Pitt Offense Versus Grambling

Change is the optimum word for the history-rich Grambling State football program this season.

After winning the 2005 Black National Championship and Southwest Athletic Conference title, the Tigers fell to 3-8 last fall and fired its coach. Rod Broadway took over the program in an attempt to return it among the elite in the newly named NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, which formerly was called Division I-AA.

Broadway, the ninth coach at Grambling, has already rebuilt North Carolina Central into a premier Division II team over a four-year period, and he is hopeful to do the same thing with the Tigers. Pitt receivers coach Aubrey Hill is quite familiar with Broadway's resume.

"I was actually a GA, getting him coffee and running to the airport for him, when I was a GA at Florida, and he was the defensive line coach there,'' Hill said. "And he was a heckuva guy there and at Central.

"He was there while I was at Duke University. He did a great job (at North Carolina Central), and now he's doing a good job at Grambling. I haven't talked to him yet, but I'm sure he'll call me Friday.''

Broadway hasn't assembled the Steel Curtain or Fearsome Foursome up front on defense, but when the Tigers face the Pitt football team Saturday at noon at Heinz Field that group will determine how well the Panthers offense performs.

"Their defensive line, they don't have as many returning starters as Eastern Michigan did, but they have great size and great athletic ability,'' University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said.

Defensively, Grambling's line is led by senior tackles Jason Banks and Donald Williams. Junior Melvin Matthews and senior William Nance are also in the tackle rotation. Senior John Scroggins and sophomore Jon Nixon are the starting ends with senior Otis Young and juniors Alex Knight and Brandon George are the backups on a D-line that helped the Tigers hold Alcorn State to just five rushing first downs.

Williams and Banks had two stops each behind the line, but the group gave up 100 yards rushing and 255 total yards in that game.

Junior John Carter leads an inexperienced linebacking core from the outside, while sophomore Derrick Johnson and junior Keefe Hall will share time in the middle. Hall and Carter were high school teammates. Carter led the Tigers with six total tackles, including five solo, last week. Scroggins had four stops, while quarterback Brandon Logan had four solos on special teams.

Despite the loss of two players who participated in NFL tryout camps this past April, the secondary is expected to have a solid season with a mixture of veteran leadership and youth with game action. Senior safety Zaire Wilborn led the team with 90 tackles last fall, two sacks and two fumble recoveries. Fellow senior DeMichael Dizer also returns at free safety. Lining up in the defensive backfield next to Dizer at the rover position is Jeffrey Jack. Kenneth Anio and Nigel Copeland are the cornerbacks. Aaron Brown, a converted wide receiver, will also figure into the mix.

Tim Manuel is Grambling's punter and place-kicker for the second straight season. He averaged nearly 42 yards per kick last fall and was 6-for-10 in field-goal attempts. He made a 22-yarder last week.

Grambling plays in the Southwest Athletic Conference along with Prairie View A&M, Southern University, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Texas Southern in the SWAC West. Mississippi Valley State, Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Jackson State and Alcorn State are in the East.

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