J.P. Tillman, the pocket-passing transfer from Missouri who struggled to secure a starting role at Grambling behind a remade offensive line last season, is apparently out the door.
Tillman has reportedly transferred to Abilene Christian, a Texas-based NCAA Division II program. That would leave Brendan Crawford (Chapin-El Paso, Texas) and Justin Higgins (Rayville, La.) as the principal competitors for the starting position that Greg Dillon secured late last season with MVP performances in both the Bayou Classic and the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game.
Dillon’s crafty mobility served him well while Grambling’s rebuilt offensive line coalesced up front. A player with a deceptively accurate touch, the Bogalusa, La.-bred Dillon helped spark an 11-2 season at Grambling with his ability to make something out of nothing with running plays when protection broke down.
On the other hand, the heady Tillman, while he never threw an interception, struggled to spark the offense under a hail of defensive gunfire from the opposition. It’s impossible to predict where his season might have ended up if Tillman had arrived at GSU with a veteran offensive line. He didn’t have the improvisational verve of Dillon, and that became a critical element for success with this young team in 2008.
Still, there’s no denying his talent, even under duress: Tillman finished the 2008 campaign at 57-of-116 for 596 yards and five touchdowns – a 49 percent completion rate, or No. 6 in the SWAC if he’d started over a full season at Grambling. Tillman’s 107 pass efficiency put him into the Top 10 in the league, as well.
And, again, Tillman tossed nary a pick. None. That in itself would make him a find for a surging Abilene Christian — which concluded last season with an 11-1 record, its first outright Lone Star Conference crown since 1973, its highest-ever Division II national ranking ever at No. 2 and a quarterfinal run in the playoffs.