It may come as a surprise that in the first two games of this season, Dezmond Beverly and Ladarius Eckwood have barely factored into Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s offense from a statistical standpoint.
Just because Eckwood averages one catch for 4.5 yards per game and Beverly was held to one catch for 3 yards at McNeese State, that doesn’t leave either player frustrated. In fact, they sound quite confident.
“We’re really just getting started,” said Beverly, “We’re still on the right path. We just haven’t opened it up yet.
“When we come into conference play, we’re going to put more things together. We’re going to run more routes and all that stuff.”
Eckwood and Beverly combined for 1,221 yards on 98 receptions last year. The way they look at it, there’s plenty of season left to reach those numbers.
So, they’re not worried about a lack of production thus far.
“It’s a sin to worry,” Beverly said.
UAPB wide receivers coach Craig Raye warned during preseason camp there might not be a receiver who dominates the stat sheet the way 2010 All-American Raymond Webber did. And he also stressed the importance of utilizing the Golden Lions’ depth at that position.
Quarterback Ben Anderson did that this past Saturday at McNeese State, throwing to nine different targets. Brandon Kensey had the most receiving yards — 40 — on one catch, and running back Jamie Smith followed with 12 yards on two catches.
But Eckwood and Beverly, both seniors, have yet to take over a game from start to finish.
Beverly actually started the season with six catches for 113 yards at Arkansas State, but most of his four catches in the second half came against the Red Wolves’ reserves. He did have a 61-yard haul during the second quarter of that game after going the opening period without a catch.
“It was more of a play-calling quick game, getting the ball out a lot faster,” Beverly said of that second half. “We were able to get into our routes a little faster, and that way, Ben knew where to deliver the ball.”
During the first half, Anderson could hardly connect with his top receivers. He was 4 for 13 at the half and had already taken three of his six sacks.
McNeese State brought the heat as well against Anderson, sacking him three times. But Anderson ran the football better, gaining 15 yards on nine totes.
“The pass rush has been hurting us,” Eckwood said. “Ben hasn’t had more time to throw the ball. We’ve just got to keep him healthy and do better protection, and as receivers, we have to get into our routes a little faster and get open.”
Eckwood added the Arkansas State and McNeese State defenses played man-to-man most of the time but had safeties over the top, so the Lions have to outsmart other defenses.
“They really weren’t that good to me,” he said, although UAPB lost 62-11 to A-State and 58-14 to McNeese. “As far as the DBs, they didn’t do a whole lot. They were just in Cover-3 and Cover-1 man-to-man. We just didn’t have enough time up front to get the ball in our hands. That’s the big problem we’re having right now.”
It’s a problem he thinks the Lions will have solved by Saturday, when they host Alabama State. The 4 p.m. game can be seen live on ESPN3.com and on a tape-delay basis at 9:30 that night on ESPNU.
“We’ve just got to put in some extra work with our time and chemistry and get that down,” Eckwood said. “We’ve been doing a lot more passing (in practice), putting in more packages and that.”
Alabama State (0-2) at UAPB (0-2)
• When: 4 p.m. Saturday
• Where: Golden Lion Stadium
• Radio: KUAP-FM 89.7
• Webcast/TV: Live on ESPN3.com/tape-delayed broadcast at 9:30 p.m. on ESPNU
• SWAC records: Alabama State 0-1; UAPB 0-0
• Last meeting: UAPB 24, Alabama State 21, at Montgomery, Ala., on Sept. 20, 2012