FLORENCE, Ala.- The University of North Alabama returned to practice this week after taking time away from the field for spring break. On Friday, the Lions held their first spring scrimmage with every player, including quarterbacks, going live.
First year head coach Chris Willis says the goal this spring is to add depth to the team. He says the first scrimmage is a chance to evaluate who may be on the path to contributing come fall.
"I wanna see running backs run the ball while getting hit to the ground," Willis said. "Are they holding on to the ball, are they seeing the right reads? Can quarterbacks sit in the pocket and make the throws with the pressure coming and when it's time for them to run the ball, how do they run with the football? On the other side, I wanna see defense."
Redshirt sophomore and former Florence Falcon Blake Hawkins is taking over the starting quarterback role after serving as Jacob Tucker's backup last season. In 2016, Hawkins threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another two. The Lions have only a handful of spring practices in the book but Willis says he already sees significant growth from his quarterback.
"He's a great runner, he's a great runner. When you look at a guy that big that runs like that...we knew that part he had. We want his upper body to catch up with his lower body meaning making the right reads, get a little stronger. He's been in a great program this off season with Steve Herring, working really hard. You can already tell the difference in his arm strength."
UNA will wrap up spring practice with the annual Purple and White game on April 22nd at 11 a.m. at Braly Stadium.