GRAMBLING — Grambling State University held its athletics Fan Day on Saturday, but before fans got to meet the Tigers’ football team, those willing to brave the heat received an opportunity to see the G-Men in action during a gridiron scrimmage.
New GSU coach Hue Jackson was pleased with what he saw and especially in the actions he’s seen as he and his staff work to build a new football culture for the Tigers.
“We’re trying to develop a standard, and I think the players understand that the standard is the standard,” Jackson said. “The standard’s about the effort, the discipline, how we finish things, how we do things in the locker room, the weight room dining hall, dealing with coaches — just everything.
“Now is the time to focus in on those things and find out how we as coaches want things to be done. This is the first, or really second kind of action we’ve had with this team, and now we have all the freshmen here with the upperclassmen, so this is really the first time we’re putting this team together and I’m excited about where we’re headed.”
And to keep things headed that way, Jackson said a straightforward approach is the key.
“I think with student athletes it’s best to be transparent with them,” Jackson said. “You tell them what you want them to accomplish, then you create an environment for them to accomplish it in and you don’t relent on anything. I think they understand that I don’t relent much and that’s becoming who they are.
“We still have a ways to go, but at the same time, I’m proud of the effort and the attention to detail. I’m proud of the camaraderie that the guys have toward each other about what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Grambling has five new quarterbacks — Chance Amie, Julian Calvez, Amani Gilmore, Quaterius Hawkins and Kajiya Hollawayne, vying to operate the first-team offense and Jackson played all five during Saturday’s scrimmage.
Calvez, a freshman, and Amie, a junior transfer from Syracuse, threw the longest completions of the scrimmage, but none of the five quarterbacks appeared to truly lock down the top spot in GSU’s “arms race.”
“I think we’re where we need to be at this point,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to name a quarterback soon, at some point of time here because I think that’s what takes the team over the top — somebody they can go follow and believe in. We’re getting closer to that.
“Today there were some good things and there were some throws I wanted to jump on some people about. But at the same time, there were some plays that were made and that’s all you ask for. They didn’t turn the ball over and that’s really important. That’s the key to winning many a football game. So that message has been pounded into them. I’ve seen a couple of times where fans might think it’s a bad play, but they’ve been told to throw the ball away. Our goal is to always get to the next down with the ball. So that was very rewarding to me as a coach. That’s what we preach and that’s what was done today.”
As far as GSU’s running back corps, freshman Jaden Handy broke off the longest run of the day, racing around 60 yards to paydirt, but that play was backed by an illegal blocking call.
Keilon Elder, Jaylen Joseph and CJ Russell are the returning running backs for the Tigers and have been joined by newcomers Floyd Chalk IV, Jaden Handy, Dedrick Talbert, Maurice Washington and Chance Williams to give Jackson a full stable of diverse talent to run the football.
“I saw things from Williams, I saw Chalk, Handy, and even CJ Russell and Elder. I mean, we have some guys, and they’re all different shapes, sizes and forms. But they’re talented, and I’m excited about that because I truly believe how you win in football is run. I think you throw to score but run to win. At some point we’re going to have to run the ball and I think we can. But you’ve got to be able to throw as well, so I think we have the chance to be very dynamic on offense as we move forward.”
But while gaining confidence in his offense, it was the defense that Jackson knew won the day on Saturday.
“I think the strength of this team is our defense,” Jackson said. “The defense is the heartbeat of this team. We have some very talented players over there that everybody knows, and they’re really coming on.”