Tucker takes helm as new starting quarterback

Jacob Tucker (16) gearing up for a pass during spring training. Tucker will receive his first test when UNA travels to rival Jacksonville State on Sept. 1.

With Harlon Hill trophy finalist Luke Wingo no longer under center for the UNA football team, many question how well the Lions will fare in 2016.

At UNA Media Day Aug. 8, head coach Bobby Wallace was quick to express his confidence in senior quarterback Jacob Tucker. Tucker, who played a limited role behind Wingo since his freshman year, emerges as the team’s incumbent starter.

“Jacob is going to be our quarterback,” Wallace said. “There aren’t enough words I can say to show how much he means to this program. He’s a great leader and has all of the qualities that we would look for in a quarterback.”

Tucker said he’s been waiting on this moment since he signed with the team in 2012.

“The past couple of years, I feel like Luke and I have kind of co-led the offense,” Tucker said. “Obviously, he was the starter. He did a lot for us and had a great career here. I feel like I still had a hand in leading the offense.

“But this year, I don’t have Luke as that helping hand. One thing that I’ve had to adjust to is leading everybody instead of just leading a couple of guys individually.”

The 2012 quarterback battle came down to former UNA player Chris Alexander, and his backup was to be either Wingo or Tucker, Wallace said. Tucker had an injury days before Wallace’s decision, causing him to redshirt Tucker and use Wingo as a backup.

“Being redshirted was some of the toughest four months of my life,” Tucker said. “But what that did for me was make me grow in patience, and it taught me a lot of life lessons that other things couldn’t have taught me.”

Midway through the 2012 season, Wingo took the starting job from Alexander, while Tucker continued practicing as a redshirt. Tucker surfaced as the team’s second-string quarterback in 2013.

Many have asked the Linden, Tennessee, native why he didn’t transfer to another school, but Tucker said he could not pass up an opportunity to represent the university he feels he owes a lot to.

“The fact of the matter is that UNA took a chance on me,” he said.  “I’m really appreciative that they recruited me and offered me a scholarship.  I want to repay them the best way I can, and that’s by dedicating myself to the game and representing this university to the best of my ability.”

Tucker played in nearly every game the last two seasons as a back up, with only one full start against Western Oregon in 2014. The Lions defeated the Wolves 30-10 with Tucker throwing for 76 yards and 1 touchdown.

“The obvious change is having a lot more playing time,” Tucker said. “That’s something I’ll have to get used to, not only mentally but physically.”

Not only will the team have a first-year quarterback, but former wide receivers coach Steadman Campbell enters his first season as the team’s offensive coordinator.

Campbell said inheriting a player like Tucker makes his new job easier.

“It’s a little bit different being a starter as opposed to the backup, and we anticipate him to fit in very well in that role,” Campbell said. “As a new coordinator, you can’t really put into words how comforting it is to have a guy like Jacob, not only his ability to play quarterback, but his leadership skills as well.”

Not only is the coaching staff confident in Tucker, but so are his teammates, said senior tackle Stephen Evans.

“He makes everyone around him better,” Evans said. “He makes sure you bring you’re a-game and bring 110%, not 100%.”

Tucker leads his team into a new era against Jacksonville State Sept. 1.