The man responsible for turning Ben Anderson into one of the Football Championship Subdivision’s best run-pass threats is changing schools within the SWAC.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach Monte Coleman said Monday that Eric Dooley has resigned after three seasons as his offensive coordinator to take the same position at Grambling State and become part of coach Broderick Fobbs’ first staff there. Dooley, who replaced newly named North Carolina Central head coach Jerry Mack at UAPB after the 2010 season, has been the only offensive coordinator during redshirt junior Anderson’s time as starting quarterback and oversaw an offense that became one of the most productive in the SWAC.
But it’s not the Golden Lions’ only coaching change of the offseason. Coleman also confirmed Monday that Earl Buckingham was fired as linebackers coach after three seasons.
The Lions improved in total offense each season under Dooley, a Louisiana native. After averaging 337.6 yards per game in 2011, UAPB racked up 399.3 during its 2012 SWAC championship season and topped that with 468.7 yards this past season, ranking second in the conference.
Anderson became more of a complete quarterback under Dooley’s watch as well, enhancing his run game to become one of the conference’s leading rushers. A first-team All-SWAC performer in 2012, Anderson led the SWAC in total offense (369.6) and was second in passing (278.4) in 2013.
“Coach Dooley was very instrumental in getting us to where we are on offense,” Coleman said.
Which makes Dooley’s departure a serious blow for the Lions.
But Coleman added Dooley was familiar with fellow Louisiana native Fobbs and that Dooley’s oldest daughter was accepted into Grambling State.
An attempt to reach Dooley was unsuccessful.
Buckingham, a defensive lineman at Arkansas from 1979-82, was in his second stint at UAPB. He had worked under Lee Hardman from 1993-2000.
“It definitely is a disappointment,” Buckingham said of his firing Monday. “I didn’t see it coming, especially when you see what we’ve accomplished.
“I don’t understand why it happened.”
Buckingham mentored the newly-named SWAC Defensive Player of the Year in senior Jer-ryan Harris and 2012 senior Bill Ross, who led the SWAC in tackles during both of his seasons at UAPB.
Sophomore Antonio Jenkins and Harris, during a stretch in the 2013 season, were ranked first and second among FCS players in tackles per game. The Lions even found another young standout in true freshman Willie Duncan III, who capped the season with 17 tackles against Prairie View A&M.
But as a team, UAPB struggled to stop the opposing running game, allowing 277.3 yards a contest. Missed tackles also proved crucial in many games that came down to the wire during the Lions’ 2-9 season, their worst record since 1986.
Coleman, however, did not cite those struggles as reasons to let Buckingham go.
“We’re just going in a different direction,” Coleman said.
Buckingham, who also touted his own fundraising accomplishments with the football program for new weightlifting equipment, added he was not given a reason for his firing.
“Whatever decision was made, I don’t think it can be based on my performance,” he said. “I did my job.”
Coleman hopes to find replacements for Dooley and Buckingham by the second week of January, when he will attend a national coaching convention.
With the fall semester in the books, Coleman also said he has not yet officially landed any junior-college transfers who can enroll in January, but he’s received interest from plenty of athletes on the defensive side of the ball.