It begins with the six-game 2020-make good spring schedule, then perhaps a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game. After a three-month break from competition comes 11 games in the fall, hopefully another SWAC title contest, a win there leading to a Celebration Bowl appearance.
The postponement of Saturday’s opener in Dallas was disappointing, but also a blessing in disguise for coach Broderick Fobbs and his staff. Because the Tigers lost a week of practice due to the winter storm, they hadn’t gone through much of the typical script for the final week of preseason – honing in on situations such as third down and short yardage, green zone (inside the 40), red zone (inside the 20), and end of game scenarios.
Since this week became a practice week, Grambling is getting that preparation done, allowing next week’s focus to be solely on the game plan for their 2021 debut Saturday, March 6, at noon in Eddie G. Robinson Stadium against Jackson State.
While he’s bringing the Tigers along on pace for the spring season opener, Fobbs most assuredly has eyes on the long haul.
“We’re going to have our players on a pitch count this spring,” he said. “This is new territory. We get the opportunity to play games we didn’t play last fall. We also have to prepare as we normally would for a full season on a conventional calendar this fall.
“It’s a tough predicament, but as long as you are proceeding with the commitment to everyone’s safety and health, you want to play. This is a grind like no other.”
The good news for Grambling? Fobbs likes what he’s seen from his Tigers during workouts last fall, and recently, preseason drills. He can count on quality depth at a time when that could be more vital than ever.
“I feel real, real good about our talent, especially when we get to the fall. This may be one of the more talented teams we’ve had, throughout the roster. We may not have the clear standout or two as we have had at times, but we have a lot of really good players, good depth,” he said.
While watching his players hone their skills, Fobbs and his staff, and support staff including trainers and academic advisors, are monitoring the most important, intangible factor.
“The mental health of your players and everyone involved in the program is a big issue. We’ve all been locked in for so long due to Covid, unable to play, unable to function in our daily lives as we always have previously. The disruption is unsettling. There are those who have lost family members because of Covid. Those are the biggest concerns that we have, their mental and emotional stability.”
As for what will happen between the goalposts on March 6, the Tigers’ coach is supremely confident about two things.
“You’ll see an exciting brand of football, and an excited football team eager to play against somebody else.”
Fobbs’ formula for success this spring has been driven home during the past month of practice and in those workouts last fall. In lieu of games, the Tigers experienced a lot of walk-throughs and teaching in the fall semester.
“I believe more than ever, winning will revolve around limiting mistakes, because we haven’t played in so long,” he said. “You want to keep the yellow flag from hitting the ground. You want to keep the football from hitting the ground. We are focusing on fundamentals beginning with snap counts and being onside, eliminating the rusty-type errors.
“The teams that are closest-nit and make the least mistakes will win.”
Photo courtesy Carlton Hamlin