Grambling begins fall sessions on Thursday no closer to solving the riddle that vexed the program through 15 days of spring practices: An empty place at the top of the depth chart for running back. Now, add to that the transfer of last year’s starter at quarterback.
Top rusher Frank Warren, now a free-agent signing with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, left quite the impression at Grambling: Record holder for rushing yards as a freshman, first 1,000-yard rusher at GSU since Brad Hill in 2001, eventual school record holder for career yards. He also passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Walter Payton’s SWAC record for career rushing yards along the way.
Look deeper into the roster, though, and you may see why: As a four-year starter, Warren began each season with a different passer under center — Brandon Landers (2007), J.P. Tillman (who was eventually replaced by Greg Dillon, 2008), Dillon (2009) and Anthony Carrothers (2010). Warren was workhorse for a system that somehow never settled on a signalcaller.
This new season, once again, finds the program looking for a quarterback after Carrothers — who threw for 1,443 yards in 2010, and 115 yards in last spring’s Black and Gold game — abruptly transferred.
“I still think we’ve got to wait and see what happens at quarterback and running back,” Grambling coach Doug Williams told me. “We’ve got three freshman running backs and one holdover from the spring. At quarterback, it’s D.J. (Williams, the Grambling legend’s son), (sophomore) Frank (Rivers) and a walk on. One of those guys will have to emerge.”
And quick. There’s roughly one month to go before the season opener.
Both Rivers (6-5, 205) and D.J. Williams (6-4, 193) possess a more prototypical size than the Tigers’ departed 5-10 scatback starter, but lack his experience. D.J. saw his first meaninful action under center last spring, after playing wide receiver throughout his prep career, and Rivers is only just now joining the Grambling system.