UAPB begins spring practice

UAPB players line up to run a play during spring practice Wednesday at Simmons Bank Field in Pine Bluff. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Tanner Spearman)
UAPB players line up to run a play during spring practice Wednesday at Simmons Bank Field in Pine Bluff. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Tanner Spearman)

Spring football practice began Wednesday for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and second-year head coach Alonzo Hampton said the first few days of practice are about fundamentals, technique and earning respect.

"Earning the respect of your teammates, earning the respect of your coaches, and I think it's just earning the respect of this conference," Hampton said. "I can say 'restore the pride' all I want. I'll wake up every day, and our coaches wake up every day, and we can preach we gotta have pride in what we do in the classroom, on the football field, in the locker room.

"But at the end of the day, if you don't have the respect of the people, if the people don't fear you, the people that you're going against, then what are we doing?"

The Golden Lions are coming off a 2-9 season which saw them win one SWAC game, the season finale at Texas Southern. Since winning the SWAC West Division in the spring 2021 season, UAPB has finished last in the West each year. UAPB went 4-0 in conference play that year but is 3-21 since.

"Right now, we haven't earned the respect of this conference," Hampton said. "That's OK. We're not asking you to give it to us. We're going to work with a work mentality. We got 15 practices, and so our job is to go out there and work every single day."

Last year, UAPB ranked last in the SWAC in defense and next-to-last on offense. In the offseason, Hampton hired Tony Hull as offensive coordinator.

Hull, who spent last season as co-offensive coordinator at Grambling State, said he wants to get a firm idea of the team's personnel by the spring game, which is scheduled for April 27 at 2 p.m.

"The first thing, first and foremost, is to get the offense installed, and then just evaluate the players, as well as the coaches," Hull said. "Just learn the coaches' styles and how they coach, but also get to know the players to identify weapons, to identify who can help us out, and who might not can help us out."

The entire defensive coaching staff from last year returns, but Hull is just one of several changes on the offensive staff.

UAPB brought Lawann Latson in to coach the wide receivers. Latson recently coached at Miles College and the University of Arkansas at Monticello. UAPB also promoted offensive line coach Steve Wallace to run game coordinator. Wednesday, Chris Forestier was announced as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.

Hampton has a defense and special teams background, but he said he plans to spend more time around the offense this spring, trusting defensive coordinator David Calloway to run practices on that side of the ball.

"I think for me, personally, it was about me growing as a coach," Hampton said. "I've been around some really good coaches, but I think as a head football coach, you have to understand everything. I understand special teams. I understand defense. I don't have to be in the defensive room to tell you what defense they're running, what front to run or what coverage to play. I don't have to be in there. But for offensive guys, I need to be in there with them, so they understand, 'Hey, Coach Hampton is locked in with us.'"

Roster turnover is a challenge for every team in the transfer portal era. The Golden Lions placed two players on the all-SWAC first team last year, offensive lineman Ryan Atkins and linebacker Rico Dozier. Atkins exhausted his eligibility, while Dozier transferred to Alabama State.

UAPB signed 13 players in December, a mixture of junior college and four-year university transfers, then added 13 high school seniors in February.

Hampton said the Golden Lions need to sign 15-20 more players, especially if anyone else decides to transfer after spring practice.

"You're probably going to lose a couple guys," Hampton said. "They may not like where they at on the depth chart, or they may think they better than what they are. We won't be mad at a guy for leaving. If he thinks he can go somewhere else and play, then God bless him. That gives us an opportunity to go out and find a better player."

The spring transfer period for football begins April 16 and ends April 30.

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