Camp fires 5: Goals for next year; starters and rising stars


Even Greg Dillon, Grambling’s starting quarterback through a thrilling 11-victory season, has started using this staff’s favorite phrase. You know. The one about getting better.

And like third-year coach Rod Broadway, Dillon is serious.

“We have to win more games,” said Dillon, who helped Grambling to eight of them in a row after securing the starting role in Dallas against Prairie View.

When it was over, the Tigers had claimed victory in the nationally televised Bayou Classic rivalry game against Southern and then in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game — with Dillon as the MVP in both contests.

Better? Really? Dillon nods, then lays out both the team goals — and his own.

“We are just trying to compete with everybody on our schedule,” he says, finally. “We want to win every game. That’s our goal.”

Grambling has only had two undefeated squads, most recently in 1955 under Eddie Robinson. The other was in 1942, when Robinson’s club went both undefeated and unscored upon.

Achieving that again seems like a particularly difficult plateau, considering Grambling’s early-season schedule, but I like that Dillon hasn’t gotten comfortable with his success — outsized though it may be.

OFFENSIVELY: The other starters on offense have most often included Bakari Maxwell, Van Phillips and Dezmond Spivey at receiver; Larry Donnell and Donnovan Moss at tight end; and Cornelius Walker, Frank Warren and De’Mack Bates at running back.

The most consistently impressive of the newcomers has certainly been Bates, a tough young player who seems to have a lot of big-play potential.

DEFENSIVELY: Starters on defense have included Kendall Robinson and Christian Anthony, along with Antoine Rogers, Maurice Crawford, Terrance Jones and others up front; Kenneth Anio and Nigel Copeland, along with Desmond Lenard, David Stuckman, (the main backups right now), Naquan Smith, Jabari Powell at defensive back.

Give credit to Copeland for holding off Lenard, a rising star who led the team last year in interceptions. You’ll see Smith and Powell on the field next season, too.

Mindful of this group’s propensity both to pick off passes and then run them back, Grambling coaches have been drilling specifically on blocking schemes after interceptions, getting outside and creating a wedge.

Bruna Foster has taken Jeffery Jack’s old sam spot, with Gabe Fleming as his backup. Toby Mott has been playing middle linebacker, while Derrick Johnson continues to rehab a bad knee. Others seeing playing time include Cliff Exama, Charles Gamble, Stephen Tripp and others. I’ve heard linebacker John Carter might also return in the spring.

Lance Castleberry is at strong safety, with Fleming again as No. 2. T.J. McCord is at free safety, with Derrick Wilhite as back up.

EXPANDED COVERAGE OF GRAMBLING’S SPRING 2009 PRACTICES:

Video: First-team offensive drills, Week 1.
Receiver/secondary drills, Week 1.
Defense dominates first Grambling scrimmage; see photos, video
Photo galleries: Grambling opens 2009 spring practices.
More from Week 1 of Grambling’s ongoing spring sessions.
Defense dominates first Grambling scrimmage; see photos, video

STOKING THE ‘FIRES’:

Previous notebooks from Grambling’s spring camp: Camp fires 1: Notes from Grambling spring practices.
Camp fires 2: Quarterback depth chart; scrimmage planned.
Camp fires 3: Friendly battles, zippy corners, a two-sport star?

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