New UAPB coach sticking with plan
Restoring pride in the University of Arkansas football program at Pine Bluff was one of the main things Alonzo Hampton focused on when he was hired as head football coach of the Golden Lions in December.
On Wednesday, the Warren native took a giant step by signing his first official class.
Hampton received five national letters of intent on the opening day of the traditional signing period, headlining a pair of all-state stars at Magnolia, running back Garrion Curry and player Forrest City offensive lineman, Elijah Hardin.
Carrying five players may seem small at first glance, but that’s the exact number Hampton said he wanted to sign when he spoke at his introductory press conference two weeks ago. And considering the fact that he was named the next UAPB head coach on December 22 – a day after the official start of the NCAA signing period – the quintet he got was an impressive feat in self.
“I couldn’t even tell you how many days I’ve been on the job because they’re all running together,” Hampton said. “Things went well, honestly. The main thing was to go out and recruit the state, and I did that on purpose. That was my main goal, which was to recruit the high school kids from our state and their show the love that they deserve. Obviously you want to be able to sign about four to five of them, and we’ve been blessed and able to sign four from our state.
“We’ve got one in the bush who hasn’t decided what he’s going to do yet. I’m really excited for the kids we’ve signed, but if we get that last bit I think we’ll hit the lottery. .”
Hampton’s hiring timing didn’t allow him to sign anyone at first, nor did he have all of his assistant coaches, especially his coordinators, on campus.
“That was probably the hardest part,” Hampton explained. “I wanted to assess the coaches here on staff, be fair to them and give the guys a chance. I didn’t want to be that guy who just came in and kicked everybody out because I know how it feels. J been there.
“But the coaches I have here have done a wonderful job of keeping things going.”
Hampton said he hopes to have his coaches in play by next week. Once that happens, he mentioned it would give them all a chance to focus on the squad they have in place before moving on to spring football. Having their staff fully staffed will also allow them to evaluate and potentially sign more players, whether that be through the high school ranks, the college path, or the transfer portal.
Hampton was pleased with its initial signatories. Curry rushed for 2,164 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior while Hardin was the backbone of Forrest City’s inside line.
The UAPB also signed Nassir Donohoo, an all-conference quarterback who rushed for more than 2,000 yards, ran for nearly 1,500 yards and had 51 touchdowns at Quitman, Fayetteville defensive back Deuce Cooper and linebacker CE King (Texas) Kam Bizor, a 6-3, 230-pounder who originally committed to Colorado. He also received offers from other schools such as California and Arkansas State University.
“I didn’t want to pick every player,” Hampton said. “You want the coordinators to have the guys who fit their system. They may need other players who fit what they’re trying to do. I could have done all of that as a head coach, but it is a partnership.
“From the administration to the concierge. We are all in the same boat.”