MONTICELLO — For the first time in his three years at Arkansas-Monticello, senior defensive back Mike Early has seen a comraderie amongst his team that has never been there before.
“We had more people here during the summer than we have ever had before,” Early said. “We partied with each other, had barbecues and held game tournaments.
“We spent time with each other and had offense and defense players mixing together.”
Early said it was a team chemistry that was much needed.
“Honestly, everybody took it upon themselves to get over that hump, and get to that winning season,” Early said. “I’m glad it happened. We have to push to make it to that winning season.”
The Boll Weevils won five games last season but Early said the coaches have been stressing the importance of getting over that hump.
“After winning just one game in 2012, a 5-6 record was good,” Early said. “But now we need to try to stretch it to a 7- or 8-win season and make a push to the playoffs.”
Early played in all 11 games last season and tallied 29 solo tackles. He also had four interceptions.
“I feel like we are very confident,” Early said. “We lost some key players (on both sides of the ball), but we have also added some.
“… I am ready to see what is going to happen.”
UAM ranked first in the Great American Conference in pass defense last year but next to last in run defense. Senior Keith Reynolds led UAM in tackles in 2013 with 88, ranking seventh in the GAC.
“Right now, we are definitely a unit,” said defensive coordinator Keith Scott. “We are complete. We can go two-deep at any position.
“I’m excited about some newcomers in some much needed areas but I’m also excited for some of our returning starters.
“I’m very pleased with where we are.”
On Tuesday, UAM competed in its second scrimmage of the summer. Scott said he was happy with the performance he saw from his defense.
“This latest scrimmage showed who we are as a defense,” Scott said. “We send six or seven and we definitely do what we want.
“I’m pleased with having two quality defenses out there and not missing a beat. I was excited about that.”
UAM was picked to finish ninth this year in the GAC, which has put a chip on the shoulder of senior Demarcus Robinson.
“I don’t want to talk bad about any other team or anything,” Robinson said. “But we beat (Arkansas Tech) last year 34-0 and we were picked to finish behind them.
“We have a chip on our shoulder.”
Scott said he has been trying to rein in some of that confidence a little bit.
“With me, I’m definitely excited,” Scott said. “But I want to control their energy level because it can be good and bad.
“… We got to have great practices before we go play the game.”
Robinson tallied 38 total tackles last season to go along with his four interceptions.
“We had a lot of games last year, that if we had finished, we could have easily won two or more,” he said. “We have to get over that hump.”
Robinson said he thinks it could happen this season.
“We really think this is our year,” he said. “It should be a good year for UAM football.
“We have been through a lot of adversity and we have really come together.”
UAM will host East Central (Oklahoma) on Sept. 6 beginning at 6 p.m.
“We are in a real tough mindset right now,” Robinson said. “This has been the most intense camp since I’ve been here.
“It has been real intense and tough both physically and mentally.”