As the season opener against Alcorn State nears, the G-Men are practicing and adjusting to a new system and a new coaching staff. One of the many steps to adjusting happened today with an early-morning scrimmage.The defense took on the offense. While no score was kept, it was pretty clear that the defense dominated, limiting the offense to three field goals and no touchdowns.
“I’m really happy with our defense,” said Zaire Wilborn, defensive back. “Everything is falling in place.”
Everything did seem to fall in place as the defense intercepted the ball and agitated the quarterbacks. The defense was so aggressive that they took out one of their own. As Larry Kerlegan scrambled from the line of scrimmage, he was tackled.and didn’t get up.
After a few minutes, he was helped to the sideline with an ankle injury. It’s not certain that he will play in the first game, but Kerlegan is optimistic.
“It’s 50 percent right now,” said Kerlegan. “I’ll start rehabbing and hopefully it will be better.”
Kerlegan, who plays as a quarterback and receiver, already has one goal in mind.
“We want to be (Southwestern Athletic Champions),” he said. “We want to go 12-0. We’re in good shape. We just have to execute when we get on the field.”
The offense struggled during the scrimmage. Starting quarterback Brandon Landers knows it.
“I have to take my hat off to the defense,” Landers said. “We started off slowly. We didn’t play very well at the beginning. We have to keep working to get better as a team.”
After a 3-8 season last year, the team is focused on making this season a good one.
“We want to win,” said Clyde Edwards, receiver. “We want to fix that 3-8 season. We’re shaped up pretty good.”
Edwards is on track to break some receiving records this year and becoming a premier player at GSU. However, he doesn’t feel the pressure.
“It’s football,” he said. “I feel like it’s nothing. I just have to dig deep and make plays.”
With a new coaching squad in place, there are many adjustments being made, but the team is currently enjoying and learning from the new coaches.
“It’s a little different than what we are used to,” said Edwards of the new system. “We are going to surprise a lot of people.”
Tim Abney, who had a quiet but solid season with 435 yards receiving, also agrees.
“I feel like we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” he said. “We’re putting in a lot of hard work. We believe in the system. Last year, we lost faith in the system.”
Abney senses the difference from last year’s system, which was constructed under former Head Coach Melvin Spears, who was fired at the end of last year.
“I like the new system,” Abney said. “We’re a more conservative offense. We’re all about ball control. Whoever controls the ball wins ball games.”
After a disappointing season where the team faced many obstacles, they are ready to prove that they can be SWAC Champs.
“Our biggest obstacle this year will be coming together as a team,” Abney said. “We’re working on that now. Once a team does that, they’re magical. Once we get to that point, things will look really good for the future.”
Coach Rod Broadway watched most of the scrimmage from the sideline, letting his offensive and defensive coordinators run the field. Broadway is very sanguine about this year’s team.
“We’re expecting to have a better football team than last year,” Broadway said. Broadway is trying to instill a new philosophy into the players.
“We’re trying to change the culture of how our guys think,” he said. “It’s always team first. The team is bigger than you. We’re also teaching them the basic fundamentals. We’re trying to learn how to mange the game and run the ball better.”
Offensive Coordinator James Spady knows that they have a long way to go.
“We’re changing the techniques,” Spady said. “This has been a predominantly passing offense. We’re trying to be more of a multiple offense. We need to be more balanced. I’m having to train them to do things differently.”
Spady has seen the team from last year, a team that led the league in many offensive categories. However, Spady doesn’t expect the stats to be the same.
“We may not lead the league in those categories,” he said. “We’re going to consume the clock. If we keep the ball, the other team won’t get scoring opportunities.”
The team is still a work in progress, but Spady is content that the team will get better.
“I expect us to progress positively,” he said. “I won’t throw a number out there, but I want to win the SWAC Championship. But if we can progress, we have a chance to be in it.”
Broadway is also ready to return the SWAC Championship to GSU. He also wants to bring GSU back to its prime.
“This is the Mecca,” he said. This is the team of Black college football. We need to get Grambling back to the top.