In-state ties benefit first-year UAPB coach

Posted: February 8, 2018 at 2:28 a.m.

Cedric Thomas relied on his in-state ties to make up for lost time in recruiting.

The head football coach at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was hired Dec. 26 -- nearly a week beyond the NCAA's new early signing period deadline.

UAPB signees

PLAYER POS. HT. WT. HOMETOWN/SCHOOL

Raynald St. Jour OL 6-2 290 Naples, Fla. (ASA Junior College)

David Chapple QB 5-9 152 North Little Rock (North Little Rock)

Tychristopher Harris LB 6-0 210 Shreveport (Woodlawn)

Larry Moton WR 6-0 185 Shreveport (Woodlawn)

Dashawn Lawrence ATH 5-10 175 Cincinnati, Ohio (Taft)

Noah Hayes OL 6-6 300 Oxon Hill, M.D. (Oxon Hill)

Trae Cherry DB 5-11 163 Waco, Texas (Waco)

Tayvon Littlejohn DB 6-3 180 Greenville, Miss. (Greenville Weston)

Isaac Peppers LB 6-0 203 Greenville, Miss. (Greenville Weston)

Detavion Turner RB 5-10 205 Jonesboro (Nettleton)

Omar Allen RB 5-7 180 Pine Bluff (Watson Chapel)

Isiah Singleton LB 5-11 215 Pine Bluff (Pine Bluff)

Rashaad Clayton DL 6-1 270 Memphis, Tenn. (Memphis Central)

Stanleigh Bentley DB 6-1 270 Yazoo, Miss. (Yazoo City)

Paul Todd WR 6-2 205 Memphis, Tenn. (Hillcrest)

Taeyler Porter RB 5-9 180 Naples, Fla. (ASA Junior College)

Thomas entered the recruiting fray with just three assistant coaches, but by Wednesday the Golden Lions had a full coaching staff and a 2018 recruiting class of 17 players.

The class held together after UAPB announced Feb. 1 it would not renew the contract of former athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr., who signed Thomas to a four-year, $150,000 per year contract that expires Nov. 30, 2021.

"Of course parents asked about it," said Thomas, a UAPB alum who played cornerback from 1998-1999. "Me being here, knowing the ropes, playing and graduating from here, that gave a lot of ease. They trust in me, and everybody stayed in. Didn't lose anybody. That's a great job of the coaching staff and the great relationship they have with those kids."

Thomas said he kept just one player -- Waco High (Texas) defensive back Trae Cherry -- who had received a scholarship offer from the previous coaching staff, which dissipated after 10-year former head coach Monte Coleman's contract expired on Dec. 31.

"[Cherry] was the first one to call," Thomas said. "I said, 'Well, let me look at the film.' "

North Little Rock quarterback David Chapple and Pine Bluff linebacker Isiah Singleton signed with the Golden Lions.

Chapple led North Little Rock to an undefeated Class 7A state championship in 2017, when he passed for 1,815 yards, 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, and rushed for 349 yards on 91 carries with 18 touchdowns.

Pine Bluff lost in the Class 6A state championship in 2017, but Singleton was part of the undefeated team that won the state championship in 2015.

The two bolster what Thomas called "the bloodline of the institution."

"You get the local guys, and people come and fill those stands up," he said. "Financially, that's how we get to upgrade the weight room, the facilities. There's plenty of good talent in this state."

Thomas said the parents of local athletes reacted somewhat positively.

"It was almost like, 'We hate that you took so long,' " he said. "You go back and tap into that fan base. They're excited."

Sports on 02/08/2018