Lions hope to build on last season

Lions quarteback Lee Chapple prepares to deliver a pass during a football game last seaon. With a year of experience under his belt, Chapple looks to build on his experience from last season.

With a lot of players returning and some talented newcomers, the UNA football team is looking to build onto last season as the team prepares for a run at the title

After a 9-4 finish to last year’s season, the Lions return 38 lettermen for 2011, including starting quarterback Lee Chapple, the team’s top rushers, key veterans on the offensive line, and new key pieces to the team, including Janoris Jenkins, DeAndre Morgan and James Brooks, with all three having plenty of experience at the Division I level.

“They have all the potential in the world, and we have goals of winning a conference championship and national championship, but they haven’t won anything yet, and they know they are going to have to work to achieve it,” said Head Coach Terry Bowden.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions returned eight starters back from last year’s team, including a year of experience for starting quarterback Chapple under his belt.

“We have a lot more players coming back and a lot more experience with last year’s team,” Bowden said.

“Lee just has to continue to get better and become one of the team leaders, and that will go a long way.”

Chapple threw for 3,051 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, but with loads of talent at the running back position and a veteran offensive line coming back, Bowden looks for a little more balance.

“We have a lot of talent in the backfield for us this year, and if our line stays healthy, they could be one of our strong points on the team,” Bowden said.

The returning backfield includes Wes Holland, a senior from Pelham, who was last year’s leading rusher, with 716 yards and seven touchdowns.

Chris Coffey, a sophomore from Decatur, Antwan Ivey, a senior from Newberry, Fla., incoming freshman Lamonte Thompson, from Florence, and transfer from the University of Alabama Demetrius Goode, fill up the backfield.

Bowden said the receiver position is something to keep an eye on, as it is still wide open.

“We really have some talent on the outside, but players still need to step up,” he said.

Coming into camp on the defensive side of the ball was a concern for the Lions only returning two starters from last year’s team.

“We only have two full-time starters back, but we have quite a few returning lettermen that played a lot last year,” Bowden said.

The secondary position looks to be the strength of the team, led by transfer Jenkins, a senior from the University of Florida, who received All-Southeastern Conference honors last year and could be a potential first round draft pick next year.

“Everybody we play against is going to want to test Jenkins to see how good he really is, and he will have the spotlight on him all season,” Bowden said.

Along with Jenkins, the secondary is loaded with Division I experience. Morgan, a transfer player from the University of North Carolina State, Caleb Massey, from Troy University and Nick Williams from the University of Georgia fill up the secondary

At linebacker, UNA has eight returning lettermen, led by senior Lucas Darr of Clearwater, Fla. Darr is UNA’s leading returning tackler from last year with 45 total stops. Bowden feels the addition of University of Georgia transfer Marcus Dowtin will help solidify the unit.

With the departure of the six Arkansas members of the Gulf South Conference, the league has just five remaining football-playing schools, and those four conference games will be UNA’s final four games of the season.

“Even though we lost those schools we still have the core teams of our conference still here, but it makes the pressure to win every game that much higher,” Bowden said.

The Lions are scheduled to play their first game of the season Sept. 1 at home against Central Oklahoma, kicking off at 7 p.m.