It was no secret Brandon Duncan would try to secure the No. 2 quarterback job at Arkansas-Pine Bluff and that Watson Chapel graduate SanAntonio Cole would provide a challenge.
But two more have been added to the race to become the top reserve for preseason SWAC offensive player of the year Ben Anderson.
In fact, the five quarterbacks working out for the Golden Lions as their preseason camp began Saturday are the most coach Monte Coleman’s had in at least three seasons. New Orleans native Joey Louis, who signed with UAPB as an athlete, is working out at quarterback, as well as Marcus Terrell of Crete, Ill., near Chicago.
That’s four true freshmen working behind Anderson. Duncan, of Roosevelt, N.Y., joined the Golden Lions in the spring semester after spending the 2012 season in the prep-school ranks in North Carolina.
“It’s good competition,” Coleman said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
The backups are getting a lesson in how to run an offense that averaged 399.3 total yards per game, third-best in the SWAC. Anderson’s 2,346 passing yards last season ranked second in the conference, and he was also third on the team in rushing with 524 yards.
“As an upperclassman and especially at quarterback, I feel like my job is to educate them,” Anderson said. “I feel everything I need to know, they need to know, because hypothetically speaking, you never know what’s going to happen.
“A lot of it I’m going to teach, but a lot of it, I expect them to pick up on their own as I had to.”
Cole, Louis and Terrell took their first collegiate practice snaps Saturday. Cole is coming off leading Watson Chapel to the 5A state playoffs after taking over the quarterback role in the third week of the season.
Louis is working at quarterback because the Lions are blessed with depth in the other offensive skill positions. He signed with UAPB after national signing day in February, despite holding offers from North Texas, Southern and Grambling State, to name a few. He proved versatile as a quarterback and defensive back, racking up 2,540 yards and 30 touchdowns passing and rushing for 837 yards and 10 TDs, according to The Times-Picayune.
“I thought he was a guy you can’t miss because if he doesn’t fare out as a quarterback, he can play numerous positions,” said UAPB offensive coordinator Eric Dooley, a New Orleans native.
Terrell quarterbacked Crete-Monee High School to the Illinois 6A state championship last year. His main target, Laquon Treadwell, inked with Ole Miss.
Anderson and Duncan took the majority of repetitions during practice Saturday. Dooley said Duncan has a better feel for the offense with spring drills under his belt.
“He’s not completely there yet, but he showed some signs of potential,” Dooley said. “That’s what I need right now. I think the spot he’s in right now is important.”
The Golden Lions found where to pick up from spring drills as preseason camp commenced.
“Hopefully you pick up from the enthusiasm,” Coleman said. “You’re going to have a lot of guys who will come in and contribute to take the place of a lot of guys who played for you last season, but the thing you hope that can stay consistent is the enthusiasm, the no-nonsense attitude. Those are things I’m looking for early before we put the pads on.”
The Lions worked out in helmets Saturday and won’t put on shoulder pads until Tuesday.
The mood of practice seemed normal as the team worked out for the first time since the July 23 death of Lydell Hartford, a freshman walk-on linebacker at UAPB last season. His funeral service was held Saturday morning in New Orleans.
Coleman said a moment of silence was held in his honor before that morning’s run test. Coleman added he spoke with Hartford’s mother Friday, adding he was at a loss for words.
“That’s a phone call I wish I never have to make again,” he said.
Most of the 76 players on the roster worked out Saturday. Wide receiver Thomas Winters, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, did not practice and is expected to miss two weeks of camp with a right knee injury that has plagued his career. He was given a medical redshirt for the 2010 season, when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, and sat out all of the 2011 season.
Though he played in 11 of 12 games last year, Winters said he was not 100 percent healthy during spring drills.
He is the only remaining member of Coleman’s original recruiting class.
Asked if any young Lions impressed him Saturday, Coleman said: “Not today.”
“… Being the first day, I wasn’t expecting anyone to really do a whole lot because they’re learning the program,” he added. “Once we get a couple days — we scrimmage next Saturday — there’ll be some guys’ names I can give you.”
UAPB won’t practice today but will resume Monday.