FLORENCE — North Alabama has had several important visitors stop by football practice in the past week.
Those visitors are NFL scouts, who have dropped by to check out the Lions. Scouts from the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers have all stopped by UNA.
Head coach Chris Willis said it is not unusual for the scouts to come by this time of year, although there have been more visits than usual this year.
“It is somewhat normal,” Willis said. “We had a lot of them coming in back when coach (Terry) Bowden was here and we had all of the transfers coming in. Last year we probably had 25 of the 32 teams come through.
“We have had more this year because of Chris Johnson and not just because we are Division I now. Chris is getting a lot of looks and many scouts have told us he could be drafted. He put up really good numbers at the spring workout for the scouts and they love the film they see of him.”
Johnson, the Lions’ senior safety, is coming off a season in which he earned first-team All Gulf South Conference honors and was named to several All-America teams. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Birmingham native recorded 50 tackles and intercepted 6 passes in his first season at UNA.
Willis said Johnson is not the only UNA senior drawing some interest from the scouts.
“Chris has brought a lot of scouts here, but they also look at our other guys,” he said. “They look at Cole Hardin, who came from Vandy, as well as Joshua Amanfo, Jaylin Dailey and Maurice Burton. It’s always nice to see your players getting looks from the NFL.”
Waiting on Morris
UNA has been practicing for almost two weeks now and junior college transfer Riko Morris has yet to take the field with his new team.
The wide receiver transfer from Jones (Mississippi) Community College had to finish up a class this summer to be eligible for the 2018 season. Morris was expected to step right in and help a talented but inexperienced group of wide receivers.
Willis said Morris would join the team by today.
“His class is complete and he has passed,” Willis said. “It is just a matter of getting it processed and we hope to have him here by Thursday. We still expect him to help out at wide receiver.”
The Lions, meanwhile, are also waiting on freshmen defensive tackle Khamari Brown to join the team. The former Hoover standout also had to finish up some academic work in the summer. Willis said Brown has completed the work, but has not yet been cleared by the NCAA.
“He is eligible, but there is nothing he or we can do right now,” Willis said. “It is just a matter of the paperwork getting processed. It is frustrating because we felt like he had a chance to help us this year. He still could, but he is going to have a lot of work to do and might not be ready for the first couple of games.”
Several Lions who missed last week’s scrimmage have returned to practice this week. That list includes tight ends Blake Bean and Corson Swan (concussions) and defensive end Drew Beddingfield (high ankle sprain).
Freshman wide receiver Takairee Kenebrew remains out with a high ankle sprain, while sophomore linebacker Christon Taylor has missed time with a pulled hamstring. Senior quarterback Matt Markham has been sick and missed some practices.
UNA will hold its second scrimmage of fall camp Saturday at Braly Stadium. The Lions will have team photos made beforehand and hope to start the scrimmage at 10 a.m.
“We are not ready to make decisions off one scrimmage,” Willis said. “We’ll go the rest of this week, scrimmage Saturday and then we will start putting more people in position for a depth chart.”