It will be a journey into the unknown for both sides when the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys and the Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils begin a new era at Convoy Leslie Cotton Boll Stadium in Monticello on Saturday night. Kickoff for the first Great American Conference football game for both programs is set for 6 p.m.
Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will broadcast the 2011 season opener in the Arkansas River Valley.
Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast. The launch of a new conference would be intriguing enough by itself, but additional storylines abound on both sides. For Arkansas Tech, there is the introduction of a new offensive system that will be more balanced than its pass-oriented style of recent years, questions as to whom will start at quarterback and the task of replacing nine departed starters on defense. And while the Wonder Boys have a few questions about themselves, even less is known about their first opponent. UAM is under the direction of first-year head coach Hud Jackson. He previously served as associate head coach at the University of Central Arkansas for six years, and he brought fellow former UCA assistants Matt Middleton, Keith Scott and Scott Breeze with him to Monticello as members of his first Boll Weevil coaching staff. That might hint at a distinct purple and gray influence over the style of play that UAM will employ, but Arkansas Tech head coach Steve Mullins isn’t so sure. “As you look at the things they’ve done in the past (at UCA) and you scour (the UAM) roster, there are differences personnel wise,” said Mullins. “There are a tremendous amount of unknowns going into the game. There are unknowns about what they will do scheme wise and what personnel they will put out on the field, but that’s part of the excitement of football.” The Boll Weevils’ top returning offensive weapon is running back Nakita Myles. He rushed for 680 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010. “A year ago against the rush, we were excellent,” said Mullins. “But we’ve lost some of those defensive linemen, including T.J. Langley, who as we speak is still with the Buffalo Bills. Stopping the run will be hugely important on Saturday night. Nakita Myles is a very talented young man. We’ve got to see who they are going to play at quarterback, because I believe that will dictate what they do offensively.” The Boll Weevils list junior Damon Wicker as the starting quarterback on their depth chart. Wicker filled in for the injured Scott Buisson at quarterback against Delta State last season and completed 3-of-12 passes for 72 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Now that Buisson has exhausted his eligibility, UAM must find a permanent replacement for one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the history of its program. If that replacement is not Wicker, it might be Hunter Leppert. The true freshman was a four-time all-district selection with 7,150 passing yards and 63 passing touchdowns during his prep career at Minden High School (La.). The quarterback competition during preseason practice at Arkansas Tech has featured three candidates --- James Landry, Cody Jones and Preston Conder. Landry appeared in four games for the Wonder Boys last season. He saw time at both quarterback and wide receiver in 2010, completing 4-of-8 passes for 62 yards along the way.
The Belle Rose, La., native completed 111-of-200 passes (56 percent) for 1,516 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman at Holmes Community College (Miss.). He also rushed for 589 yards that season and was named all-conference.
Landry rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards as a senior at Assumption High School in Napoleonville, La.
Jones also contributed for Arkansas Tech in 2010, but the majority of his work came in the kicking game. He made 3-of-5 field goal attempts and 20-of-22 point after touchdown kicks as a freshman. Jones also punted 23 times for an average of 35.3 yards per attempt last year.
A product of Jackson Christian School and a native of Lexington, Tenn., Jones was a three-time all-state selection in high school. He passed for 4,690 yards and 38 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons at Jackson Christian.
Conder is the newcomer among those vying for the starting job at quarterback. A true freshman, Conder completed 54-of-103 passes for 962 yards and eight touchdowns in six games as a senior at Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Texas, in 2010. His senior season was truncated by injury. “As you look at our overall team, there are a lot of changes,” said Mullins. “I think our coaching staff has done an excellent job of recruiting. We will have several true freshmen who will see action in the season opener. We’ll have more true freshmen play than we’ve had since my first year at Tech (in 1997). They deserve to play, and I’m excited to see how they develop.”
Click here to view video from the Wonder Boys' preparations for their season opener.
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