Twelve months ago, as the Grambling football staff set out to sign another class of recruits, the program was an easier sell.
The Tigers were reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference champions, heading into their second year under Doug Williams with a little momentum.
Now, the sell is different. Substantially different.
They’re coming off a disastrous 1-10 season that included several lopsided losses and often-sloppy play in all areas of the game.
Out of necessity, Williams and his assistant have taken a different recruiting approach this year.
“We’re really recruiting what we need, not just what we want,” he said.
Williams said he doesn’t talk a lot about his own achievements anymore, because, well, that can be a turn-off.
After all, today’s high school students weren’t alive when Williams quarterbacked the Washington Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXII.
Heck, most of them don’t remember Williams’ first turn as Grambling coach, when he won three straight SWAC titles during a six-year stay from 1998-2003. He also doesn’t promise recruits they’ll have a chance to play right away.
Unless they can kick.
“We needed a kicker for this class,” Williams said. “We made sure we took care of that part of it.”
Williams, of course, cannot mention recruits by name, but Grambling has a commitment from Rayville kicker Jonathan Wallace, who made the Class 3A all-state team as a kicker in 2011 and again as a punter in 2012.
His presence could stabilize a kicking game that was, shall we say, unreliable.
Grambling was only 5 of 8 on field-goal attempts, and after a season-opening loss to Alcorn State, the Tigers never attempted a kick longer than 37 yards.
“There were times when we had fourth down and we had to go for it because we really didn’t have a choice,” Williams said. “That hurt us a lot, because it put our team in a bad position.”
On defense, the Tigers had also lost a host of two- and three-year starters from the 2011 team, and it showed. Grambling ranked eighth in the SWAC in total defense (the offense was only marginally better, ranking seventh).
“I think toward the end of the year, you could really see the younger players get an understanding of what we’re looking for,” Williams said. “They were starting to have some of that veteran presence and understanding.”
According to the Shreveport Times, Grambling has 17 commitments — including five defensive linemen and five linebackers.
“I don’t know if we’ll get all the guys we want,” Williams said, “but hopefully, we’ll get enough of them.”