About the only certainty when it comes to North Alabama’s backfield is that Christian Lopez is the starting quarterback.
After that, offensive coordinator Ryan Aplin still is evaluating who the top running backs and the backup quarterback will be.
After seven days of preseason practice, if Aplin has an idea of the answers to those questions, he’s not telling. Instead, he said, “Evaluations for me are every day.”
On Tuesday, Aplin said Lopez, a senior who threw for 2,184 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, has looked good early in camp. His footwork has improved and he is embracing a leadership role.
“Last year he was here for a month and then we were in camp,” Aplin said. “He is starting to see things differently than he did last year. He’s still getting a feel for me and likewise.”
Lopez hasn’t been perfect, but Aplin said he looks comfortable.
“He has had a couple of busts early in practice he knows he has to fix, but you don’t scheme for your defense at practice,” Aplin said. “He has to do a better job of locking in and identifying coverages when he is out there and make sure he sees it right.”
Finding Lopez’s backup isn’t something that will be rushed, Aplin said.
“I’ve got three really good quarterbacks and a good freshman who came in and did a good job picking it up,” Aplin said. “It’s going to be tough for me as we push forward.”
Battling for the backup role are redshirt juniors Duncan Hodges and Blake Dever, redshirt freshman Rett Files and freshman Ryan Eledge.
“You can’t rush it,” Aplin said. “We still haven’t had a scrimmage yet, so you try to keep those reps as even as possible. You want those guys to get as many as they can. They understand some days they don’t get as many.”
The key, Aplin said, is making the most of what reps a player gets.
“You have to be prepared,” he said. “That goes with they have to come in on their own time and sacrifice maybe a nap or a video game. I don’t like to jump to conclusions too quickly unless a guy absolutely separates himself. It’s one of those thing where these guys just need to get comfortable and you want to see consistency.”
Aplin said it is the same thing with the running backs. Terence Humphrey is the top returning rusher, although he posted modest numbers last season with 290 yards and two TDs. Lopez had 220 yards and five touchdowns.
Aplin is equally excited about the depth at running back as he is with the quarterbacks.
“A lot of people talked about the physicality that room has brought,” he said. “You love to see that because that is what that room is all about.”
The Lions will scrimmage at Braly Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and that should give Aplin a little better idea of which players have separated themselves. But he’s not going to make a hasty decision.
“You have to give it time,” he said. “Those two positions, you can’t rush. Both rooms have a lot of depth. There’s a lot of good competition, so it is exciting to see that.”
The Lions had a short scrimmage for freshmen and newcomers late in Tuesday’s practice.
“Sometimes you get caught up in camp and you don’t give them as much,” coach Chris Willis said. “I want to make sure we get enough film, so we ran about 20 or 25 plays so we can evaluate them all on that and some other things they did.”
Willis said the Lions remain relatively healthy. Two players left practice after colliding during the scrimmage portion as a precautionary measure. Linebacker Christon Taylor and DB Jordan Robinson have nagging hamstring issues. Wide receiver dexter Boykin will have an MRI on an injured foot, but Willis said it doesn’t appear to be serious.
Willis said freshman defensive back Camryn Feagins of Central-Phenix City has had a good first week of camp.
“From what I have seen, he’s a young guy who might can play early and pass some people up,” Willis said. “(Linebacker) Jacob Cummings that seems to be all over and making plays.”