Sam Bass hadn’t worked out in football pads since the end of the 2011 season. But that hasn’t slowed down the Watson Chapel graduate during spring drills at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“I was a little rusty at first. But it’s all coming right back to me. Once an athlete, always an athlete.”
Just two years ago, Bass wrapped up a well-decorated track and field career at Watson Chapel. He was a three-time high school state champion (one 100-meter and two 4x100-meter titles) and had just capped his career with a win in the 100 meters at the Meet of Champs.
Then, it was off to Arkansas-Monticello, where he returned kicks for first-year coach Hud Jackson. It appeared the following April that he’d be ready to make more of an impact for the Boll Weevils, when he caught a 74-yard touchdown pass during the team’s spring game.
Then, he wasn’t on the roster anymore. Bass had traded in his Kelly green and white outfit for black and gold gear back home in Pine Bluff.
“What led me to UAPB was, for one, the coaching staff,” Bass said. “I’ve been knowing coach (Monte) Coleman for a while. It’s just a great bunch of coaches. And then are a couple of guys I played ball with back in the day, so we got that chemistry.”
Bass was part of three straight state semifinal teams at Watson Chapel, catching touchdown passes from C.J. Branch and Kyle Coleman, Monte’s son. Four of his Watson Chapel teammates are on UAPB’s 2013 spring roster, including current tight end Branch.
But Bass didn’t get to play a part in the Golden Lions’ run to the SWAC championship. He had to sit out the season for eligibility reasons.
Now, he’s back on the practice field, adding to quarterback Ben Anderson’s collection of targets.
“He gives us great speed outside,” Lions wide receivers coach Craig Raye said. “Right now, he’s playing right behind (Ladarius) Eckwood, so he’s learning a lot from that. Our plan for him is to become another outside deep threat, opposite Willie Young. That will give us two guys that … put pressure on the secondary.”
As for his speed, Bass still has plenty of it.
“The speed is definitely still there, even better, I feel like. It’s something I continue to work on because of my stature. I’m not that big, so I have to be quick off the ball. I have to beat guys deep.”
Harris now at middle linebacker
UAPB has outstanding linebackers returning for the 2013 season, but no longer that presence in the middle that was Bill Ross.
That left the Lions without their leading tackler the past two seasons and the most outstanding defensive player of the SWAC championship game.
But Monte Coleman found a remedy for the void — moving his leading tackler in 2010 to middle linebacker.
The coach said rising senior Jer-ryan Harris is doing well at that position. Harris was third on the team with 98 tackles last season, including one sack.
Another rising senior, Gyovanni Harvey, has moved to safety from cornerback, giving Ryan Shaw help in deep coverage.
Coleman also said freshman backup quarterback Brandon Duncan “is getting sharper every day,” as are the running backs. Duncan completed 7 of 14 in last Saturday’s scrimmage.
UAPB has three practices remaining — Monday, Wednesday and Thursday — before closing its spring schedule with the Black and Gold Game at Golden Lion Stadium at 1 p.m. next Saturday.