With almost every starter graduating from last year’s state runner-up, the Pine Bluff Zebras are starting from scratch this season.
“We are going to pretty much be doing that from here on out,” Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding said. “We will have about 20 or more seniors pretty much every year and most of them have been with the program since the seventh grade.
“Hopefully, they are ready to step into that role.”
Pine Bluff loses 10 starters on defense and nine on offense including eight all-state players. Probably the biggest loss will be graduating senior Walter Ashley, who rushed for almost 1,300 yards last season. Ashley will play for Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the fall.
“Our goals for the spring is to find out who can play,” Bolding said. “We graduated everybody so we got to see who is going to be ready to step into those roles.
“We got a lot of pups out there and we are trying to find out which ones will bite.”
Seniors that Bolding will be keeping a watchful eye on this spring includes: defensive end Earnett Adams, defensive tackle Jarod Williams, linebacker Brandon Lee and Tyler Smith.
“It is time for them to step up,” Bolding said.
Last season, Pine Bluff made it to the 6A state championship in Little Rock but lost to Greenwood 51-44.
Returning starters for this season include Trevor Hunt and Stephen Watson.
“We have lot of juniors that have come on and we have a very special sophomore class,” Bolding said. “May the best man win at every position.”
Pine Bluff’s sophomore class has never lost a game, dating back to the seventh grade.
“They are extremely talented,” Bolding said. “They are above the skill level and size for the grade they are in. And there are a bunch of them.”
Bolding said he did not know whether or not if some of these sophomores will start.
“They are in there battling with the higher classmen,” Bolding said. “The best people that give us a chance to win the game will start.”
One particular spot that will see some competition is the quarterback slot. Ladarius Skelton and Roger Totten will compete for the position, but Bolding said either one could be the starter at this point.
“It is hard to tell right now,” Bolding, the 2013 SEARK coach of the year, said. “One is a sophomore and one is a junior. One understands the offense a little better and the other is a little more athletic.
“They are just battling it out right now.”
Pine Bluff will open up their season at home against Fort Smith Northside.