Lions Overlooked?


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — With his usual calm demeanor, Arkansas-Pine Bluff football coach Monte Coleman made it known Monday morning he would have been happier with more of his players selected for the Preseason All-SWAC teams.

Offensive lineman Terron Armstead is the Golden Lions’ only first-team selection. Linebackers Bill Ross and Jer-ryan Harris were named to the second team.

“I think we have a lot of SWAC players on our team that got overlooked last year,” said Coleman, going into his fifth season as head coach. “I thought (free safety) Jarvis Webb played well enough last season to be preseason All-SWAC. Bill Ross played well enough to be first team last year. I would have thought he played well enough to be first team this year.”

Webb, who attended SWAC Media Day at the Birmingham Marriott along with Coleman and Armstead, said he wasn’t disappointed in not being selected.

“Like he said, it’s a prediction,” the senior from Pine Bluff High said. “It just motivates me to work harder. We all have to be dedicated.”

Harris, the 2010 SWAC Freshman of the Year, was limited to seven games last season due to a hamstring injury, but still finished with 36 tackles, recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass. “Even though he didn’t play all 11 games last year, I think he made a statement his freshman year,” Coleman said. “I think the folks around the league recognized his ability to run to the football, so maybe (he is) justifiably a second-team pick, but Bill Ross, who was in the top five in total tackles last year (in the SWAC with 107, good for second-most), I would have thought he’d have been a first-team pick. (Free safety) Ryan Shaw played well for us last year, and I would have thought he would have been at least a second-team pick if not a first-team pick. “There are a lot of guys on my team that have been overlooked, but it is what it is. It’s just a pick.”

So was the Lions’ predicted finish in the SWAC Western Division — third. UAPB, which was 6-5 and 5-4 in the West a year ago, received two first-place votes. Defending SWAC champion Grambling State earned 20 first-place votes and was picked to repeat in the West, with Prairie View A&M predicted second with one first-place vote.

“Last year, we were picked fourth, so we moved up a spot,” Coleman said. “All it is, is predictions. … We just got to go and handle our business and go and do the things we do, and everything else will take care of itself.”

Staying healthy and avoiding mistakes are chief among the Lions’ focuses this season, according to Coleman. “If we stay healthy, I think we can compete with anybody,” he said. “We’re an all-veteran team, so I’m expecting us to come out like veterans.”

Contract extension at stake

This is the final year of Coleman’s five-year contract, and he said talks about a new contract have not yet been held. At 19-25 overall, Coleman has experienced only one winning season — last year, but he said there’s no pressure to try and top last season’s mark.

“There’s absolutely no pressure at all,” he said. “Do I want to win? Absolutely. My boss hasn’t come and made it predicated on winning season and get a new contract, and losing season and you don’t get one. If I get a new contract, I praise the Lord. If I don’t get a new contract, I praise the Lord.”

Asked what he would do if he isn’t retained after the season, Coleman, who also is a minister, responded with a smile: “I’m well-rounded.” “I’m hoping and praying that I will have a new contract,” he said. “I definitely enjoy working at the university with the people around me, the coaches, the administration and others. I’m hoping even before the season ends we will be able to sit down and negotiate a contract that will be pleasing to them and also to me and my family.”

Armstead said he’s seen Coleman grow as a coach in the past three years. “He’s taken control of the whole team, let the coaches do their part,” he said. “Whatever changes need to be made, I’ve seen him tweak.”

Coleman said he’s not going to change the same approach he’s taken in each of his seasons at the helm. “We’re going to work hard. We’re going to practice like we’re going to play,” he said.

Search for secondary coach

Marty Biagi recently left UAPB as secondary coach to take the special teams coordinator position and a defensive assistant role at Southern. Coleman said he is conducting interviews for his replacement and hopes to have someone in place by next week.

“Coaches come, coaches go,” Coleman said. “It’s no different for UAPB. Coach Biagi was going through some issues and he needed a change in venue, and he came and talked with me. … I gave him my blessings and I wish him the very best. He’s going to a good organization.”

Coleman only described the issues as personal.

