Longtime college and pro assistant Bob Leahy, originally hired to oversee wide receivers at Grambling, has subsequently switched to quarterbacks and then taken over playcalling duties after a series of staff departures. As the Tigers continue spring break, TheDerisoReport got Leahy’s early impressions of the offense, and its unsettled quarterback situation:
Over the past few seasons, Grambling’s defense has carried the team to a pair of divisional titles and the SWAC Championship. From the looks of last week’s initial scrimmage, that appears to be the case again in 2010. What’s your take on that?
The thing that we want to try to accomplish, and this is the first thing Coach Broadway said from the get go, is the importance of playing in concert with defense and special teams. There is no doubt, the strength of our football team is defense.
Was last week’s turnover ratio — eight total for the offense in the scrimmage — more about a new offensive scheme or a defense that returns almost all of its starters?
Limiting turnovers is going to be focus. We want to make sure that offensively, we don’t give anything away. Now, one of the things we don’t want to do is play scared. We want to play smart; what that comes down to is protecting the football. We want to make sure that with every possession we are going to kick the football — meaning, end with an extra point, field goal or punt. If we can generate offensively, I think it will give our team the best chance to win.
It must be difficult to construct a playbook for this group with quarterback Greg Dillon’s status still up in the air with the NCAA.
The biggest question mark, without a doubt, is at the quarterback position. We are anticipating the NCAA giving us a positive response on that. If that would be the case, we have one of the best players in conference. Anytime you have a guy like Greg returning, with all that experience, our offense can take a whole new direction with him leading it. I’ve only had a chance to see him on film. Since he’s not been able to practice, I haven’t been able to see him first hand but I’m very, very optimistic that if we did have Greg, we could jump start everything and be a real athlete-oriented offense.
At the same time, you’ve got an up-and-coming player in sophomore Danny Reyes who shown some promise at running the offense this spring.
We’re not asking our quarterback to do a whole lot. We just want Danny to run the structure of the offense this spring. Right now, we are going to be putting in a running, and play-action mentality. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Danny. From what I have seen, he can give us that. He can give us the leadership we are looking for. He can orchestrate a good running attack — and offensively, I think that’s our strongest suit right now.
Tight end has been an under-utilized position in the SWAC of late, but Grambling boasts a real talent in Larry Donnell. What’s your take on him?
We have an outstanding tight end. He’s big enough, and strong enough that he can block a defensive end all by himself. When you have a kid like Larry Donnell, our plan is for him to never come out of the game. He will line up at tight end and receiver. I think we have a tremendous weapon with him.
What are you seeing with the receivers — an area that Coach Broadway has said needs quick improvement?
It will take a little time to get all the pieces into place. But I’m very optimistic.
The wildcat formation has been the buzz lately, and you’re entering into a program at Grambling that was once known for the double-wing. Is that a look you’re interested in on offense?
If Greg Dillon is your quarterback, you are in the wildcat. (Chuckles.) Rodale Pippen (used in the backfield last year as part of wildcat formations), he is nursing knee and not practicing. But I think he is a very interesting athlete. It’s something we will probably come back to. That concept really doesn’t take much structure to incorporate. If Greg is back and with Pippin, you have the athletes you need. It’s the same blocking scheme, but now you are flash faking, to keep the defense honest. There’s no question, it’s captivated football.
Grambling is bringing in additional prospects at quarterback this fall. Could we see one of those youngsters under center for the season opener?
Newcomers are coming in but, if Greg doesn’t return, Danny will have a big jump on those guys. I’m finding out that he’s really smart. He’s accurate, he’s a competitor, and a hard worker. He wants to be good — all of these things. Look at the way Danny performed (in mop-up duty during a 2009 blowout against then-BCS Top 20) at Oklahoma State. For a true freshman to go into Stillwater, and perform as well as he did, I think that speaks volumes for him.
You’ve worked with a number of big names at quarterback. Sounds like you feel you have the qualities, in Dillon and Reyes, that you look for at that position.
If Greg does not come back, Danny is by far our best prospect right now on campus. I do see some strong qualities in Danny that I like in a quarterback. The only problem for Danny is that he’s under 6 feet tall. But, then again, Drew Brees is under 6-feet tall, too. There are so many variables. A quarterback is only as good as the supporting cast around him. They get too much credit when things go well, and too much blame when they don’t. There is fine line to both of those things.
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