Ben Anderson has to remind himself that he only began to learn Anthony Jones’ pro-set offense at the start of this month.
“We’re at a good place, but we can always be better,” Anderson said Saturday after lamenting that the Arkansas-Pine Bluff offense left some touchdowns off the scoreboard in the Black and Gold Game.
The missed opportunities didn’t mask Anderson’s ability to lead an offense after spending the past four seasons learning and running the spread offense under Jerry Mack and Eric Dooley. (Anderson redshirted as a freshman in 2010, the season before Dooley took over the offense.) Anderson threw for two touchdowns and ran 54 yards for another Saturday, albeit against a second-string defense.
“Ben has truly matured since his freshman year,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “I don’t know if he looked better than he did last year. There are still some things he has to learn. There were a couple of times he got out of the pocket, he scrambled, he had the opportunity to throw the football away and we ended up having a sack because he ran out of bounds for a loss.
“We’ve got to shore those things up. But overall, Ben had a good day. He had some good throws.”
Anderson has dedicated himself to a more cerebral approach to the offense this spring, but he’s widely considered around black college football as one its most talented run-and-pass threats under center. The physical part allowed him to lead the Golden Lions in rushing last season, toting the ball for more than 800 yards.
“In the spread, you knew where the holes in the defense were going to be and the receivers were going to be there,” Anderson said. “In the pro-style, it’s a progression. It’s mandatory you go to your first read, second read, … you can’t skip a read. I know this is an offense they run in the (National Football) League, and that is an aspiration. It’s a challenge I’m willing to take on. Coach Jones is teaching me a lot, I’m glad he brought his offense, and I’m ready to learn.”
Small offensive line endures
Ask Jones about his offensive line during spring drills, and he’ll send up praise.
“The Lord has been good to us,” Jones said.
His group of five linemen — six were counted earlier in the spring — made it through 14 practices without any injury and took on all 75 snaps of Saturday’s spring game. UAPB landed three more during the signing period and Coleman expects more before preseason camp commences in August.
“The least you can give me, that’s all I need,” Anderson said, citing his daily message to the linemen. “I try to give them words of encouragement. I never try to jump them because out there, they can get rolled up at any time.”
Four of the five linemen — left tackle Me’kale Carter, left guard Terrance Knighten, center Toddra Pamplin and right tackle Trevon Reagan — played last season. Right guard Maxterrius Massie walked on for the spring.
Rayford shows promise
Reginald Rayford had to work off three years’ worth of rust from not playing football during spring drills.
On Saturday, the defensive back from Monticello seemed to polish off his play, getting himself involved in many tackles. His arrival has given the Golden Lions much needed depth in a young secondary.
Rayford, a walk-on, has reunited with high school teammates Ryan Shaw and Brian Handley, with whom he helped Monticello win the 2009 5A state championship. Handley also walked on for this spring.
“I’ve been out of football for three years,” Rayford said. “I knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, but that’s what spring football is for.”
Rayford committed to UAPB in 2011 but was ineligible as a freshman. He went to Arkansas-Monticello for the 2012 season but came back to UAPB and had to sit out two more semesters before he could become eligible for the spring.
Cody Swain, a starting slot receiver last season, missed much of spring ball with a knee injury, the extent of which is yet to be determined. He will undergo an MRI soon, but did not give an exact date.
Swain said if the injury isn’t too serious, he will be ready to go for preseason camp.
Two more receivers, Wesley Hawthorne and Braxton Hoof, missed Saturday’s game with foot injuries, according to Coleman.
Lions up to 20 signees
Eight more players have officially committed to UAPB since the first week of the football signing period, bringing the total of signees this year to 20.
The recent signees include: quarterback Collin Willis (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) of San Bernadino Valley College in California; running back Dante McDonald (6-0, 215) of ASA College in New York state; offensive linemen Carry Cadet (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) of Boynton Beach (Fla.) High and Perry Joyner (6-3, 315) of Monroe College in New Rochelle, N.Y.; wide receiver Khari Kimbrough (6-4, 180) of Southwestern College in California; and defensive linemen Marc Lucien (6-3, 260) of Monroe College, Kelvin Mitchell (6-3, 250) of Morrilton High and Jarell Wright (6-3, 315) of Los Angeles Harbor College.