This past Saturday, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions football team held their second scrimmage of the spring.
UAPB second-year Head Coach Cedric Thomas referred to this scrimmage as more of a situational-style practice. The football was spotted at specific places on the field, and the coaching staff wanted to see how their players would respond and react.
"They have to get an understanding of different concepts in particular areas," Thomas said. "Football is a very oriented game, and variables change on certain spots on the field. That's the reason we use the situational format. Kids responded well for the most part. Defensively, we want to keep offenses backed up, and offensively we want touchdowns and not field goals."
Sophomore quarterback Skyler Perry and junior quarterback Shannon Patrick, who saw time at the starting position last season, are sharing snaps this spring.
On Saturday, they both shined at times, but protecting the football will be a point of emphasis going forward. Overall, quarterbacks coach Doc Gamble and Thomas said they like what they're seeing from the pair.
"They took right at about 50-55 snaps a piece," Thomas said. "It was about a 110 snaps total. Both showed great command of the offense. Perry did a great job of pulling the football and showing off his athleticism. Also, seeing Shannon throw some big-time vertical balls was great to see also. We have to take care of the football. We don't need the big play every time. We have to continue to make great reads. Coach Gamble does a great job of putting them in the right spots. Both of the guys will have a chance to play and lead the team."
On offense, the Golden Lions took the non-contact jersey off of former All-SWAC senior running back KeShawn Williams for the first time since his knee injury. Thomas saw a couple of his receivers step up and make multiple key plays. Pine Bluff native and Watson Chapel graduate freshman running back Omar Allen has been a pleasant surprise this spring, according to Thomas.
"DeShawn Lawrence, a red-shirt freshman from Cincinnati, made some big-time catches and big-time blocks on the perimeter," Thomas said. "Tyrin Ralph didn't go through spring last year, and he's made big-time plays all spring. Omar has been good for us. It was our first time taking the jersey off KeShawn, and it was full live, take him to the ground. He scored a 60-yard touchdown on a tremendous run. It was his first time taking hits coming off of his injury."
On defense, according to Thomas, it's easy to see the rise in talent level since last year. Virginia Tech transfer Henri Murphy has fully converted from offense to defense, and he's flying around. The Golden Lions’ secondary got one of their play-makers back in Nigel Canada, and he's making the most of a second chance.
"Nigel Canada made some big-time plays, and he's played well all spring," Thomas said. "Canada was dismissed last year for disciplinary issues. He's simply playing at a high level, as he has a second chance. Henri Murphy made big-time pass breakups and brought physicality. We have a lot more talent, and you can see the guys making an assertive effort of what’s asked from them."
This week, the Golden Lions will have the luxury of having a Big 12 referee crew at their practices on Thursday and Saturday.
"I want a clean product," Thomas said. “I'll get an opportunity to talk and ask them things they're looking for. We'll get to clean up on some of the pre-snap penalties and pass interference plays. We'll keep putting things in as far as the playbook. We'll implement a lot more special teams things."
The Golden Lions will wrap up this week with their third scrimmage of the spring at 11 a.m. on Saturday.