GRAMBLING, La. -- Fans have one request for Grambling this year -- keep it up.
The Tigers have won three Southwestern Athletic Conference titles and are picked to return to the championship game again this year. To try to make sure that happens, Grambling practices will be all business.
"It's our job to make sure the players don't get complacent," said coach Doug Williams, who has compiled a 43-14 record since taking over from Eddie Robinson.
Grambling's offense is in good hands with quarterback Bruce Eugene, the Southwestern Athletic Conference's preseason offensive player of the year, and wide receiver Tramon Douglas, who joined Eugene on the first-team All-SWAC offense, leading the way.
Most of the 2002 offense will be back this fall, but on defense Williams has to hope some of his young players can step up and replace the six starters lost from last year.
Williams said the veterans will have to lead -- and that it's wide open for the rest.
"If younger guys come in with a little more talent, a little more athletic ability and can make some plays," Williams said, "we've got to give them a chance."
But as young as his defense is, Williams believes his optimism is justified.
"Athletically, we're probably 10 times better than we were last year, which says a lot," Williams said.
Last year, Grambling lost just two games on its way to a third-straight Southwestern Athletic Conference crown, and its defense was ranked nationally in both interceptions (fourth) and turnovers gained (seventh). Michael Roach has been defensive coordinator at GSU since 2000, the first of the Tigers' championship wins.
Among the losses are two linebackers, including Ron Johnson, the team's leading tackler.
The line, meanwhile, is rebuilding after the loss of defensive end Antwan Lawrence and defensive tackle Willie Gray, both All-SWAC players.
"We were hurting a little bit inside, I think," Williams said. "But, with the addition of Josh Kador, Lennard Patton could have the year we think he's capable of having. He could be pretty good inside."
Defensive ends Antonio Hughes and Kenneth Pettway will pressure the passer, Williams said.
"I think we have enough speed coming off the edges to play with anybody," he said.
Losses at defensive back include cornerback Chris Brown and free safety Denmark Reed, two more All-SWAC performers from 2002. Returning are Octavious Bond and safety Michael Daigre.
An important addition is Louisiana-Monroe transfer Seneca Lee -- who, Williams notes, "is a pure corner. We are hoping that Earin Bridges can lock down the other spot that was left by Denmark Reed."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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