Southern head coach Stump Mitchell said he was unsure in what capacity Biagi, a former Marshall punter and Arkansas graduate assistant, would work on defense. “I think he’s going to help us,” Mitchell said. “Last year we struggled in the kicking game. Coach Biagi will be better for us than coach (Brian) Powers. You always want to get someone who played the position because as kickers, they’re a little different, and you like to have someone who can talk their lingo.”

Webb said the UAPB secondary will continue to work on what Biagi taught them.

“We’ll just have to step up for whoever takes his spot,” Webb said.

SWAC Predicted Order of Finish

Western Division

1. Grambling State (8-4, 6-3 SWAC in 2011), 20 first-place votes

2. Prairie View A&M (5-6, 5-4), 1 first-place vote

3. UAPB (6-5, 5-4), 2 first-place votes

4. Southern (4-7, 4-5), 2 first-place votes

5. Texas Southern* (4-7, 2-7)

Eastern Division

1. Alabama State (8-3, 7-2), 11 first-place votes

2. Jackson State (9-2, 7-2), 7 first-place votes

3. Alabama A&M (8-4, 7-2), 7 first-place votes

4. Alcorn State (2-8, 1-8), 1 first-place vote

5. Mississippi Valley State (1-10, 1-8)

*—ineligible for 2012 championship

Preseason All-SWAC Teams

(Note: Classes not available for some players)

First-team offense

QB — Deaunte Mason, Sr., Alabama A&M

RB — Kaderius Lacey, Sr., Alabama A&M

RB — Dawrence Roberts, So., Grambling State

WR — Rico Richardson, Sr., Jackson State

WR — Spencer Nelson, Sr., Prairie View A&M

TE — E.J. Drewery, Sr., Jackson State

OL — Jamal Johnson-Webb, Sr., Alabama A&M

OL — Terren Jones, Sr., Alabama State

OL — Terron Armstead, Sr., UAPB

OL — Sanford Banks, Jr., Grambling State

OL — Zion Pyatt, Sr., Jackson State

First-team defense

DL — Joseph LeBeau, Sr., Jackson State

DL — Carlton Jones, Jr., Alabama State

DL — Ryan Love, Sr., Prairie View A&M

DL — Devon Carter, Fr., Grambling State

LB — Todd Wilcher, Jr., Jackson State

LB — Raheem Cardwell, Jr., Prairie View A&M

LB — Jacarde Carter, So., Grambling State

DB — Kejuan Riley, Sr., Alabama State

DB — Qua Cox, Jr., Jackson State

DB — Saeed Lee, Sr., Alabama State

DB — Vernon Marshall, Alabama A&M

First-team specialists

PK — Chance Wilson, Alabama A&M

P — Bobby Wenzig, Alabama State

Returner — Terrance Lewis, Sr., Alcorn State

Second-team offense

QB — Greg Jenkins, Sr., Alabama State

RB — Arnold Walker, Jr., Alcorn State

RB — Trey Bateaste, Sr., Miss. Valley State

WR — G’Alonzo Milton, Sr., Alabama A&M

WR — T.C. McWilliams, Sr., Alabama State

TE — Mike Berry, Southern

OL — Clint Marsh, So., Grambling State

OL — Stephen Capler, Sr., Jackson State

OL — Tre Glover, So., Prairie View A&M

OL — Chris Browne, Southern

OL — Justin Goodrich, Jr., Alabama A&M

Second-team defense

DL — Leployer Franklin, Jr., Miss. Valley State

DL — Johnathan Billups, Sr., Jackson State

DL — Jarvis Wilson, Sr., Prairie View A&M

DL — Tim Tillman, Alabama A&M

LB — Bill Ross, Sr., UAPB

LB — Jer-ryan Harris, Jr., UAPB

DB — Naquan Smith, Jr., Grambling State

DB — Virgil Williams, Southern

DB — Casey Freeman, So., Alcorn State

DB — Tyree Hollins, Fr., Grambling State

Second-team specialists

PK — Carlos Sanchez, Sr., Miss. Valley State

P — Fabian Carter, Jr., Grambling State

Returner — B.J. Lee, Sr., Jackson State