WAAY 31's Sports Director Jesse Merrick was in Florence Wednesday to see the Lions start another day of Spring ball.
The University of North Alabama football team is putting Division II in the rear view mirror.
“It’s the first year and we’re the foundation for that Division I title so we just want to come out and do the best that we can, set a foundation for the next guys coming up and hopefully build the program to a powerhouse like we were in D2," said Chris Johnson, All-American Safety in 2017.
The first level of that foundation starts here in spring, where the Lions are bringing back 50 letterman from 2017. The group will carry the torch to push this team to the next level. “The energy is extremely high. We didn’t have the season that we wanted to last year, so we’re hungry and we’re taking every day as serious as we can to prepare for the fall coming up,” said Wide Receiver Austin Hicks.
The 5-5 season wasn’t what they had hoped for. So, offensively they are starting over with a new coordinator and a new system.
“It’s the offense, defensive coordinators don’t want to see now a days. Up tempo, you hear every defensive coordinator and some head coaches complain about it on a regular basis," said UNA Head Coach Chris Willis.
The Lions return 18 of their top 23 tacklers from a year ago. The group only gave up 17.5 points per game! Even with a new coordinator on that side of the ball, the group has not missed a beat.
“They got a lot of experience, a lot of depth and right now I think the position in need is just kind of watching our d-line. We’re really good right now but we’re not very deep,” said Coach Willis.
In other news, Auburn sophomore guard Mustapha Heron has declared for the NBA draft. Heron said he does plan to sign with an agent, which would make him ineligible to return to college basketball.