It’s settled: T.Q. Mims will finish his Arkansas-Pine Bluff football career a free safety. After starting as a quarterback, then moving to free safety and back to quarterback.
And the redshirt senior from Minden, La., is more than fine with it.
When coach Monte Coleman asked Mims to move back to free safety going into spring drills, Mims gave an emphatic “yes” — even though he came to UAPB in 2009 as a quarterback.
“I was willing to sacrifice and move back and help the team win the SWAC again,” Mims said.
The move was necessary to give the Golden Lions experience at that position with the loss of Jarvis Webb to graduation. But the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Mims hadn’t played the position since the 2011 season, when he first switched from quarterback so he could get on the field.
“He gives us the stability of a veteran that knows what we’ve done on defense because he’s been there before,” Coleman said. “He’s got the size to help facilitate the things we’re trying to get done.”
Mims was recruited to UAPB as a quarterback and redshirted in 2009. He was a backup to Josh Boudreaux in 2010 before moving to free safety, but went back to quarterback for the 2012 season to give Ben Anderson a second backup when C.J. Branch moved to tight end.
Mims had one interception and six tackles (all solo) in six games during the 2011 season, playing on a secondary that was loaded with experience in James Harrell, Jamel Maxwell and Ryan Shaw. Last season, he saw action in eight games, completing 2 of 2 passes for 12 yards, backing up the SWAC’s first-team all-conference quarterback in Anderson.
Moving Mims back to the defense leaves the Golden Lions with only two quarterbacks working out in the spring, Anderson and North Carolina Prep transfer Brandon Duncan, but Coleman said the decision to move him was easy.
“Plus, he wanted to come back on the defensive side of the ball,” Coleman said. “Right now, it’s good that Ben and Brandon are getting that work. They need that work on the offensive side.
“Not to have that third quarterback is not a hindrance for us. (Mims is) doing what he wants to do and he’s doing what we’ve asked him to do, and that’s to play defense right now.”
Not that Mims prefers the secondary over quarterback.
“As quarterback, you’re that guy,” he said. “You make the bigger decisions on the field. I like being the head of the team as a quarterback, and the safety is the leader of the defense. I like being the leader of the team.”
Mims said the transitions in position have been easy and he hasn’t had to relearn anything about playing free safety.
“When I moved back the first day, it clicked,” he said.
Mims considers it a blessing to have the natural athleticism to adjust from one position to another. Meanwhile, he draws high expectations from senior safety Ryan Shaw, who calls Mims “the perfect fit” in the secondary.
“He comes right in perfect,” Shaw said. “He’s been a quarterback, so he understands what the offense is going to bring, so he anticipates well. He’s no fall-off. He’s going to be an all-conference safety.”
UAPB has completed six of 15 practices it’s allowed during the spring, going back on the field Tuesday after holding its first scrimmage on Friday. This week, UAPB will practice Thursday and scrimmage again Saturday, but the Lions won’t have back-to-back practice days until April 24-25.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Coleman said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. We have to rely on some of the guys coming in, but as far as moving in the right direction, we’re doing that. Everything is a learning process. We’re putting a little more in on the offensive side, a little more in on the defensive side, so we’re moving.”
UAPB signed 25 players for next season during the offseason, including two January transfers and 13 high-schoolers on National Signing Day, which was Feb. 6.
The remainder of the signees weren’t announced by the university until spring drills began, but a team spokesman said there was no known reason why.
Sophomore defensive lineman Lawrence Henderson of Houston, who last played at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, and freshman quarterback Duncan, who hails from Roosevelt, N.Y., are the January transfers who are working out during the spring. The other 23 signees, who will join the team for preseason camp in August, are:
Walter Ashley, RB, Pine Bluff High; Michael Blanco, DB, Dallas (South Oak Cliff High); SanAntonio Cole, QB, Watson Chapel; Anthony Craft, DB, Monrovia, Calif.; Willie Duncan, LB, Southfield, Mich.; LaFarrell Franklin, LB, Little Rock McClellan; Tavion Garrison, SS, Little Rock Parkview; Joel Green, LB, Los Angeles (East Los Angeles CC); Caelon Harden, FS, Parkview; John Hawkins, athlete, Montgomery, Ala. (St. Jude High);
Braxton Hoof, WR, Camden Fairview; Jarvis Jackson, SS, Winnfield, La.; Jeremy Jamison, athlete, New Orleans (Edna Karr High); Terrance Knighten, OL, Los Angeles (Birmingham High); Joey Louis, athlete, New Orleans (Carver High); Deonte Reynolds, DL, Richmond, Calif. (Pinole Valley High); Kendall Richardson, WR, St. Jude High; Jamal Smith, LB, Rowlett, Texas; Jamie Smith, RB, Camden Fairview; Joshua Turner, OL, San Diego (Lincoln High);
Dave White, DB, Baton Rouge, La. (McKinley High); Cameron Williams, TE, North Little Rock; and Draylon Willis, RB, Wynne.