In rebuilding mode, Doug Williams downplays preseason praise for Grambling

This is really the first time Grambling coach Doug Williams and his staff have had a chance to study this team.

They arrived on the eve of spring practices, and in the whirlwind of trying to re-establish things — Williams, a former Grambling standout quarterback, previously coached the program from 1998-2003 — sometimes focusing on the football depth chart was difficult.

“Everything has been so fast paced for me and the coaching staff,” Williams said. “We didn’t really have a lot of time to fully access the guys and what we were dealing with.”

Williams was shuttling back and forth, trying to tie up loose ends. His newly assembled staff hadn’t even fully moved into their offices yet as spring sessions got underway. At the same time, there followed the inevitable turnover in the wake of a coaching change: Among the transfers out was Grambling’s 2010 starter at quarterback.

“We had to hit the ground running,” Williams told me. “The assistant coaches weren’t here three days before we were in spring practice. So, we’re only just now accessing the last season and sitting down and talking about many of the different players.”

He has to chuckle, then, when asked about Grambling’s preseason selection to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Western Division this year.

“I think it’s a set up,” Williams said, laughing. “It’s like I told the players and coaches, all of those votes represent booby traps. You have to be smart, and not think that all we’ve got to do is show up. Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea that that is what they think of us. But I also think that vote is more about the legacy of what Grambling has done over the years, rather than anything we’ve done yet.”

Williams led Grambling to a trio of conference titles between 2000-02, and was one win away from championship game berths in 1999 and 2003. In all, the program has earned a best-in-the-league 22 SWAC crowns, 17 of them under College Football Hall of Famer Eddie G. Robinson, Williams’ former coach.

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