Before getting the day off on Saturday, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions football team held a closed mock-game scrimmage on Friday at Simmons Bank Field.
UAPB Head Coach Cedric Thomas understands that time is winding down until kickoff for the first game, so he decided to have a scrimmage that was as game-like as possible.
According to Thomas, he was OK with how things went overall. Having the day off Saturday gave the team an ample amount of opportunity to be fresh and ready to lock in on their upcoming first game against Morehouse on Sept. 1 at home.
"We hit on every situation," Thomas said. "It was really more of a dress rehearsal. We wanted to go over every practical situation in football so the kids can have a general idea. We had the scout team give us looks from Morehouse and what they've done in the past. We had coaches on headsets and in the press box.
"Now, when the situation arises again, the kids can remember that particular scenario. I think we got everything done we needed to do. We got about 140 plays in. Now it's about using the next couple hours to get our legs under us and get refreshed. We'll come back with Morehouse on our minds."
Last week, junior college transfer quarterback Shannon Patrick, who seems to be pulling away in the quarterback battle, was held out for a couple of practices. According to Thomas, they just wanted to get the other guys some reps, and Patrick was full-go for the mock scrimmage on Friday.
"The guys rotated in because it was so many plays," Thomas said. "He got in, threw it around, so we were pleased to see that."
During the first week of fall practice, the offense struggled with running the uptempo pace that UAPB Offensive Coordinator Jermaine Gales has implemented. From the looks of things on Friday, Thomas said that they've made a drastic improvement with what Gales wants.
"It's so much better now," Thomas said. "I think early in camp Coach Gales and I were disappointed at times because of the lack of effort. Now they're getting to the football and getting it lined down so we can start the next play and get ready to go."
Freshman quarterback Skyler Perry has capitalized on the opportunities that he has had as of late, and Thomas has taken notice. Red-shirt junior running back Jaimon Peterson has made big plays in the run game to show that he's fully recovered from an ACL tear that he previously suffered.
With the shuffling of the offensive line in order to put the right five guys in the right positions, junior Jayden Glover has stepped in and filled a role at center and has looked nice doing it according to Thomas.
"Skyler commanded the offense when he had his opportunities," Thomas said. "Jaimon Peterson is a guy that's been here and he's coming off an ACL tear. He really had a good day. Jayden Glover got more reps at the center position."
On defense, junior defensive end Jaylen Steward has been their most consistent player, Thomas said. The resurgence of senior linebacker Je'Kevin Carter after missing the spring has been very beneficial for the Golden Lions defense, and Thomas can't say enough about the work he's doing. According to Thomas, senior defensive back Rico Merriweather continues to get better every day.
"Jaylen Steward had a steadfast day," Thomas said. "It's good to see Je'Kevin Carter continue to flash and be consistent, it's his senior year. Rico Merriweather did a great job as well."
The Golden Lions' defense has been able to relay information from day to day, and Thomas rehashes that back to the summer. Defensive Coordinator Juan Navarro has worked hard with this defense to change their approach, their mentality, and they're execution.
"I really think the summer was important to hash out a lot of the mistakes," Thomas said. "They're able to correct mistakes easily because they've seen it now. Defensively they have a general idea of what we're asking them to do. Coach Navarro has done a great job of helping them grasp the concepts and adapt to adversity."
Under a week away from the first game against Morehouse College, the Golden Lions will focus their attention towards Morehouse as they clean up any small things that need to be taken care of.
"Now we're just making sure every I is dotted and T is crossed," Thomas said. "We have to know this Morehouse team like the back of our hand. We have to have a nice evaluation of the players they have, who they are, what they stand for, and what they like to do. We'll challenge these guys mentally and it's some things we're asking of them."