FLORENCE — Just a year ago the Lions entered spring practice with virtually no experience at quarterback.
One year later the position appears to be in good hands. The Lions expect to have plenty of talent and depth under center this fall.
Luke Wingo is back as the No. 1 quarterback after starting the final two games of the 2012 season as a true freshman. Senior Chris Alexander started the first nine games last season and gives the Lions an added dimension with his running ability.
Redshirt freshman Jacob Tucker was one of the most impressive newcomers in fall camp in 2012 before being injured. Tucker is back this spring, along with former Clay-Chalkville standout Jacob Thomas, who transferred to UNA after walking on at Troy in 2012.
"Chris and Jacob Tucker have been banged up a little, but all three quarterbacks have had a good spring," coach Bobby Wallace said. "I would not hesitate to play any of them. It's a good situation for us."
Wingo completed 61 of 110 passes for 845 yards during his freshman season. He threw three touchdown passes and three interceptions, while rushing for 241 yards and seven touchdowns.
Alexander struggled at times in the passing game, completing 51 of 103 passes for 618 yards and three touchdowns, while throwing three interceptions. Alexander finished second on the team with 480 yards rushing and six scores.
"We could have a special package for Chris because he gives us an added dimension as a runner," Wallace said. "He is almost like having a fullback under center.
"Luke is such a confident leader and he is only going to get better. He's definitely a better player now than he was in the fall."
Wingo said he is much more comfortable with UNA's spread-option offense after playing in all 10 games last season.
"I feel like I'm making better decisions now," Wingo said. "Last year every thing seemed so fast compared to high school, but things have slowed down for me now. Plus I know the playbook better and have good timing with our receivers."
Wallace said Tucker has shown he can make plays with his arm or as a runner. Tucker had several nice plays in last week's scrimmage before being injured late.
Thomas will be ineligible in 2013, but Wallace is pleased to have him in the program.
"It's really a unique situation we have with these four guys," Wallace said. "I would almost be comfortable not signing a quarterback for the next three years."
With outstanding depth at quarterback, UNA was able to move Kyle Crabtree to wide receiver. Crabtree saw limited playing time in 2012 as the No. 3 quarterback.
Wingo said the competition is making all of the quarterbacks better players.
"We're all friends and we hang out together, but it is good competition on the field," Wingo said. "We all bring a little something different to the table. With that competition you know you have to be on top of your game every day."
Wallace has been pleased with the offense as a whole this spring. He said the Lions also have outstanding depth at running back with Lamonte Thompson, Diamond Simmons, Eli Williams and Will Minor.
The Lions continue to look for depth at wide receiver behind Jason Smith and Lee Mayhall. The offensive line has been strengthened with the addition of former Samford tackle Keith Jones.
UNA will finish spring drills with Saturday's spring game at 10 a.m. at Braly Stadium. The teams will be divided up this year and it will be more of a game-type situation than last year's scrimmage.
"We're excited to be able to play more of a real game this year," Wallace said. "It should be competitive and I think the players and fans will enjoy it."
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.
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