New offensive coordinator at UAPB seeks turnaround

Last season, Tony Hull helped engineer a rapid turnaround in Grambling State's offense.

In 2024, Hull will try to replicate that success with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff after being named the school's new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

He said the success he had in one season as co-offensive coordinator at Grambling largely came from his offensive system.

"It's [an] up-tempo, fast, take-what-the-defense-gives-you type of offense," Hull said. "The beauty about it is, from week to week, you never know. If defenses crowd the box, then we take shots over the top and we take advantage of some things in the pass game. If people play with a two-high (safeties) look and give us a light box, then we take advantage of what they give us in the run game."

Before Grambling, Hull was an assistant coach at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, first coaching outside receivers, then running backs during his two-year tenure. He has also coached at Kansas and Hawaii.

Before Hull arrived, Grambling's 2022 offense was ranked sixth in the SWAC in scoring and 10th in yards per game. Grambling's quarterback that year, Julian Calvez, ranked last in the SWAC with just 69.7 passing yards per game.

In one year with Hull, the Tigers jumped to third in scoring and second in yards per game. Starting quarterback Myles Crawley ranked second in the SWAC. GSU also had two of the SWAC's top six rushers and a top-four receiver.

Hull said his offense is a mixture of systems he learned from other coaches, specifically Jacksonville State head coach Rich Rodriguez and Clemson offensive coordinator Garrett Riley. Hull worked with Riley at Kansas and Rodriguez at ULM.

"Just coming from my engineering background, taking pieces from what I thought worked well at this level and just implementing it," Hull said, "just simplifying it so that the kids can play fast and they don't have to think about too much. Where they can just react as opposed to thinking about what they have to do."

Another person Hull worked with in the past is UAPB head coach Alonzo Hampton. Hampton was ULM's assistant head coach and special teams coordinator in 2022 after joining the staff as safeties coach in 2021.

Hampton, who is entering his second season at UAPB, said he has wanted Hull on his staff from the beginning.

"He was the first guy I tried to hire," Hampton said. "I wasn't able to make that happen, and he went to Grambling. He's just a smart dude that understands football. Been at Kansas, been at Hawaii. NASA guy, engineering degree. Just really intelligent, and I had a chance to work with him for two years. The mannerisms, just everything about him. Great person."

Hull graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with an industrial technology degree and worked in the engineering field for four years, including a three-year stint at NASA.

Now, Hull will look to engineer a turnaround in UAPB's offense. Last season, the Golden Lions ranked 11th in the SWAC in scoring and 10th in yards per game. UAPB didn't have a running back or a wide receiver in the SWAC's top 10.

Three players started games at quarterback, and UAPB rarely made it through a game without changing passers.

Of the four quarterbacks on UAPB's roster last season, only rising senior Mekhi Hagens returns. In 2023, he completed 53 of 117 passes (45.3%) for 580 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions. He also rushed 65 times for 163 yards and four touchdowns.

Hampton said Hagens is entering spring practice as the starter, but incoming freshman Landon Holcomb from Pine Bluff High School and junior college transfer DJ Stevenson from California's Reedley College will also compete for the job.

Hull said he is looking for someone who can lead and is competitive, and he doesn't have a preference between a passing or running quarterback.

"The beauty of offense is, it's interchangeable," Hull said. "So if you got a guy that can do some things with his legs and really talented with his legs, it's more zone read-type of stuff. If it's a guy that can't move as well that's better with his arm, it's more RPO type of deal. So it's just understanding whoever that guy is, what are his attributes and just growing the offense off of what he does well."

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