When you spend time around new Prairie View A&M University head coach Eric Dooley you can’t help but be impressed with his overall confidence. Clearly it comes from being a winner at every level of his football career. Given his resume it’s hard to bet against him and what he will accomplish at PVAMU.
As a player at Grambling, Dooley was coached by the legendary Eddie Robinson and won two SWAC championships. Most recently as offensive coordinator at Grambling he was a vital part of three consecutive SWAC Western Division titles (2015-17), two SWAC Championships (2016-17) and an HBCU National Championship (2016).
At Grambling, his offenses averaged at least 31 points per game in all four seasons, and ranked first or second in the SWAC in scoring offense each of the last three seasons. In 2016, he was named American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year.
Because he was a known commodity within the conference it has led to an easy transition of power at PVAMU.
“The transition has been smooth,” Dooley said. “It helps to have played in this conference and know some of the young men on this team. Knowing the success we’ve had played a huge role. Knowing your background and your body of work makes a huge difference. It makes them more receptive to what you bring to the table.”
The schedule-makers didn’t do the Panthers any favors this season. They start the season with six consecutive games on the road, two of those against FBS (Division I) opponents. Dooley seems undaunted by the challenge.
“I’ve always been taught you play the hand you’re dealt. I accept the challenge,” Dooley said. “I know it’s an extremely difficult schedule. I know we’re on the road for the first six games, but we’ve got to play wherever we go. Our motto has always been ‘spot the ball.’ That means spot the ball and let’s play football wherever we may be.
“We prepare for every opponent the same way,” he continued. “There’s no big or small opponent. We plan to play all out for 60 minutes. When we do that, we have an opportunity to win.”
That mentality was on display when PVAMU started the season against Rice. Dooley’s Panthers lost a heartbreaker 31-28 on a last-second field goal after dominating the Owls offensively for a large portion of the game.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game,” Dooley said. “We had a couple of turnovers [fumble, snap out of the end zone] that changde the complexity of the game. That’s football – limiting turnovers and creating turnovers. Overall, I’m proud of the kids. They fought hard.”
With Dooley as the head coach expect PVAMU to be explosive offensively. QB Jalen Morton flashes the type of RPO (run, pass, option) skills that make him a total package threat. Against Rice he was 16 of 28 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed 12 times for 53 yards.
They have big-time playmakers in receiver Tristen Wallace and running backs Dawonya Tucker and Bernard Goodwater. Christian Rice, Danny Garza and Corbin Finlayson figure to be stalwarts on the offensive line.
In recent years the Panthers have been known for explosive offense but have been lacking defensively. New defensive coordinator Henry Miller will have an experienced group to help him reverse that trend. Jermaine Jackson and Ronald Collins will lead an experienced group on the defensive line. Anthony Stubbs and Willie Green are anchors at linebacker.
Dooley feels his secondary is where the power of the defense lies.
“I think the strength of our team defensively is the secondary,” he said. “We have some talented young men back there that are very competitive. They did a great job in the spring and that’s continued into the fall camp.”
Ju’Anthony Parker, Reggie Stubblefield, Jaylen Harris and Will Skinner are as good as any secondary group in the conference.
The Panthers are locked and loaded this season. Dooley knows what it takes to win it all. We will see if he can rally his troops to get there.