The newly updated regular-season records in Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s football media guide reveal the accomplishments of recently graduated wide receivers.
Dezmond Beverly completed his UAPB career sixth all-time in receiving yards with 1,628. Ladarius Eckwood was eighth with 1,103.
Beverly and Eckwood were eighth and ninth, respectively in receiving touchdowns with nine and seven, but nowhere near close to Wallace Francis’ mark of 28 from 1969-72.
Luckily, receivers coach and assistant head man Craig Raye has some returnees under his tutelage, but with Cody Swain likely out for the season with an ACL tear, someone will have to step up and be a main target for Ben Anderson.
“The biggest thing we’re going to miss from Dez Beverly and Thomas Winters is the leadership,” Raye said. “That’s a big issue in that group.”
But Raye’s been pleasantly surprised with his group’s performance through one week of preseason camp, especially considering he only has 11 active players.
“I think, to me, that may be the surprise, because we aren’t that deep and it’s allowing them to get quite a few reps,” Raye said.
Senior Isiah Ferguson saw the most amount of time in 2013 among all returnees, but big-play Willie Young is back to help the Golden Lions after being academically ineligible all of last year.
Redshirt junior Wesley Hawthorne, who was injured all of last year, is in the middle of a battle for first-string opportunities, along with other returnees Joel Porchia and Braxton Hoof.
“I would love to have a big breakout season, just like anyone would, but right now we’re still in camp,” Hawthorne said. “No one has set positions. I’m just going to do my best with what God gave me. I’ve been here for a couple of years. Whatever opportunities He presents me with, I’m going to take it to the fullest.”
A hamstring injury and a chipped bone in his foot sidelined Hawthorne last year. Raye said he was able to take off his injury boot two weeks before camp.
Young and Ferguson have spent the most time as Anderson’s targets during camp. Young is looking forward to his first action since his 95-yard touchdown reception sent the 2012 SWAC championship game against Jackson State into overtime.
“I’ve been really focusing on my yards after catch, because I’ve been a deep threat and that’s what teams know me as, but coach (Anthony) Jones’ offense gives me the opportunity to catch it five yards and make it myself,” Young said. “I like the offense because it’s making me a better receiver, catching short yards.”
Raye has been impressed with the play of freshmen Patrick Rowland and Lawrence Berry, who prepped together at Parkview. Rowland could fill the role Eckwood had as a big-play receiver, the coach added.
Week 1 assessment
Head coach Monte Coleman said the Golden Lions aren’t “close to being where they need to be” after a week of camp, but he said they’re doing “a tremendous job.”
“My expectation is to be there,” Coleman said. “It’s unrealistic to be there after a week, but these guys are working hard.”
Coleman landed seven junior-college recruits in camp, and he’s not seeing a know-it-all attitude he normally gets from those experienced players.
“They’re falling in line,” Coleman said. “They’re listening to the coaches and doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re not 100 percent, but they’re trying to learn our system.”
Coleman plans to have a good idea on who’ll work more with the first string after Wednesday’s scrimmage.
Ryan Shaw, the highly-touted safety who like many UAPB players was declared ineligible for all of 2013, has left the teams for matters Coleman did not specify.
“Ryan Shaw is not a part of our football team, and that’s all I know,” Coleman said.
The Monticello High graduate returned to the team for spring drills but did not return to camp. He could not practice during the 2013 season.
Shaw intercepted four passes and had 49 tackles in 2011 and made 62 stops with one pick in 2012. He would have been a true senior in 2013 but could have used that year to redshirt to save eligibility for 2014.
Sophomore running back Draylon Willis sat out Saturday’s two-a-day drills with a minor concussion he sustained Friday, according to Coleman. No date was set for Willis’ return.
Junior-college transfer quarterback Collin Willis will join the Lions’ camp Monday. Willis had to finish his academic term at San Bernardino Valley College before coming to Pine Bluff.
His addition will add more competition to the battle for the No. 2 job behind Anderson.