190806 UNA football practice 29

UNA quarterback Christian Lopez hands of to Ron Thompson earlier this week. The Lions will have a controlled scrimmage today, their first of fall practice. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

After 10 days of practice, North Alabama football coach Chris Willis and his staff will get to see the Lions on their home field for the first time this fall.

The Lions will have a controlled scrimmage at Braly Stadium today in which they will work on the kicking game, two-minute drill and run 60 plays in a scrimmage setting.

Willis said he is looking for a variety of things in what likely will be a two-hour practice. He is looking forward to seeing the team on a full-field for the first time. The Lions have spent their first 10 practices on their practice field adjacent to Flowers Hall and the Athletic Annex. 

“At Braly, the secondary will have its hands full,” he said. “It’s always a big issue. (The practice field) is a little tight and narrow and there is a lot more ground to cover (at Braly). We need to see the secondary out in space. I also want to see our wide receivers not go down by hand in open space. I want to see them making moves and making people miss.”

Willis also wants to see how well the Lions will tackle in the open field. Because teams don’t do as much contact work now hoping to prevent injuries, tackling is always a concern for coaches.

“That’s a concern, whether we are playing Western Illinois or scrimmage because it is hard to work on nowadays,” Willis said. “I’d like to see defense tackling and see running backs and WR make people miss. It’s would be the best of both worlds if you could get both, but usually the first time out the defense usually has the tougher end of it.”

Today’s scrimmage also will give coaches another day to evaluate players in a game-type setting. Willis said it likely won’t move players out of starting roles, but coaches will get a chance to see which of the second and third-team players might be able to help more than in just reserve roles.

“It’s not necessarily who is going to start but who out of the 2s and 3s can play and help us early,” Willis said. “We might redshirt a guy but should we be redshirting a guy? I want to make sure as a head coach that if we aren’t going to play that guy as a 1 or a 2; let’s make sure we are confident in where we are playing him. Is he just going to be a special teams guy? Should he be playing more? There are opportunities for some guys.”

UNA also will practice its two-minute drill.

“That will be huge,” Willis said. “On our practice field, in two or three plays you are halfway down the field, so we are going to stress it.”


 Ryan Taylor, a transfer defensive lineman from Arkansas State who signed in May, finally was cleared to join the Lions.

Taylor, a 6-foot-2, 303-pound native of Loganville, Georgia, redshirted in 2018 at Arkansas State. He was a three-star recruit who played at Class 7A Grayson High to a 10-2 record as a senior. Grayson won the state championship his junior season.

Taylor was at practice Friday but will not scrimmage today.

Three Lions will be held out of the scrimmage — linebacker Christon Taylor, DB Jordan Robinson and DB Will Singleton — due to nagging injuries.


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