It makes sense to completely ignore Grambling State’s first game of the season, as the NCAA is doing the same.
Arizona is also going to be one of the more difficult matchup Grambling has and the reality is that there’s no chance that the Tigers stop Arizona consistently.
However, there is some talent on the defensive side of the ball, led by 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior safety Guy Stallworth
Stallworth is one of the better safeties in the country in D-II, as he finished with a team-leading 56 tackles and two interceptions last season.
Grambling State plays three safeties and much of the experience on defense is there. In addition to Stallworth, 6-foot-1 senior Jameel Jackson will start at one os the safety spots.
He finished last season with 36 tackles and one interception while leading the team with six pass breakups.
The third safety is Derrick Dixon, who is a graduate transfer from Texas Tech. Standing at 5-9, Dixon played in three games for Texas Tech this past year with just one tackle after appearing in 11 games with two starts in 2014 when he had 21 tackles.
Although he is a redshirt junior, De’Aumante Johnson will get his first substantial start at left corner this weekend. He only played in two games total last season and could be a big question mark going into Saturday.
The other corner spot goes to 5-10 junior Ja’Terious Pouncey, who played in six games last season and finished with six pass breakups.
Grambling State will play three linebackers, led by 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior left linebacker Arkez Cooper.
Last season, Cooper finished second on the team with 56 tackles, including nine for a loss. In terms of pure playmaking ability, Cooper is probably the best on the defensive side of the ball.
Sophomore Malcolm Williams and junior Deontae Hatter will man the other linebacker spots. Hatter only played in three games this past season, but the reports out of fall camp were that he was one of the breakout performers, thus the starting spot.
Grambling State’s defensive line took a hit from last season due to a loss of personnel. Defensive end Michael Jolivet is not longer on the team after leading the Tigers with seven sacks.
Senior Donovan McCray is the starter at right end, but he only played in five games last season and finished with five tackles and one sack.
At left end is 6-foot-2, 248-pound junior D’Angelo Butler-Gatson. Last season he appeared in eight games, finishing with 11 tackles and one sack.
The middle will be plugged by Blain Winston, who was at Louisiana Lafayette last season. He appeared in all 12 games for the Cajuns and was second on the team with three sacks.
Grambling State shouldn’t be able to hang with Arizona, but there is some transfer talent on the roster.
Still, having a three man rush against the type of offense Arizona runs is asking for trouble and the linebackers aren’t good enough to be able to control any aspect of the game.
Players to Watch
#54, LB Arkez Cooper: If the Tigers are going to have any success, Cooper is going to have to play well. Our guess is that he leads his team in tackles on Saturday.
#5, LB De'Arius Christmas: The JUCO linebacker does not start, but will likely see plenty of playing time on Saturday.
#29, S Guy Stallworth: He might be the best defender on the team, so expect to hear his name plenty on Saturday.
Keys to the Game:
1. Do what you do: Grambling State shouldn’t come close to beating Arizona. If Arizona does what it is capable of doing and does it well, the Wildcats will run away with it.
2. Take chances: Arizona was extremely conservative against BYU, whether it was by design or not. On Saturday, there’s little reason why Arizona shouldn’t at least take a few shots downfield.
3. Stay focused: We’ve seen plenty of big upsets the past fews years. This probably won’t be another one, but Arizona needs to focus on the task at hand.