As the amount of hype for the new season peaks, a new season begins in Berkeley. The 2015 campaign begins with a contest against Grambling State. Located in Grambling, Louisiana, The Tigers come to Berkeley off a moderately successful 7-5 season. They went 7-2 within their conference, at one point winning seven straight before dropping their final two. Led by head coach Broderick Fobbs and senior quarterback Johnathan Williams, the Tigers look to have another decent year.
Admittedly, there is less to say about Grambling State than your average team. It's the beginning of the season and the is less film available on FCS teams. However, there's enough available to give a picture of the Grambling offense. For a more in depth look, check out this post by LiffeyBear, who covers the topic in a little more technical depth.
First and foremost, we start with the Grambling Band. This was the first video that came up, and apparently this isn't their entire band. Those in attendance will be treated to a show this weekend by the "World Famed" Tiger Marching Band. On to the actual football though.
The Tigers were led last year by Williams (#17) and are shaping up to do the same thing this year. And I mean this literally, as Williams led the team in rushing as well as passing. Williams is an experienced FCS quarterback, which could pose a bit of a threat against an unproven and much maligned secondary. His two leading receivers, Chester Rogers (#80) and Chad Williams (#10), return to wreak havoc on opposing secondaries. With experience and returning starters (Grambling also returns their 3rd and 5th leading receivers), Grambling can put together some offense.
That being said, they did get walloped 47-0 by Houston last season, so keep that in the back of your mind.
Scheme-wise, Grambling isn't too different from Cal. They run a spread, using either trips or an even look. They put the running back on either side of the quarterback. They will also put him behind the QB in the pistol formation (the nightmare of every Cal fan). They will utilize motion to shift between sets to force some confusion in the defense. Below is an example of when motion like this is successful.
By forcing the safety over the top to the right side with the motion, Grambling has forced that safety to pay attention the inside receiver. That second or so spent paying attention to the slot guy leaves just enough time and space for the outside receiver to run a skinny post and to be open enough for the score. If Cal runs a zone like this on Saturday, they have to stick their responsibilities. Namely the safety can't get caught up looking at the flat route, as a skinny post is his responsibility in a Cover 2 or a Cover 4.
Grambling will run their fair share of underneath routes, similar to what Cal runs in practice. On this play alone, the motion man runs an in route, the running back gets out on a wheel, and the other slot guy runs a wheel of his own. Cal probably has a similar play in their playbook to mimic this. There isn't too much of a reason to worry considering this.
Stats and Personnel
The Grambling passing game is pretty solid. Though if Cal's defense allowed these kind of averages last year, we'd have 8 wins and would be wondering about our Rose Bowl chances this year.
- 277.2 yards per game
- 7.7 yards per attempt
- 133.79 efficiency rating
Those numbers aren't too shabby, and considering the production coming back for the Tigers, they should be solid on this front.
Let's meet the main cast putting up these numbers.
- QB #17 Johnathan Williams: 272.7 yards per game, 58.5% completions, 18 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 146.18 efficiency rating
- WR #80 Chester Rogers: 53 receptions, 712 yards, 4 touchdowns
- WR #10 Chad Williams: 45 receptions, 572 yards, 5 touchdowns
Judging by their top two receivers, Grambling spreads the ball around a lot. 9 different receivers had touchdown receptions, and 8 had at least ten receptions. Williams wasn't the most accurate, as former Bear quarterback Zach Maynard had better accuracy numbers than Williams has. Rogers and Chad Williams are inside and outside receivers respectively, so they will have some inside-out threats.
As stated earlier, Johnathan Williams led the team in rushing last season. While a running quarterback is usually something to look out for, especially in the pistol (see Kaepernick, Colin or Fajardo, Cody), Grambling State averaged 3.2 yards per carry last season. That's not exactly world beating. They lost their starting running back, but return his backup Justin Kelly.
The scheme uses a bit of everything, with zone reads being the most common. Considering that their concepts our similar to Cal's, aside from having a more mobile QB, it's not too much of a change. I'm going to take a little bit from LiffeyBear's article, since their zone concept is the same as ours or Oregon's. Their runs change when they get to the goal line that it gets interesting
They'll line up with trips on one side in an unbalanced formation. The wideout on the right motions across to take the jet sweep into the endzone. This formation has ample lead blocking to bring Chad Williams into the endzone unscathed. They'll run a similar play with the quarterback taking the direct snap in a QB sweep type play. J. Williams definitely has the speed to be a threat on these plays. They'll also run bootlegs and screen passes close to the goal line, which will need some extra preparation
Stats and Personnel
While Grambling's rushing attack did produce 22 touchdowns last season, it wasn't the most prolific in doing it. QB Williams led them in rushing with 484 yards and 8 TDs. The longest run they had was a 34 yarder by Williams. The Grambling offense did put up a lot of points, it just seems like the passing game did the majority of the work.
The new running back for the Tigers would be Jestin Kelly, if statistics are to be trusted. Kelly had stats that would make Trent Richardson proud, with 271 yards on 97 carries for a 2.8 ypc average. Williams remains a bigger worry in the run game, so Hardy Nickerson and Jalen Jefferson need to keep their responsibilities in the zone read on point.
As LiffeyBear said, Grambling's Coach Fobbs said he wants to bring a basketball on grass type of offense in. The no huddle spread concept will be difficult to deal with, but there's one antidote to that. If the additions of Devante Wilson, James Looney, and Kyle Kragen to the defensive line can put pressure on Williams, then we've got some Scott Steiner-like chances of winning. A dominant pass rush will break up an up tempo offense, just look back at Cal-Washington from last year. Let's hope that the defensive improvements in camp translate over to the field. Go Bears!