BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Monte Coleman finally addressed his son’s transfer from Arkansas State to his own program at Arkansas-Pine Bluff at SWAC Media Day on Friday.
“It was a personal decision … a family decision,” the seventh-year UAPB head football coach said.
Arkansas State announced in May that Kyle Coleman, who played linebacker and safety for the Red Wolves the past three seasons, would transfer, but Monte declined to confirm at the time. The elder Coleman said Friday that Kyle will have to sit out this season before he can return to action, although he’s stepping down a level from the Football Bowl Subdivision to the Football Championship Subdivision.
“The NCAA made a rule a few years back that if you don’t have two years of eligibility to play, you’re going to have to sit out a year before you can play again,” Monte Coleman said. Players who transfer from one FBS school to another usually have to automatically sit out one season regardless of eligibility remaining.
The coach said Kyle made the decision to leave Jonesboro because Kyle felt disappointment in having to play for a different head coach each season. Blake Anderson is the Red Wolves’ fifth different head coach in as many years, following Steve Roberts (2002-10), Hugh Freeze (2011), Gus Malzahn (2012) and Bryan Harsin (2013). The three latter coaches moved on to higher-profile FBS programs.
“And then, we just decided, why not come on home?” Monte Coleman said.
Kyle Coleman will still graduate from UAPB in May, but would have finished his studies in December had he chosen to remain at A-State. He can compete as a graduate student in 2015.
Full roster in place
UAPB went into last season with 76 players, and at least 13 of them did not get to participate in the season opener against Arkansas State for academic concerns. The Golden Lions can boast plenty of depth now because 95 will get to report to campus for preseason camp, which begins Aug. 4.
Monte Coleman said 106 were on the list hoping to receive the invitation to camp. He did not immediately know how many are on scholarship, but the limit for FCS teams is 63.
The influx of players will be largely felt on the offensive line, which finished last season with seven due to injuries and academic ineligibility. UAPB will go into August with 16 offensive linemen, including media day representative Me’kale Carter.
But numbers haven’t always been the issue for the Helena-West Helena Central graduate.
“I believe staying healthy is more so a main issue because we take a lot of reps,” Carter said.
As rewarding as getting to protect a highly-decorated quarterback like SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Ben Anderson is, his ability to maneuver can also make Carter’s responsibility a challenge.
“Sometimes he makes it hard on me because he’s pretty shifty,” Carter said. “But when I mess up, he’ll find his way out of any situation. … When he gets out there, he works hard at anything he does.”
Back on the field
Junior defensive lineman Demarcus Berry is one of a few Golden Lions coming off academic ineligibility to play again this season, and the Alexandria, La., product is trying to make the most of a second opportunity.
“Being that myself, missing last season, being back as a leader and my coaches and teammates look at me as a leader, I think it boosts the D-line and my teammates a little bit,” Berry said.
“It was really a learning experience. Sitting out last year, that hurt the defense.”
UAPB held opponents to fewer than 30 points three times last season and allowed 50 or more points three times in a 2-9 campaign. The Lions trailed by eight or fewer points with 3 minutes remaining in six of those losses.
But experience is a great teacher and may help the Lions flip the script in 2014.
“I think it’s more so the experience from the younger guys that are going to come in, step up and do their jobs like Berry,” Carter said. “We’re not missing out on Berry this year. More than likely, we should be able to finish more games.”
Academic issue solved
The numerous ineligibilities the Lions suffered last season led to a low Academic Progress Rate that drew them a postseason ban from the NCAA Division I playoffs in May.
But UAPB — and similarly punished programs Alabama State, Mississippi Valley State and Prairie View A&M — won’t feel the effects of the ban because the SWAC does not send a team to the playoffs and all 10 SWAC teams are eligible to compete for the conference championship.
Carter said the Lions learned a hard lesson from the woes of last season.
“I think we have to dedicate ourselves to our books as we do on the field, because without that, we can’t accomplish what we want to on the field,” he said.
Said Monte Coleman: “… Because of the issues we had last year, we’re a better football team, we’re a better university, we’re a better athletic program, because we put things in place to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. Can a player or two slide through the cracks? Absolutely. But now, we’ve got a full-time academic advisor on staff. We’ve got different software programs where coaches can go in and check the progress of a player if there is a concern.
“Last year, it was very disappointing for the number of guys that we lost, but I don’t see it being a problem in the near future.”
Swain could miss season
Junior receiver Cody Swain, who sustained a torn ACL during spring drills, could miss all of this season after undergoing surgery.
Swain was expected to be the leading returning receiver from last season, when he caught 30 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns.
“He came into his own last year, scored several times for us,” Coleman said. “He was definitely one of our starters, but unfortunately, this is a game of aches and pains. And injuries certainly pay their dues.”
Swain is expected to take a medical redshirt.
Coleman: ‘Redskins’ viewed as positive
Coleman spent his entire 16-year NFL career as a linebacker for the Washington Redskins, whose name has come under fire in recent years because it is viewed as derogatory toward American Indians.
“I’ve heard a couple (of people) say that black people in general should understand being called outside of your name, like the n-word,” Coleman said. “I don’t think it’s anything like the n-word.
“If someone makes an issue, then we’ve definitely got to talk about it, and the legislation and people will make the right decision.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC-TV’s “This Week”on Sunday he supports a name change, calling “Redskins” offensive. Team owner Daniel Snyder, however, has said he will not change the team name because it honors American Indians.
“I look at it as it was when I played,” said Coleman, who won Super Bowls with Washington in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons. “It carries a lot of prestige. It carries a lot of winning tradition. I thought it was something positive when you talked about the Redskins — of course you think about the Doug Williams and Joe Theismanns and Mark Rypiens who’ve won Super Bowls and played in Super Bowls. That’s how I view the Redskins, as something positive.”