Grambling received its first verbal commitment of 2005 on Dec. 9, before the league’s championship game had even been played – and despite coming off a 6-5 interim season under Melvin Spears in ’04.
On the Tuesday before National Signing Day, GSU picked up another eight confirmed commitments – for a total of 37.
That was just the beginning.
Twenty-nine – evenly balanced, with 14 on offense and 14 on defense, with one on special teams – would sign the following day, with a remarkable total of 44 ultimately announced.
Only four signees from National Signing Day ever saw regular playing time. Another four from Day 2 eventually contributed.
That’s a total of 8 out of 44.
Grambling would go on to its first undefeated run through Southwestern Athletic Conference play since 1989, then win the program’s 21st league crown with a record-splintering 45-6 win over Alabama A&M in December of ’05. But that game was dominated by upperclassmen, including quarterback Bruce Eugene (who set a NCAA Division I-AA mark for career touchdowns that season), running back Ab Kuuan (whose second-quarter score gave Grambling a lead over A&M that it would never relinquish) and receiver Henry Tolbert (who broke the school’s since-season touchdown receiving record of 17 with a four-score afternoon in the title match).
Each had been recruited during departed coach Doug Williams’ tenure (1997-03).
Seven of the program’s first-day signings in 2005, on the other hand, were running backs – and none ever played for Grambling. Six were receivers – and four of them were ineligible; none made significant contributions.
Seven of GSU’s 15 prospects subsequently announced on Day 2 came in as non-qualifiers, as well. Of that number, only DE Brandon George saw consistent playing time.
This notable quotient of ineligible recruits was initially dismissed by Spears, who said he was building for the future after playing so many underclassmen over an injury-marred 2004 campaign.
But most never took the field for Grambling. Several more left when Spears was eventually let go after the 2006 season.
GSU’s coaches were hoping that Silas Green of Alief Hastings High outside of Houston, then rated as one of the top rushing ends in the nation by Max Emfinger’s recruiting site, would fill a void left by the departure of Kenneth Pettway, drafted later that spring by the NFL’s Texans.
Spears was also high on LB Josh Jolivette, a Greater Houston High School Defensive Player of the Year finalist, and Alief Hastings RB Grant Gaines – who NFLHS.com’s Marty Gitlin was calling “a strong feature back.”
Instead, none of the 2005 class of running backs ever played. Neither did any of the wideouts.
Just two of the four first-day offensive linemen eventually started, Everett Edwards and Revay Smith. One of the four defensive linemen saw playing time, Corey Williams. Only one other defensive signee from that Wednesday haul, Keefe Hall, ever started.
Day 2 produced George, CB Nigel Copeland, OL Muhammad Karim and DL Melvin Matthews.
Edwards and George were non-qualifiers, and sat out a year. Copeland, Hall (who eventually claimed defensive MVP honors in the 2008 Bayou Classic), Karim, Matthews, Smith and Williams were eligible.
No quarterbacks or kickers were signed. By 2008, Grambling was in dire need of both.
What I said as they signed in 2005:
CB NIGEL COPELAND, Minor (Birmingham, Ala.): Heavily recruited, but some programs thought he wouldn’t qualify and dropped out. Late in the process, he did. With a reported 4.4 speed in the 40, Grambling coaches are calling him a steal.
RT EVERETT EDWARDS, Galena Park North Shore (Houston, Texas): A first-team All-Greater Houston honoree with a 15-0 state championship team. Listed as a 5.3 in the 40 by Rivals.com, which reported interest from Miami (Fla.), Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Texas Christian and Colorado.
“Everett is one of the top offensive linemen in the country,” Spears said back then.
DE BRANDON GEORGE, Bossier (La.): Three-year All-District and all-parish honoree; also has experienced at offensive guard. A member of the 2003 Academic All-State team, he nevertheless did not qualify.
LB KEEFE HALL, Worthing (Houston, Texas): Voted season-team All-Greater Houston Upperclassman by TexasPrepXtra.com. Part of a select group of seniors invited to the College Station Nike Training Camp.
OL MUHAMMAD KARIM, Lincoln (Dallas, Texas): Helped pave the way for a 13-1 season in 2004 before losing in Texas state championship game on blocked kick. He’s eligible.
DL MELVIN MATTHEWS, Clinton (La.): Followed up 2006 honorable mention with first-team All-District 8-2A honors. Called a Player to Watch by The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate.
OL REVAY SMITH, Catholic (Baton Rouge, La.): A two-year starter, earned All-District 4-5A honors as a senior. Listed among the Best of the Rest for Top 100 Louisiana prospects by Dandy Don.
Edwards (then 6-6, 315) and Smith (then 6-1, 300) should provide the athleticism that this line continues to lack.
DL COREY WILLIAMS, Catholic (Baton Rouge, La.): No. 43 on Dandy Don’s list of Louisiana recruits. Started for two seasons and was an All-District performer last year.