MONTICELLO – One of the biggest changes Arkansas-Monticello has undergone since last season has been the leadership shown by its seniors.

MONTICELLO – One of the biggest changes Arkansas-Monticello has undergone since last season has been the leadership shown by its seniors.

"The one thing we do have that is probably unique is 20 seniors that are good leaders," UAM head coach Hud Jackson said. "We have guys that have been in the program and understand how the process works."

Jackson said from a coaching aspect, it makes things a whole lot easier.

"When these young guys are not having a great day, you can count on (these seniors) getting to them before we do," Jackson said. "When we don’t have the issues because of great leadership, it makes the job a whole lot easier as a head coach."

UAM won five games last season, but Jackson said they were a couple of plays away from being a 7-win program. "We just need more consistency," Jackson said. "There were a couple of games we could have won, if we had just been more consistent.

"We have to be consistent in every aspect of the game and if we maintain that, good things will happen."

Returning for the Boll Weevils this fall is junior Colton Morrison who passed for 1,051 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions last season. "If you look at our team from last season, we had a good team, but we are nowhere near on the level that it is this year," Morrison said. "I just think it is a lot more complex and diverse. "We aren’t relying too much on our playmakers."

Morrison said one of the biggest improvements to the team has been the addition of new offensive coordinator Kyle Shipp. "He is very intelligent," Morrison said. "It is a clean slate for me basically.

"… We are trying not to worry about the stuff from last year, but focus on the upcoming season."

Shipp was hired in March after serving three seasons as the receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Arkansas Tech. He also spent two years as a graduate assistant at Arkansas State under Steve Roberts and Hugh Freeze.

"It’s a different style," Jackson said. "We are using tight ends more and we are trying to be more balanced.

"It is a different philosophy … but it something I’ve always wanted to do."

Senior running back Rod Smith, a native of Dumas, rushed for 514 yards with six touchdowns last fall. "I think overall, our goal is to win a conference championship," Smith said. "… It is a process. But I think we have good stuff and good players who are working toward that ultimate goal."

Smith said he has seen the improved leadership as well.

"You need the leaders on your team," Smith said. "Whether they are vocal leaders or lead by example.

"… It is just better this year. It is just a better feeling in general."

Smith said he enjoys playing at UAM because it allows him to be close to home.

"It means a lot," Smith said. "It is by far the biggest reason I decided to join UAM."

The Boll Weevils will begin their 2014 campaign with a home opener against East Central (Oklahoma).

"We have put in a lot of work (this summer)," Smith said. "Everyone is buying in to everything we are trying to accomplish.

"We have the talent, we just have to make it happen."

Jackson said he is proud of the leadership that has been shown so far by his seniors.

"There is nothing better than a group of seniors with quality experience," Jackson said. "And that has been very evident in our first five practices.

"We’ve got great leadership in some key positions."