Challenges ahead for Wallace’s return

 Bobby Wallace adresses the team during a team meeting in the spring.

New head football coach Bobby Wallace has difficult challenges ahead in his return to UNA next season.

Wallace has to find a way to replace 17 starters who had a lot of experience from last season and also will rely on some youth going into the fall.

“I have been impressed with the players with how they have responded with the staff, the work ethic that they have shown and also having a good attitude about it,” Wallace said.

Even with the amount of talent that was lost from last year’s team, Wallace has been pleased with what he has seen so far

“I’m very impressed with the talent that we have,” he said. “I think if we were to play a game today, we would be very thin, but we would have a good football team on the field. We are going to have to develop a few players for next year, but talent-wise, we got some good looking athletes.”

Wallace said some of the big concerns in spring training are the depth at the offensive line, and also at the quarterback position learning the new system.

“We only have five bodies that can practice on the offensive line,” Wallace said. “We have to be careful, because if we have one offensive lineman get injured, then we’re done, so we are going to be doing a lot of seven-on-seven to protect that.”

At the quarterback position, the Lions lost two-year starter Lee Chapple to graduation and will look to Chris Alexander to replace him, who has had game experience in the past.

“I think the quarterback position is an important position, and learning the offense and getting the experience are big, and I think we have a good candidate in (Alexander),” Wallace said. “I like everything about him, but he has to get the experience in.”

The next challenge that Wallace will have to face in his first season as coach is having to play more youth than in years past. Wallace signed the largest recruiting class in UNA history, signing 41 players, including 37 from high schools.

“We signed 38 high school players to come in, and they all won’t be superstars, but what I hope is a high majority of them will be great people, good students, and will work hard over the next four years,” Wallace said. “Out of those 38, I hope five or six turn out to be great players.”

With this being his first recruiting class back at UNA, Wallace has shown a complete reversal of how the previous regime recruited and what he wants to do for years to come.

“In the future, if we recruit 75 percent high school, 20 percent community college and every once in a while take in a transfer players for the right reasons, who are wanting to play more and get their degree,” Wallace said. “I think we can be very successful with this philosophy.”

Wallace said UNA has built a healthy relationship back with high school coaches around the area and he doesn’t think it will be a problem recruiting around the area.

“Almost every high school we went into, the coaches knew who I was and understood what we are trying to build here,” Wallace said. “I think they were very happy to see us recruit in the high school level again and give their kids an opportunity.”

UNA does have seven junior college transfers that have signed with UNA in the fall who are participating in spring. The four that were signed along with the high school seniors this spring won’t report to training until the fall.

“I think our transfer players have looked really good,” Wallace said. “We have Tavarius Wilson, who will be playing middle linebacker for us, and also Melvin Harris from Ole Miss, who has looked good at receiver.”

Going forward, Wallace said he believes this recruiting class will define what UNA will be during the next four years.

“Division II has turned into a transfer league, but when we were winning championships, we relied on high school players, and I want to prove that we can do it again,” Wallace said.