Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive coordinator Eric Dooley is convinced that junior quarterback Ben Anderson is having a much better season so far than his first-team All-SWAC campaign last year.
“By far. By far. By far,” Dooley said Tuesday. “I think he’s always going to hone those skills to get better, but I think the mental part of it … the older you get, the more you see, the more you’re ready for.”
UAPB (0-4, 0-2 SWAC) has played two conference games decided by five points or less and two nonconference blowouts, and Anderson has been under center for every snap (including his scoring reception from Jeremiah Young’s halfback pass against Alabama State). His 201.2 passing yards per game is third best in the SWAC (and surpasses his 195.5 average from last year), and he also has four touchdown passes to his credit. His completion rate however, 56.3 percent, is slightly down from last year’s 58.2.
But the third-year starter is the only veteran among UAPB’s quarterbacks. The other four — Brandon Duncan, SanAntonio Cole, Marcus Terrell and Joey Louis — are all true freshmen.
So if Anderson becomes unavailable for any reason between now and the end of the 2014 season, who would take over the Golden Lions’ offense?
The team hasn’t had to reveal that answer on the field yet. But Dooley said Duncan — who got to work out at UAPB during the spring — is the top backup.
“I think he’ll be ready to come in that situation,” Anderson said. “But for the most part, I just play smart and do my part so he doesn’t have to.”
Duncan, who played at a preparatory school in North Carolina last fall, struggled some during preseason camp after a strong spring. But Dooley said he’s improved in workouts during the season by letting the offense come to him.
“He has a great deal of knowledge — I’d be lying if I said he knows the entire offense — but I think he has a grasp of enough of the offense for us to continue on,” Dooley said. “Would it be two different types of guys? Yes.”
Anderson knows the entire offense, which Dooley said allows him to “do whatever he wants to do” with the football. But he added the offense would play to the strengths of both men.
The other freshmen quarterbacks are learning plenty in Anderson’s shadow, and no one is certain whether they’ll take a snap this season or accept a redshirt.
“We never intentionally redshirt no one,” Dooley said. “We let it go and play by ear. At a certain time in the season, you can say they are.”
Nothing, though, will take the place of actually gaining game experience, and going under center that first time won’t be easy, according to Dooley.
“I think it’s extremely tough,” he said. “Not only has (Duncan) not been in there, but the speed of the game itself. You can try to go through practice, but it’s still not going to simulate how fast the game is going to move and how fast things take place in the game.
“It would be tough, but could he handle it? I have confidence in him that at some point, there are some things he can do. He just has to play more toward his strengths.”
No more clearances yet
It appears UAPB’s starting lineup for Saturday’s game at Jackson State won’t change any — except possibly at running back, where freshman Jamie Smith has been cleared to play after missing the Alcorn State game with a bruised shoulder.
The unavailability of expected key contributors has been a storyline all season. Veterans such as defensive lineman Sean Robison, wide receiver Willie Young and running backs Justin Billings and Aaron Lagrone — although they’ve continued to practice — have not yet been cleared by the NCAA for unknown specific reasons, and UAPB is heading into its fifth game of 2013.
Coleman confirmed the status of such players Monday. UAPB still has seven players who otherwise would start this season unavailable.
UAPB officials react to Greenwood’s death
UAPB officials remember Pittsburgh Steelers great L.C. Greenwood as a great ambassador of “the Golden Lion family,” according to a Tuesday news release.
Greenwood, who played at UAPB (then Arkansas AM&N) from 1965-68 and won four Super Bowls with the Steelers in the 1970s as a defensive end, died Sunday in Pittsburgh, reportedly of kidney failure. He was 67.
“The UAPB family is saddened by the loss of one of the all-time great football players to wear the black and gold,” UAPB Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander said. “What L.C. Greenwood has done for this university, however, transcends beyond the football field. He showed that hard work, dedication and loyalty can help anyone achieve great things in life.
“We offer our heartfelt sympathies and prayers for Greenwood’s family and loved ones.”
Athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr. said Greenwood’s name has been one of the most recognizable associated with the SWAC.
“The fact that Greenwood played at UAPB has helped to bring national credibility to our athletics program here,” Hardy said. “UAPB, the SWAC, the NCAA and the NFL have lost a true American legend.”
Greenwood named finalist for Black College Hall of Fame
Also on Tuesday, Greenwood was announced as one of 25 finalists for induction into the Black College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Other notable finalists include Richard Dent (Tennessee State, 1979-82), John Stallworth (Alabama A&M, 1970-73), Michael Strahan (Texas Southern, 1989-92), Willie Totten (Mississippi Valley State, 1982-85), Everson Walls (Grambling State, 1977-80), Aeneas Williams (Southern, 1987-90) and Marino Casem (Alcorn State head coach, 1963-92).
The class of 2014 will be announced Oct. 23. New members will be honored on March 1 at the Loews Hotel in Atlanta.