FLORENCE — Quarterback is not the only position where North Alabama will be making a change this week.
The Lions will make a change at kicker this week with Taylor Pontius replacing Michael Schuster on field goals and extra points, coach Bobby Wallace confirmed Tuesday. Earlier in the week Wallace announced that freshman Luke Wingo would make his first start at quarterback in place of junior Chris Alexander.
Pontius will get his opportunity Thursday as UNA (5-2, 2-1 GSC) plays at West Georgia (2-4, 0-3) at 6:30 p.m. The game will be regionally televised by CSS.
The change in kickers comes after Schuster missed field goal attempts of 53 and 36 yards in last Saturday’s 24-21 loss to Valdosta State.
“Michael is in a little bit of a slump,” Wallace said. “He’s missed three in a row, although one was from 53 yards and it barely missed, but I made the decision to go with Taylor this week.”
Schuster has made 7-of-12 field goal attempts this season and is 17-of-20 on extra point kicks. The former Decatur standout tied a school record with five field goals in a game against Kentucky Christian.
Since that game, however, Schuster has not made a field goal, going 0-for-3 in the past four games.
Pontius has been handling UNA’s kickoff duties since the Kentucky Christian game. He is averaging 65 yards per kickoff and has 18 touchbacks in 27 kicks.
“This is no different than at quarterback or any other position,” Wallace said. “We’ve got two quality kickers and one is in a little slump so we’ll go with the other one. It doesn’t mean that Michael is going to be on the bench forever.”
Pontius, a junior from Biloxi, Miss., signed with UNA in December and went through spring drills. He has yet to attempt a field goal for the Lions, but was 3-for-3 on extra points after replacing Schuster in the second half against Valdosta State.
“Taylor deserves an opportunity,” Wallace said. “It’s like the change we made at quarterback in that it’s more of a case of the other guy doing well than the start doing something wrong. It’s a team thing and we still have confidence in both guys.”
Schuster will continue to handle the punting duties. He ranks second in the Gulf South Conference with an average of 41.7 yards per punt.
Wallace said the two kickers are pretty much even in terms of range.
“Both guys have an outstanding leg,” he said. “Taylor has the ability to make a 55- or 60-yard field goal, just like Michael.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.