UAPB pre­dicted to fin­ish last again

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BROOKS KUBENA

The Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is pre­dicted to fin­ish last again in the South­west­ern Ath­letic Con­fer­ence foot­ball stand­ings.

In fact, the SWAC’s pre­sea­son pre­dic­tions are ex­actly the same as last sea­son, de­spite head coach­ing changes at five of its uni­ver­si­ties.

UAPB was se­lected to fin­ish last in the West­ern Di­vi­sion for the fifth con­sec­u­tive year at Fri­day’s SWAC Me­dia Day in Birmingham, Ala., and in the past four sea­sons, those pre­dic­tions have come true.

“Yeah, I thought they got it right,” said first-year UAPB Coach Cedric Thomas. “Based on pre­sea­son, we should be. There’s no way to gauge spring prac­tice. There’s no way to gauge the new at­ti­tude. There’s no way to gauge these young men right now.”

The “new at­ti­tude” has been Thomas’ pri­mary project this sum­mer, cor­rect­ing a be­hav­ioral habit that stems from a 10-41 con­fer­ence record (.196) in the five sea­sons since their last SWAC cham­pi­onship.

“It’s just when bad things ar­rive,” he said. “Every­thing’s fine when every­thing’s good and on the up-and-up. But as soon as you run into ad­ver­sity or a coach is dig­ging into you, you need to be able to un­der­stand that it’s not pun­ish­ment, it’s pro­tec­tion. We’re try­ing to pro­tect these men from do­ing things wrong, so that when they get out into so­ci­ety, they know that there’s reper­cus­sions to ev­ery­one’s ac­tions.

“I can see it en­gag­ing now, you have a 6 a.m. work­out and you have 100 per­cent par­tic­i­pa­tion. You go to study hall and kids [are] where they’re sup­posed to be. You go to the throw­ing and run­ning, every­body’s ex­cited. No­body’s com­plain­ing. That’s the small things right now that as coaches we’re say­ing be­hind the scenes, ‘Hey, they might be start­ing to get it.’”

Thomas was hired to save the pro­gram that he said once saved him.

Se­nior run­ning back KeShawn Wil­liams was named to the pre­sea­son All-SWAC First Team, and Thomas talked about how he played at UAPB with Wil­liams’ fa­ther, Kevin, from 1998-1999.

“On them week­ends when I couldn’t get home, I was over at his pop’s crib,” Thomas said. “Their fam­ily took me in and fed me and made sure I didn’t make bad de­ci­sions. It was a home away from home.”

Wil­liams, a Pine Bluff Dol­lar­way High grad­u­ate, led the Golden Lions with 703 yards rush­ing and 7 touch­downs in 2017, with an ad­di­tional 332 yards re­ceiv­ing.

Wil­liams is a cen­ter­piece in UAPB’s new Spread of­fense, which will need to im­prove on a scor­ing of­fense (21 points per game) that ranked 84th out of the 123 teams in the Foot­ball

Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion.

“This thing has changed com­pletely,” Wil­liams said. “First year, we were like, ‘Man, we can com­pete, but we’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to win.’ Now, we have con­fi­dence. We’re gonna whoop some butt.”

Thomas, who spent the last six sea­sons as a de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and de­fen­sive backs coach at Al­corn State, said the UAPB de­fense will use mul­ti­ple de­fen­sive for­ma­tions: 4-25, 4-3, 3-3 Stack, de­pend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion.

De­fen­sive end Jalen Ste­ward, 6-4, 260 pounds, will be used as both a tra­di­tional and stand­ing de­fen­sive end in the var­i­ous fronts, and Thomas ex­pects the ju­nior will build on the nine tack­les for loss and three sacks he recorded last sea­son.

The Golden Lions ranked 107th in scor­ing de­fense (34.5 points al­lowed per game) in 2017.

Thomas said UAPB will of­fi­cially open fall prac­tice Aug. 4, and the Golden Lions will open the 2018 sea­son at home Sept. 1 against Di­vi­sion II op­po­nent, More­house Col­lege.

It will be the third meet­ing be­tween the schools in the past four sea­sons, and the Golden Lions have beaten the Ma­roon Tigers each time.

In the last three sea­sons, UAPB has only won three other games: Mis­sis­sippi Val­ley State, Al­corn State and Jack­son State.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.