Finally, Anthony Jones is putting his offense into play during Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s spring football drills.
While the practice sessions have been closed to the public, no one outside of the team knows how the new offensive coordinator’s system will be different from the one Eric Dooley employed for the past three seasons, or if there is even that much difference.
Asked about such differences, Jones said “I don’t know.”
“I know some of the things they did last year, but I wasn’t here,” Jones said Tuesday. “I’m not here to compare myself with last year’s offense or the year-before offense. My main objective is to win football games and to put these kids in the best situation possible to be successful as far as winning football games. If it translates to a certain amount of yardage gained, so be it.”
Because the Golden Lions did not practice Tuesday, players were not available to comment on how the offense is taking shape this spring.
What is known: Six seniors from UAPB’s 2013 starting offensive unit have to be replaced, but many playmakers return to try and better an offense that ranked fourth in the SWAC in total offense (421.1 yards per game).
“We’ve got a lot of potential,” Jones said. “Guys are picking up the plays. Now, they have to understand or learn what I’m going to refer to as the nuances of the plays. Knowing the assignments is one thing, but knowing how they tie together is another. That’s what we’re in the process of doing.”
Even a much-experienced quarterback like three-year starter Ben Anderson has to catch on to Jones’ “nuances” after finishing second in the SWAC in passing yards per game (253.4).
“Ben is starting to pick it up,” Jones said. “He’s a smart kid. He and Marcus (Terrell) are smart kids. They are picking it up. But they’re trying to understand and make sure they go through the progressions and understand the reads, and then also how different defenses affect the same play.”
Jones said Terrell, who like the other UAPB reserve quarterbacks did not take a snap in 2013, is making the most progress behind Anderson. Fellow redshirt freshman Brandon Duncan, the top reserve since last season, is out with a hamstring injury, but Jones didn’t say how severe the injury was.
Jones has had plenty of success in the SWAC during the past 11 years as head coach at Alabama A&M, leading the Bulldogs to five conference championship games including his only title in 2006 (won over UAPB). Yet his 2013 offense’s numbers — 342.5 yards and 16.4 points per game, to name a couple — don’t indicate the unit’s true capabilities.
For example, Barrington Scott broke down the Golden Lions’ offense with 201 yards on 33 carries and Jaymason Lee threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns in a 50-42 victory in Huntsville, Ala., on Nov. 16.
Scott finished third in the SWAC with 88.2 rushing yards per game. Now, Jones has the task of finding his main running back on a team that was led on the ground by a quarterback and is missing three of its four tailbacks from 2013.
“Right now, we have a running back by committee,” Jones said. “We have a bunch of guys trying to feel their way, understand what they’re doing and things of that sort.”
While Jones would like to have a main running back, he doesn’t want to put the entire burden of the ground game on one player.
“You’d love to have a guy who’s that guy,” Jones said. “But I don’t care if you do, you better have some quality guys who can — I don’t know if I want to use the term ‘back him up’ — but who can tote it. You want a one-punch, but you need a two-punch. So, you need two or three guys who can tote it and get things done. If you have backs who can do different things, you add variety.”