Thompson praises experienced offensive line for success

UNA running back Lamonte Thompson listens for the playcall against Gulf South Conference opponent Florida Tech, where the Lions won 55-48. Thompson is one of the leading rushers in the nation this season and gives credit to his blockers.

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel

The UNA football team (3-0, 2-0 Gulf South Conference) is off to a hot start, including a 55-48 conference win over the Florida Institute of Technology last Saturday.

The win was the 109th for UNA head coach Bobby Wallace, tying him with the late Hal Self — who coached from 1949-70 — for the most in school history.

Much of UNA’s success this season is credited to senior running back Lamonte Thompson, who has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his three games this season. Thompson is in the top 10 nationally in rushing yards per game this season.

Thompson said he credits the offensive line for his tremendous success thus far.

“The offensive line has really picked it up since last season,” Thompson said. “They have definitely improved and are finishing their blocks. It means a lot to have their leadership. They know what they are doing.”

The five starters up front for the Lions are seniors Rod Winston and Jalen Beavers, followed by juniors Steven Evans, Cody Vaughn and Jess Cooper.

Thompson also credited fullback Ryan Harper, who typically lead blocks for the ball carrier.

“He does a great job of getting position on guys,” Thompson said. “A lot of people think it’s all about making big hits, but it’s really about getting position. That helps me run around guys.”

UNA offensive line coach Scott Harper said he had no problems deciding a starting five on the line coming into this season.

“This is the first fall since I’ve been here where we’ve known who our five starters were going to be,” Harper said. “They all went through spring together, which was huge. They communicate well. It’s a good fit with those five guys.”

Harper said while it is always nice to hear Thompson and other players give credit to his offensive line, he believes those players help the linemen just as much.

“Having the best running back in the country back there makes things a lot easier,” Harper said. “He can make us look better than we really are at times and vice versa.”

While the starting five have a big role in the offensive success this season, Harper said he believes the line has a vast amount of depth.

“We have at least eight or nine guys we can throw in at anytime and function well,” he said. “I have no problem playing any of those eight or nine guys. That’s more than we’ve had in the past. It’s a big help keeping our guys fresh and playing full-speed for four quarters.”

Winston, a three-year letterman who has played all positions on the offensive line throughout his career, said having the experience of this group is important.

Experience is key,” he said. “It gives an advantage over our opponent having game experience. From freshman year to becoming a senior, it’s become second nature to me.”

Winston said while he realizes he and his teammates up front will not usually receive praise from the media, it is rewarding for him to hear his players credit the line day in and day out.

“It’s really special to me,” Winston said. “They are really humble, and they know that their success is also our success. We all play for one another. We are all brothers.”

The Lions look to remain undefeated on the road against conference rival Valdosta State Oct. 3.