NEW ORLEANS — J.P. Douglas, the freshman with a slight build and easygoing demeanor, is Southern’s probable starting quarterback for the Bayou Classic.
This season, he has played in nine games and thrown for 1,215 yards, and he came off the bench to lead the Jaguars to their most impressive win: a 26-23 come-from-behind upset at Alabama State on Nov. 12.
Obviously, Douglas is a viable option. Then again, second-year coach Stump Mitchell might not have much of a choice.
That’s because sophomore Dray Joseph, who suffered a concussion in the Alabama State game, has not yet been cleared to play.
Mitchell defined Joseph’s status for Saturday as “questionable.”
Douglas had made three straight starts for the Jaguars until the ASU game, when Joseph — who began this season as the team’s No. 1 quarterback — got a surprise start.
Joseph was 7-for-16 when he suffered a concussion in the second quarter.
In stepped Douglas, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He led Southern on its game-winning drive, which ended on a Brian McCain 1-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left.
But if Douglas does indeed start at 1 p.m. Saturday, when the Jaguars (4-6, 4-4 Southwestern Athletic Conference) look to snap a three-game losing streak against archrival Grambling (6-4, 5-3), is there any concern about throwing a freshman out there in the middle of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, before a potentially loud crowd and a host of NBC cameras?
In a word, no.
“When you get a guy that’s coming into college with 21 credit-hours out of high school, and has taken several foreign languages and all kinds of AP courses — and now he’s taking 17 hours this fall semester, and he has better than a 3.7 GPA — there’s no pressure,” Mitchell said, referring to Douglas. “I mean, playing football is just an outlet for him. He expects to be successful, and so does Dray Joseph. He’s an engineering major. Both of those guys expect to be successful.”
Either way, Southern will have a different starting quarterback for the third straight Bayou Classic. Fifth-year senior Bryant Lee started the ’09 game, followed by Jeremiah McGinty last season. McGinty was dismissed earlier this year for undisclosed reasons.
Favoritism? Not with Doug
When sophomore Anthony Carrothers transferred from Grambling to Winston-Salem State this summer, Doug Williams was left with two main options at quarterback: Frank Rivers and D.J. Williams. Both are freshmen. Only one of them was Doug Williams’ son.
Although D.J. Williams began this season as the starter, Doug Williams’ decisions soon proved that nepotism means less than performance.
This season, Rivers has attempted 114 passes. D.J. Williams has attempted 115. The two have flip-flopped roles throughout the season, combining for 1,795 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
“One thing I got straight with D.J. before the start of the season was, I’m going to be Daddy at home, and I’m going to be a coach on the field,” Doug Williams said.
Rivers is listed as the starting quarterback on Grambling’s depth chart, but it’s worth noting that in the Tigers’ last game, a 29-25 win over Texas Southern, D.J. Williams played from start to finish, throwing for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
Grambling will also start its third different quarterback in the Bayou Classic. Greg Dillon started in ’09, followed by Carrothers last season.
CB Williams to return
Virgil Williams, the Jaguars’ No. 1 cornerback and kick returner, should be able to play in the Bayou Classic, Mitchell said.
Williams suffered a concussion during the second half of a 29-15 loss to Texas Southern on Nov. 5. He missed the following game against Alabama State. That gave Williams two weeks to recover for Grambling.
Williams, a sophomore from Shreveport, is the team’s fifth-leading tackler with 38 stops. He leads Southern with 12 pass deflections. Williams also leads the team with 15 kickoff returns and 14 punt returns.
6TH MAN CLUB: The bus will leave at 8 a.m. Saturday and return immediately after the game. The cost is $50 without a game ticket, though game tickets are available at an additional cost. For information, call Anna Jones at (225) 907-7212, Freddie Greene at (225) 388-9403, or Elijah Wilkinson at (225) 355-9249.
SU UNIFICATION ORGANIZATION: The bus will leave at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and return immediately after the game. The cost is $35 without a game ticket and $75 with a game ticket. For information, call Leo Williams at (225) 355-6886 or (225) 357-3833.
BLUE & GOLD CLUB: The bus will leave at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and return immediately after the game. The cost is $35; riders must already have their game tickets. For information, call Robert Square at (225) 931-4052, Eddie Braxton at (225) 301-7940 or Arthur Jack at (225) 315-8682.
Doug Williams mentioned several times Tuesday how he could still recall playing in the first Bayou Classic at old Tulane Stadium in 1976. He played in the first Classic, all right, and it was at Tulane Stadium — but as someone had to remind him, the first game was in 1974. ... Grambling has won the past three Classics. A win Saturday would give the Tigers their first four-game winning streak in the series since 1983-86.