University of Central Arkansas coach Steve Campbell was pleased with the first week’s progress.
“You always want to get more done, but we have implemented a lot of new schemes,” he said during Sunday’s Media Day session. “The guys showed up in good shape and ready to work. We’ve done well in the red zone and goal-line and defensive packages and blitzes. We are not ready to play a game yet, but after one week, I’m pleased.”
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
The University of Central Arkansas players like the simplicity of the new offense.
“The biggest learning curve is the new play calls,” said senior quarterback Ryan Howard.
“But it’s easier to learn. And once you can learn the assignments, you can play quicker and faster.
“It’s smash-mouth, and I like that,” said senior offensive lineman Cole Caruthers. “The good part is we are going to throw the ball but also run the heck out of the ball.”
There is intricacy within the simplicity.
“There are lots of different schemes,” said senior wide receiver Dezmin Lewis. “There are a lot of things you can do on a play, lots of options.”
Caruthers talked about a good transition between coach Clint Conque’s departure and Campbell’s arrival.
“There has always been a good team atmosphere here,” he said. “With the success the new coaches have had coming in, it’s easy to buy into the system. Their excitement has spread to the team.”
“Not only do we have great football players, but they have tremendous character,” Campbell said. “These guys are fun to coach.”
FULL SPEED ALL THE TIME
Lewis, the Bears’ biggest playmaker at receiver, admits he was only at full speed in about five games last season because of an injury.
“My teammates kept me focused,” he said. “It was a matter of fighting through the injury.”
After a season in which the Bears lost nine players to season-ending injuries, Campbell said he is not holding back on the throttle.
“We’ve been physical and played aggressively so far,” Campbell said. “Sometimes when you hold back and get too cautious, you run a great risk of injury. We’re gonna go full speed and so far we’ve had only minor injuries.”
The top three, Ryan Howard, Taylor Reed and Hayden Hildebrand, are all having outstanding preseason camps.
“Competition makes everybody better,” said Howard, a fifth-year senior. “You want people to push you. Once you become complacent, it’s hard to get back to where you want to be.
Hildebrand is a redshirt freshmen who hasn’t disappointed.
“He has the size and the skills to be one of the best quarterbacks to ever come through here,” said Nathan Brown, UCA’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.”
Campbell has these comments about the senior offensive players he brought to the formal interview session on Media Day.
Dezmin Lewis: “One thing that stands out is his blocking on the perimeter. Not only is he a playmaker but he does those little things to help the team.”
Cole Caruthers: “For a linemen, he’s fast, more like the speed of a tight end. And his work ethic is great.”
Howard: “He has been a leader from Day 1. When I got here and I was just putting together a staff, Ryan was putting together a community service deal.”
UCA opens Aug. 30 at Texas Tech, a team the Arkansas Razorbacks play a week later.
“It needs no hype,” said Caruthers.
“We’re excited about it because we’ll know exactly where we stand,” said Campbell.
ON THE OTHER SIDE
Manning the camera and covering the event for KATV (Channel 7) was Wynrick Smothers, the former UCA quarterback whose season was cut short last year because of an injury. Last season, Smothers, as the face of the team, was one of the primary players being questioned. A communications major with the goal of being at TV commentator, Smothers has interned the past two summers for Channel 7.