Seasoned Lions prepare for tough GSC gauntlet

Football Head’s Coach Bobby Wallace explains some new changes about the upcoming season. Media Day was held on Monday in the GUC.

With 15 starters returning and a top-five ranking in Lindy’s Sports preseason poll, the North Alabama football team should have no problem having success this season, right?

Think again.

According to UNA head coach Bobby Wallace, this year’s Gulf South Conference group will be the toughest group in history to play.

“I’ve seen some great teams (in the Gulf South Conference),” Wallace said. “Have I ever seen this many in one year? No. We know there will not be any let up this season, so we have to have the mindset to win a big game and get refocused fast.”

The GSC coaches picked the Lions to finish third in the conference, despite winning a share of the GSC championship the past two seasons. The coaches picked West Georgia as the preseason favorite to win the GSC, followed by last year’s shareholder, Delta State.

With 56 lettermen returning, Wallace said the experience of his team would be an advantage for the Lions playing through a hard 2015 schedule.

“They have played a lot of ball and have a lot of experience,” Wallace said. “Experience goes a long way. Our offense can make adjustments on the run, even if we didn’t practice something that week because they have so much experience.”

Wallace said depth would be important for any team to survive in the GSC this season.

“The biggest thing when playing the type of schedule we have is depth,” Wallace said. “We can only travel 60 players and we have 56 lettermen coming back who have played.”

With eight offensive starters returning and the same offensive coaching system in place for four seasons, senior quarterback Luke Wingo said he is confident heading into 2015.

“We have a ton of experience,” Wingo said. “We’ve played in a bunch of big games and that helps. It’s important knowing that we can go into camp and just pick up where we finished last year.”

Senior running back Lamonte Thompson said he likes the idea of “proving everyone wrong” as opposed to being the favorite.

“I feel like it’s going to make us play with a chip on our shoulder,” Thompson said. “Being picked third in the conference feels like disrespect with the talent we have coming back.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions return six starters and 22 lettermen.

Wallace said the team will be especially strong at secondary, where he believes he can rotate five players at the cornerback position.

Senior safety Floyd Jones said he has high expectations for the UNA secondary heading into this season.

“I feel like we are the best in the country talent-wise (at secondary),” Jones said. “We have a lot of potential and could hopefully break some records. We are all pretty good and will all have to compete for our starting jobs.”

Jones said he believes every conference game will be tough this season, especially with the amount of experienced offenses his team will face in the league.

“The GSC is basically the SEC of Division II football,” Jones said. “We will have to step up every week against a lot of tough offenses. We have to take it one game at a time and not look forward to the next week.”

The Lions will play their season opener against Miles College at Legion Field in Birmingham Sept. 6.