Aaron Lagrone feels much better after missing four games last season with a hip injury, and he proved it on a long run Friday.
Lagrone broke a 43-yard run deep into the defense’s territory, the longest play of Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s first spring football scrimmage of the season. The play led to the first of four touchdowns the offense scored in the session of about 65 plays.
“I just saw a cut and I just had to turn on the burners,” the redshirt sophomore-to-be from Watson Chapel said. “I should’ve scored, but (the defender) hawked me down.”
The scrimmage also completed the first week of spring drills for the SWAC champion Golden Lions. They’ll be off today and Sunday and attend only meetings and weightlifting workouts before practicing again Tuesday.
“It’s been a very good first week for us,” coach Monte Coleman said. “I told you my number-one objective was to stay healthy. We haven’t lost anybody this week. We’ll come back next week and we’ll crank it up again.”
Lagrone suffered a separated hip during the Golden Lions’ 50-21 victory at Southern on Oct. 20, but returned just in time for the SWAC championship game against Jackson State. He said the pain nags him a little.
“I’ve been working, trying to get my speed up, trying to deserve a spot in the starting lineup and get some more playing time on the field,” Lagrone said.
Coleman said starting quarterback Ben Anderson has impressed him the most in Friday’s scrimmage. The redshirt junior started off just 2-of-6 passing, but completed 6 of his next 8. He also ran for a touchdown to cap a 12-play drive aided by Lagrone’s long run.
“I thought he was really focused,” Coleman said. “After talking with (offensive coordinator Eric) Dooley, I thought the things that was necessary to move the offense. … I just thought he managed the football well.”
UAPB started drives from the 20- and 40-yard lines of both the offensive and defensive territories and did not run any special teams drives. The offense completed one 40-yard drive with a 2-yard Justin Billings touchdown run after he ran 23 yards to put the unit in the red zone. A few series later, wide receiver Isiah Ferguson provided a highlight when he juked a defender and waltzed into the end zone.
Backup quarterback Brandon Duncan, one of UAPB’s two early transfers this year, took plenty of snaps under center Friday, as he’s done all week. His biggest plays of the day included a 28-yard pass to Cody Swain and a short touchdown toss to Dexter Bryant.
“Both quarterbacks managed the football the way we wanted them to,” Coleman said. “We played the run very well on the defensive side. We’re moving guys in and out, but the guys going in have got to know the play. Overall, not a bad scrimmage.”
Coleman said he didn’t get a sense that the players were putting pressure on themselves to perform well in the spring, just months after winning the school’s first outright SWAC championship.
“I won’t allow them to do that,” he said. “I just want them to go out and have fun, play football and not let the things fall where they may but play hard. That’s what I want to see. We’re evaluating and seeing who can play hard every single down.”