Monte Coleman’s main concern for his Arkansas-Pine Bluff football team going into a preseason camp or spring drills has not changed — that his guys stay healthy.
UAPB lost one returnee from a tumultuous 2013 season due to injury, as wide receiver Cody Swain will not get to build on his breakout season. But this offseason, the Golden Lions have beefed up every offensive and defensive position and gained more players who sat out 2013 because of academic concerns.
“We have added to several positions,” Coleman said. “We do have some depth. With a lot of prayer and a little bit of luck, we’ll have everyone healthy when we get through with camp.”
The numbers, surely, are on the Lions’ side. Coleman said two weeks ago at the SWAC Media Day that he expects 95 will report for practice, which starts Monday, giving Coleman one of his largest ballclubs since he took over the team for the 2008 season.
Coleman also doesn’t expect any major academic concerns that plagued his program right before the start of last season. A lack of depth helped to keep the Lions from pulling through in a number of close games during a 2-9 campaign.
But the coach thinks this will be a more exciting preseason camp because UAPB can work its way back to the top after an eight-win dropoff from 2012.
Now, some things to watch for, as the Lions spend the next four weeks preparing for their Aug. 30 opener at Texas State:
Who’s the No. 2 quarterback?
Brandon Duncan and Marcus Terrell were the only quarterbacks under Ben Anderson in the spring depth chart, and both struggled in April’s spring game. But Coleman has bolstered the race for Anderson’s backup role with the addition of two signees, true freshman LaEarl Patterson (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) of Memphis Melrose High and San Bernadino Valley (California) College transfer Collin Willis (6-3, 210).
“It’s going to be a major competition to win that second-team spot,” Coleman said.
Anderson played every offensive snap except one last season and led the team in rushing yards. He stands 2,984 yards away from 10,000 for his career.
Coaching situation on defense
Coleman finally found a linebackers’ coach this summer to replace the fired Earl Buckingham, meaning Byron Anderson will continue to work with the secondary full-time.
Conway native Tony Turner takes over the linebackers, whom Coleman mentored during the spring after Henry Miller resigned as secondary coach earlier this year. Anderson was originally hired as Buckingham’s replacement in January but moved to Miller’s role so that Coleman, a former Washington Redskins linebacker, could work with his old position.
Details on Turner’s coaching experience were not immediately available, but he shouldn’t have a problem as UAPB returns potential black college all-Americans in Antonio Jenkins and Willie Duncan III. Whether Kyle Coleman, Monte’s son who recently transferred from Arkansas State, will work with the linebackers or secondary remains to be seen, but Kyle will have to sit out this season because of the transfer.
Which big man will make the most immediate impact?
Coleman landed three 300-pound linemen during the offseason. Two of them, Monroe College (New York) transfer Perry Joyner (6-3, 315) and Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Southern Lab product Isaiah Briggs (6-4, 315) provide much-needed size to an offensive line that was severely thinned by ineligibilities and injuries last year.
Coleman said fourth-year Lion Troy Goss anchors the defensive line, but Jarell Wright (6-3, 315) of Los Angeles Harbor College is expected to have a big presence in a position that produced 2012 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Thurmond.