Camp fires 3: Friendly battles, zippy corners, a two-sport star?

campfires3
Greg Dillon, confident in his starting role, has struck up an easy relationship with Grambling backup quarterback Justin Higgins. A new practice format has the two alternating plays with the first- then the second-team units. When practice times conflict with classes, as it did this week, Higgins even takes over with the starters. There has been little evident conflict among the two. “Me and Higgins, we have been friends since he got here,” said Dillon, the breakout junior who was on the scout team at this time last season. “We are both growing and trying to understand the offense. We support each other, and work together. We do a lot together.” Dillon, with Higgins redshirting through an offseason knee surgery in 2008, captured the starting role, then earned both Bayou Classic and SWAC Championship Game MVPs. Now, with the departure of J.P. Tillman, with whom Dillon had battled for snaps, Higgins is firmly entrenched at No. 2. Walk-on Calvin Works, wearing No. 8, appears to be the favorite for scout team. …

Others working with the starting unit have included: offensive linemen Ricky Jackson, Muhammad Karim, Karry Wright, Revay Smith and Greg McGrue; receivers Antoine Robinson, Damian Jefferson and Van Phillips; tight ends Larry Donnell and Donnovan Moss; and running backs Cornelius Walker and Frank Warren. Karim, Wright and Smith were listed as seniors late last season. …

Two up-and-comers have established a zippy presence amongst the deep, experienced Grambling secondary. Naquan Smith, a sophomore out of Atlanta, Ga., may just be the fastest person on the field. (He had a memorable pick off Higgins this week, then tore down the field.) Area product Jabari Powell, part of Grambling’s 2007 signing day class, usually has something to say about that: He was a member of Monroe-Wossman High’s first-place 800-meter relay team at the state Class 4A track meet as a prep athlete. …

Kiare Thompson, who was used all over the field last season, has been absent from these sessions – with an excuse. He’s a centerfielder for baseball coach Barret Rey. Grambling takes on perennial SWAC power Prairie View at home this weekend, meaning Thompson will miss the football team’s first scheduled scrimmage. “It gets kind of hectic at times, but I love both equally the same,” Thompson told me. “I don’t have any at bats yet. I’m waiting my turn, just like I did for football.” Thompson, a rising junior from Burbank High in Sacramento, Calif., was Grambling’s second-leading receiver last year with 25 catches for 310 yards and a unit-leading 7 touchdowns. Thompson, in fact, trailed only kicker Luis Leal in total scoring last season. He was the team’s best punt returner (30 for 446 yards), too, while also returning nine kickoffs for 159 yards and rushing 28 times for 50 yards. Only Dillon bested his 965 yards of total yardage in 2008.

STOKING THE ‘FIRES’:

Previous editions: Camp fires 1: Notes from Grambling spring practices.
Camp fires 2: Quarterback depth chart; scrimmage planned.

EXPANDED COVERAGE OF GRAMBLING’S SPRING 2009 PRACTICES:

Video: First-team offensive drills, Week 1.
Receiver/secondary drills, Week 1.

Photo galleries: Grambling opens 2009 spring practices.
More from Week 1 of Grambling’s ongoing spring sessions.

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