Football team starts practice, prepares for fall season

Players run plays during Thursday’s practice on the UNA practice field. 

The Lions started the 2012 football season Thursday morning with their first practice that tested both incoming freshmen and upperclassmen.

After the standard warm-ups and stretching routines, the Lions moved into running drills for the next 30 minutes.  New UNA Head Football Coach Bobby Wallace said this running test is a good way to see who came back from the summer ready to work.

“We’re in pretty good shape and for the most part they have done a good job with conditioning,” Wallace said.  “Obviously there are some exceptions.”

Conditioning and skill alone would not win games for the Lions this fall, Wallace said.

“We are going to be young and somewhat inexperienced on both sides of the ball, but the talent is there,” Wallace said. “We’ve got the talent to win but we want the intangibles to be there as well.”

The Lions came back to the field after a break and split into defensive and offensive drills. Receivers spent time working on separation at the line of scrimmage while the running backs worked on cutting drills and ball security.  The quarterbacks started settling into the new spread-option offense that UNA will be running this fall.

Daniel Almon, a returning receiver for the Lions, said the offense is quite a bit different from last year, but they will be ready by the start of the season.

“We’re going to have some young faces in new places this fall, but we work hard,” Almon said.  “All the young guys have shown up in good shape and we’ve all been working hard to get this new offense down.”

Linebacker, Richie Mata’afa, said he liked the effort he saw at practice.

“Early on, it’s important that we don’t get in too big of a hurry but do the drills right,” Mata’afa said.  “We’re going to be young in some spots, but we are athletic at all positions. 

“Our defensive line and secondary are going to keep our intensity up all year.”

With UNA being picked to finish near the bottom of the conference, it’s apparent experts are concerned about the lack of returning starters on Wallace’s first team back as head coach.  Wallace disagreed.

“We’re going to control what we can,” he said. “We’re going to play hard, play smart, and not get stupid penalties.

“We had 22 players ready after spring, and these recruits are going to be helpful for our depth.  Hopefully they’ll start pushing some of these starters too.”

UNA continues practice through Aug. 17 before a scrimmage at Braly Stadium on Aug. 18 at 3:15 p.m.  The Lions start regular-season play at Legion Field against Miles College on Sept. 2.