Hardman calls on three former NFL players to help pull UAPB out of slump

Updated: August 22, 2003, 2:14 AM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- Lee Hardman, Arkansas' longest tenured college football coach, has suffered through back-to-back losing seasons for the first time, so he's hired some heavy hitters to help turn things around.

Hardman, who begins his 11th season on Aug. 30 against Alcorn State, has called on 38 years of NFL playing experience for help.

Former Washington Redskins linebacker Monte Coleman, Jackie Harris, a 13-year veteran tight end, and Willie Davis, who played caught 286 passes and 33 touchdowns in nine years as an NFL receiver, have joined Hardman's staff. All three are coaching the position they played in the NFL.

"They haven't been coaching ... but they have in a sense," Hardman said. "Jackie Harris said his situation the past two or three years has been that teams didn't bring him in for his legs, but for his knowledge to work with the younger players."

Coleman, who played 16 years in Washington and won three Super Bowl rings, grew up in Pine Bluff and was named one of the Redskins top 70 players ever last year. Davis played high school football at Altheimer and college football at Central Arkansas.

Hardman also welcomed 24 newcomers with his returning veterans and even though he has new assistants, everyone is adapting to their new surroundings. The Golden Lions are paying attention to their coaches.

"I think that what they've done means something and they can bring that to the team," Hardman said. "Players respect them because their dream is to do what they've done and be where they've been. I think the transition for them has been easy because of that."

Arkansas-Pine Bluff dropped to 3-8 in 2002, losing twice to NCAA Division II schools while winning just once in its last seven games.

Last year, the Golden Lions played one game at home in the first two months of the season. That forced a young team to learn how to play together on the road, making Hardman's job difficult.

UAPB started 2-2, which included a one-point loss to Southern, but a three-point loss to Division II Kentucky State on Sept. 28 sent the Golden Lions into a tailspin.

This year, UAPB plays out of the state just once before October. After playing Alcorn State, the Golden Lions face Mississippi Valley State at home, Central Arkansas in Little Rock and Alabama State at home.

"We need to win early to get the players confidence built up so they believe they can win," Hardman said.

Junior quarterback Antonio Lovelady returns to lead UAPB's offense. When healthy he was dangerous last year, throwing for 1,318 yards and 11 touchdowns in eight games.

The Golden Lions top two running backs also return with senior Calvin Thomas (446 yards, five TDs) and junior Billy Moody (383 yards, five TDs).

The offensive problem will be replacing the first 1,000-yard receiving duo in school history. Both Phillip Doolin and Korea McKay completed their eligibility at UAPB, but McKay was able to transfer to Central Arkansas so he'll play against his former teammates on Sept. 11.

Tight end Brian Jones is the Golden Lions top returning receiver after catching 35 passes for 425 yards and three touchdowns.

At receiver, Hardman brought in several players he thinks will help right away, including Jeremy Matthews from Mississippi Delta Community College, Charles Cash from Coahoma (Miss.) Community College and Ronald Moody from Virginia Tech.

Offense wasn't much of a problem last year, but the UAPB defense was the worst in the conference. It allowed 400.6 yards per game and 33.5 points per game. Nationally, those figures ranked 95th and 110th out of 128 Division I-AA schools.

Hardman brought in four junior college defensive backs and a couple of defensive linemen to help turn those numbers around.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index