GSU ground game shines during smoldering scrimmage

GSU Coach Hue Jackson (Photo by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

Picking the right pieces for the puzzle was a primary order of business as the Grambling State Tigers held an intrasquad scrimmage before Fan Day festivities Saturday morning on the GSU campus. 

The most apparent takeaways from Saturday’s scrimmage were that the Tigers will return a swarming defense while also a full stable of talented running backs on the offensive side of the ball.

“We’re just getting started,” said Grambling coach Hue Jackson. “We’ve had two weeks of finding out who we are and now we have two weeks before we have to go out there and play a game.”

The scrimmage also provided some of the newest Tigers a first step toward earning their stripes.

“It was a chance for the guys to show us what they’ve got,” Jackson said. “We had a great rookie show last night where guys got fired up. I wanted to see how they handled that. Because now they had to come out here between the white lines and play football.

“And for the most part they did. There’s some things we’ve got to improve on. But what I liked was that there was a lot of competing — competition happening out there — and that’s all you can ask for.”

Jackson said the scrimmage was designed to help the coaching staff move toward determining a depth chart for the Tigers.

“It’s getting closer, I do know that,” Jackson said. “We have some spots we feel good about, but we have some spots we’ve still got to make decisions about, too. These guys know that if you miss a day because of injury or if something’s not going well, there’s going to be someone else who steps up in there to play.”

Grambling’s defense looked strong during Saturday’s scrimmage, which wasn’t a big shock by any means.

But Jackson was also satisfied with his offense overall, thanks in large part to a running back by committee approach that seemed to be the driving force through much of the scrimmage.

“It was OK,” Jackson said of the Tigers’ offensive performance. “I thought we ran the ball well. We’ve got to throw it better. We’ll continue to work at that. But I thought we ran the ball extremely well. We just have to continue to grow in our system.”

Sophomore Julian Calvez is the only returning quarterback for the Tigers, but even after starting half the season last year he’s still in a three-man race with freshman Miles Crawley and Armani Gilmore for the No. 1 role under center this season.

“It’s a good race — they’re competing,” Jackson said. “Julian’s obviously the returning starter. Myles is competing. Armani’s competing. We’ll make a decision at the right time. Right now I don’t see the rush to do that.”

Jackson and his coaching staff also took a good look at their kicking game as they try to find a way to fill the golden shoes of two-time all Southwestern Athletic Conference kicker Garrett Urban.

“You start worrying about it now – that’s what getting ready is all about,” Jackson said. “It affects the confidence of our team. When they see guys doing it the way it’s supposed to be done, they get excited about it. 

“So I think that’s what’s important about it. We’ll make that decision when we know. We’ve just got to know what we are and who we are. We had that luxury last year with Garrett Urban knowing what we had at kicker. We don’t have that luxury anymore. Not yet, anyway.”