HBCU notebook: Grambling State QB Johnathan Williams raising eyebrows

If you look at some of the top quarterbacks in college football, they can all throw the ball down the field -- there’s no question about that. Not only can Grambling State quarterback Johnathan Williams throw the ball downfield; he can throw it all over the gridiron.

Williams, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior, threw for 327 yards Saturday night, completing 20 of 36 passes and five touchdowns as Grambling State (3-2 overall, 3-0 SWAC) topped host Jackson State (1-4, 1-2) 59-27. The feat earned him ESPN.com HBCU Player of the Week honors.

The Tigers’ signal-caller has been on an absolute tear of late. A week ago, he completed 20 of 33 passes for 429 yards and six TDs, leading Grambling State to a 70-54 victory over Prairie View. In case you’re counting, Williams has thrown 11 TDs in the last two games. On the season, he has amassed 1,481 passing yards and 18 touchdowns -- a record among SWAC quarterbacks.

Grambling State head coach Broderick Fobbs has seen Williams take the Tigers’ passing attack to another level this season, averaging 296.2 yards a game.

“Johnathan is a very bright young man,” Fobbs said. “He’s highly intelligent. He sees the whole field. The game is kind of slowed down for him. He’s doing a good job of limiting his mistakes. He’s just been a great player for us this season.”

Williams seems to have a good supporting cast at the skilled positions. Martez Carter leads the Tigers in rushing. With 97 yards and a TD on Saturday, Carter has gained 353 yards this season on 43 attempts and has scored 8 touchdowns. More importantly, he’s averaging 8.2 yards a carry, which keeps defenses honest.

Williams also has the benefit of two terrific receivers in Chad Williams (28 receptions, 452 yards, 4 TDs) and Chester Rogers (20 catches, 368 yards, 4 TDs). Both are capable of stretching the defense with their speed. Williams is averaging 16.1 yards a catch. Rogers, 18.4 yards.

Under Williams’ direction, these players have made the G-Men a dangerous team in the SWAC. They lead the conference in offensive scoring with 46 points a game. And Fobbs likes the way Williams takes advantage of opportunities.

“He does a good job of taking what the defense gives and really allowing the athletes to make the plays for him,” Fobbs said. “I think initially he was trying to do too much. I think he understands now to allow the system to work for him.”

This Saturday, Alabama A&M (1-3, 1-1) will visit Grambling State at Eddie Robinson Stadium to take up the challenge of trying to slow down Williams and the Tigers’ scoring machine.

Southern wide receiver’s recovery continues: The prayers and support continue to pour in from around the country for Southern University wide receiver Devon Gales and his family. During a Sept. 26 game at Georgia, the redshirt sophomore sustained a spinal injury during the second half.

According to a Southern University release, Gales underwent successful spinal surgery Sept. 27 in Athens, Georgia. The release also states that “he continues to have movement in his upper body and remains in good spirits.”

Cards and well-wishes may be sent to Gales at: SU Athletics: c/o Devon Gales, PO Box 9942, Baton Rouge, LA, 70813.

Etc.: Jackson State has released head coach Harold Jackson and named wide receivers coach Derrick McCall as interim head coach, effective immediately. Jackson had a 5-7 record in 2014, his first year at the helm. Through five games this season, the Tigers are 1-4.

  • Savannah State broke a 24-game losing streak and a 32-game Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference losing streak Saturday at home, defeating Florida A&M 37-27. Savannah State quarterback Arshon Spaulding had a big game, picking up 91 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown, also going 8-for-12 passing for 83 yards.

  • Former Norfolk State linebacker Lynden Trail was signed to the Washington Redskins’ practice squad.

MEAC Players of the Week: North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen was named the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week. Cohen scored three touchdowns rushing for 107 yards on 22 carries in the Aggies' 45-31 win over Hampton. North Carolina Central safety C.J. Moore was chosen as the Defensive Player of the Week, scoring a team-high 11 tackles (nine solo), including 2.0 tackles for a loss of 5 yards. He also had two interceptions in the Eagles’ 28-26 loss to Bethune-Cookman.

Also, N.C. A&T's Khris Gardin was selected as the STATS FCS National Special Teams Player of the Week. Gardin, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, recorded 203 yards on four punt returns to help the Aggies get their first MEAC win of the season. His longest return went for a 71-yard TD. He also had returns of 42, 45 and 45 yards and set a school record for average yards per game, with 50.8. Gardin picked up the MEAC Special Teams Player of the Week, too.

SWAC Players of the Week: Alabama State quarterback Ellis Richardson was named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Week after he accounted for 297 total yards of offense (162 pass, 135 rush) and scored four touchdowns against Texas Southern. He threw for three scores and rushed for another in Alabama State’s 41-23 win. Alcorn State linebacker Darien Anderson was named the Defensive Player of the Week. Anderson had a game-high 11 tackles in Alcorn State’s 61-14 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and added 1.5 tackles for loss.

SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll

1.Alcorn State

2.North Carolina A&T



5.Grambling State

6.Tennessee State

7.Norfolk State


9.South Carolina State

10.North Carolina Central

Boxtorow HBCU Football Media Top 10 Poll

1.Alcorn State

2.North Carolina A&T


4.Tennessee State

5.South Carolina State

6.Grambling State



9.Bowie State

10.Virginia Union

Heritage Sports Radio Network, LLC Division I FCS Poll

1.Alcorn State

2.North Carolina A&T


4.South Carolina State

5.Tennessee State


7.Grambling State

8.Norfolk State

9.Prairie View A&M

10.Morgan State

Black College Sports Page Top 10

1.Alcorn State



4.Grambling State

5.Tennessee State

6.North Carolina A&T

7.South Carolina State


9.North Carolina Central

10.Norfolk State

Longtime ESPN contributor Donald Hunt is a veteran sports writer for The Philadelphia Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @DHuntTrib.