Arkansas-Pine Bluff restocked its offensive line with twice as many players the unit finished 2013 with.
Among the newcomers: Four players 300 pounds or bigger.
Graduate student Me’kale Carter said the added size gives the Golden Lions a certain mentality to take on the field, but it might be the opposition whose mindsets are altered once they line up.
“When people look at us, they’re scared,” Carter said.
Carter is the elder statesman on an offensive line that was thinned by academic ineligibilities and injuries during last year’s 2-9 run. Statistically, the depletion did not keep the Lions from ranking among the SWAC’s best in total offense (421.1 yards per game), but third-year position coach Damon Nivens is excited about the boost the additions give his line.
“It’s a blessing to have as many guys as I have this year,” Nivens said. “This is probably the most guys I’ve had since I’ve been here. It’s a process. It’s a lot of young guys out there, so there’s a lot of teaching.”
But the newcomers are eager to learn, he indicates.
“We’ve got some young guys who’s hungry for knowledge,” Nivens said. “When you have guys hungry for knowledge, the sky’s the limit for those players.”
UAPB lost a pair of starters in Kenny Eagle and Keathric Brown, both of whom were seniors in 2013, but the other five O-linemen from the season saw plenty of action on the first and second strings and played more than one position on the line at times. While Toddra Pamplin, Trevon Reagan and Terrance Knighten return along with Carter — it was not immediately clear whether Ladarius Golden has come back — the center of attention rests on the 300-pounders.
Jarell Wright and Perry Joyner, both junior-college transfers, give the O-line added experience, while Baton Rouge, La., freshman Isaiah Briggs tries break into the first string. Both weight 315.
The other 300-pounder, sophomore David Adams, has walked on to the team after taking a year away from football. Adams prepped at Pine Bluff High.
“It’s always good to see young, new talent coming out that’s hungry for the game and trying to win,” Carter said.
In being the lone graduate student, the younger O-linemen have sought advice from Carter over the summer on how to improve their game. But the Helena-West Helena Central graduate turned to a professional to gain a little more insight on the trench game — former UAPB teammate and second-year New Orleans Saint Terron Armstead.
“Terron came back this summer, and I talked to him a lot,” Carter said. “I worked out with him every day, from Monday to Sunday. We did a lot. He taught me some techniques. He really was a role model. If anything, I try to follow in his footsteps.”
Nivens has some key statistical goals for the O-line, including allowing the backfield to gain 200 rushing yards each game and giving up as few sacks as possible. The 200-yard goal may be a lofty goal, Nivens concluded, but he stresses no one will know what the line is capable of unless they try.
“We, as a unit, want to do our best to control the line of scrimmage as much as possible,” he said.
One goal he didn’t mention: Helping quarterback Ben Anderson reach the 10,000-yard passing mark for his career.
“With all my power,” Carter said, he wants do what’s needed to help Anderson get there.
“If he needs anything, I’ll give it to him. If he needs an extra block, if he needs me to give him a leg, I’ll do it for him to get to that 10,000,” he said.