To many college football coaches, spring drills are for getting hits and tackles in before preseason camp begins in August. For Monte Coleman, spring is a time to evaluate.
“We did a majority of evaluating guys who played last year as well as guys who have been with our program,” Coleman said Thursday, recapping a month of workouts at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. “We did what we set out to do, and that was to evaluate.”
And Coleman was “very pleased” with what he saw.
He got to evaluate how much experience would help his program for the 2014 season. Many of the players who sat out all of last season because of academic concerns got to work out with the returnees this spring, and some have even taken on leadership roles, like running back Aaron LaGrone and free safety Ryan Shaw.
Coleman has been most satisfied with the quarterback and running back positions, and how those players have responded to new offensive coordinator Anthony Jones, hired almost three months ago. Backup quarterbacks Marcus Terrell and Brandon Duncan, both rising sophomores, have practiced with the anticipation of taking their first collegiate snaps this season, after Ben Anderson played all but one of UAPB’s downs in 2013.
“Their progression is right where they need to be,” Coleman said of the backups.
Terrell and Duncan will try to put points on the board for the Gold team in Saturday’s Black and Gold Game at Golden Lion Stadium. Although the Black team will represent the entire offense and the Gold the entire defense, any points the offense scores with Terrell or Brandon under center will go to the Gold in a normal scoring format. Anderson will try to score for the Black.
The addition of four walk-ons to the running back corps has called for interesting competition in the backfield. Although Draylon Willis and LaGrone are expected to lead the corps, Coleman is happy about a pair of walk-ons in Dennis Brunson and Brian Handley. (The spring roster did not list any player’s class or hometown.)
“I think because of the depth there, they’ve shown promise,” Coleman said of Brunson and Handley.
How the offensive line performs Saturday will be a focal point. The Golden Lions played the 2013 season with as many as seven O-linemen after injuries and academic concerns decimated the group, and only six, according to Coleman’s count, have worked out this spring.
“That is definitely an area we will increase upon,” Coleman said. “We’re still in the process of finding offensive linemen we can find from a size concept and from a skill concept.
“I need about three junior-college players and I will try to pick up the rest of them from the high schools.”
Only one offensive lineman, 6-foot-5, 315-pound Isaiah Briggs of Baton Rouge, La., has signed with UAPB this year.
The Lions did not practice as scheduled Thursday, which would have been their 14th of 15 allowable sessions this spring. Coleman said there is a possibility they will make it up sometime next week and use it to correct mistakes from Saturday’s game instead of a full-blown practice.