Coming off back-to-back 100-plus-yard rushing days, Grambling coach Doug Williams was unsure how to greet the young Dawrence Roberts, a redshirt sophomore who started the year on the bench: “I don’t know,” Williams said, “whether we need to take our hat off to him — or apologize.”
While he hasn’t played enough to crack the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Top 10 for total rushing yards on the year, Roberts has a higher per-night rushing average than any of them — and a better per-rush average than all but one of those performers, Jackson State’s Tommy Gooden. He’s also rushed for more touchdowns than six league rushers in the Top 10.
Roberts was part of a group of running backs who began competing for Williams, in his first year at Grambling again after a stint an NFL front office, following the 2011 spring practices. The Tigers entered the year without any clear starter at the position, which had seen the departure of record-smashing senior Frank Warren. “No running back stood up,” Williams said. “Then it seemed like Dawrence got a little hungry. A freshman fumbled, and we decided to go with Dawrence.”
Over 54 attempts in just two games, Roberts proceeded to pile up 386 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 198 against Alabama A&M, and 175 against Prairie View A&M, over an identical 27 carries in each contest. In all, Roberts boasts a staggering 6.8 yard-average per try, and 126 yards a night. Nobody else on the Grambling team is even close to that kind of production, with the No. 2 and 3 rushers Kenneth Batiste and Juwan Martin combining for 111 fewer yards — with more playing time. Batiste has played in five games, and Martin has played in four, while Roberts didn’t play at all in the opener against Alcorn State or against Alabama State while rushing just twice for five yards against Louisiana-Monroe.
As Grambling emerges from a bye week to play Concordia College, can we assume the bench-warming days for Roberts are now long gone?
“He will be playing for us from now on,” Williams says, “as long as he is healthy.”