Even with a coaching change, one element will remain the same: starting quarterback.
George Ragsdale said Wednesday afternoon that D.J. Williams will keep his job for Saturday’s Missouri Classic.
“I haven’t seen any reason for him to lose his job,” said the interim head coach of Grambling State University’s football team.
“When you are quarterback, you touch the ball every time. But no one sees the guys that drop the ball. No one sees him get sacked. No one sees the pressure he gets before he throws the ball. They are just watching him.”
Ragsdale replaces legendary quarterback and coach Doug Williams. The university president Frank Pogue told him the school is going in another direction.
“We recognize Doug Williams’ many contributions to our football legacy and we express our deep appreciation for his service to Grambling State University and we wish him well in the future,” said Pogue in a statement.
Pogue and the university announced Ragsdale as the interim coach, Wednesday afternoon. Ragsdale, the running backs coach, has previous coaching experience at North Carolina A&T State University, Norfolk State University, Morris Brown College, and the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“I have always worked at HBCUs,” said Ragsdale. “I feel a kinship endearment to HBCUs because that’s where I went. I was truly blessed to play on the next level.”
As the news circled campus and social media, former players expressed mixed emotions. Some Gramblinites believe the change was abrupt and unnecessary.
“I do not know if (Ragsdale) was the best available person for the job,” said Jacarde Carter, a former linebacker from Lafayette. “Our offensive line coach, Coach Wilkerson, was a better option, as far as knowledge and able to adapt to new things, unless things changed over the last year.” Carter’s last season was in 2012 and he is currently in graduate school at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette.
“I didn’t think something like this would happen in the middle of the season,” said Fabian Carter, a placekicker in the 2012 season. Carter learned of the news while at work in Miami, his hometown. He continued, “It’s going to take everyone, at this point of the season. All of the assistant coaches will have to come together to finish this season on a positive note.” Carter graduated from Grambling in the fall of 2012 in Sports Management.
Williams “should have not been fired,” said Bilaal Miller, former offensive tackle from Atlanta. “We receive a lot of recruits because people want to play for Coach Williams. That was one of the reasons I decided to come to Grambling. I wanted to play under his leadership.” Miller is a junior history major.
Miller, Jacarde Carter and Fabian Carter were all on the 2011 SWAC championship team.
In two coaching stints at Grambling, Williams won four SWAC championships. But since 2011, Williams and Grambling’s football team have gone 1-12. With two games in the loss column so far, Ragsdale still believes the team is headed in the right direction.
“Realistically, I know we are 0-2, but we are a way better football team than we were last year,” said Ragsdale. “We have fast guys and stronger guys.” He also adds that there are better walk-ons and freshman recruits receiving vital playing time.
“We were already heading in a better direction,” said Ragsdale.
One of the most controversial issues for the team is the play of D.J. Williams.
“If (Doug Williams) was not the head coach, no one would have ever questioned D.J.’s quarterbacking,” said Ragsdale. Ragsdale said some fans yell obscene comments about D.J.’s play. Last week in Monroe, he said one fan said that he wished his father was the quarterback so he could get on the field and play like crap.
“If I could have killed him with my look, he would have been dead,” he said. Ragsdale says this is a constant problem, and happens often. Some fans argue that former backup quarterback, Frank Rivers, was a better pick. “What people do not realize is that Frank’s mobility is not as good as D.J.” Rivers transferred this summer to Albany State.
D.J. declined to comment about his father’s termination, but he said he plans to play in Saturday’s game against Lincoln University in Kansas City, Mo.
Williams also declined to comment as he drove away from the Grambling Athletic Support Facility around 1 p.m. Wednesday. Aaron James, Grambling’s athletic director, was in the car behind Williams and also declined to comment.