There were no major surprises for North Alabama coach Bobby Wallace on Wednesday.
The Lions signed 27 players on national signing day to go with three transfers that signed in December and are already enrolled at UNA. Wallace’s second signing class includes 20 freshman and seven transfers.
“We feel good about having 10 older guys join our program,” Wallace said. “Our junior class is very small, so this will help balance it out and give us a good senior class for the next year.
“We also are very pleased to sign 20 high school kids, 17 of which are within a 100-mile radius of us. There are so many advantages in signing local kids, but they have to be able to play, and these kids can play.”
The class is heavy on defense, including seven defensive lineman. The Lions also added six linebackers and five defensive backs as well as three players signed as athletes that could be defensive backs.
Among the defensive players signed Wednesday is Tanner linebacker Fred Rich. The Class 2A Lineman of the Year, Rich led Tanner’s defense with 66 tackles and two interceptions as the Rattlers won the Class 2A title.
Former Deshler standout J.R. White is another linebacker signee. White played the past two seasons at Northeast (Miss.) Community College.
Russellville had four players sign with the Lions, including linebackers Logan Ezzell and Bud Coleman, defensive back Jordan Gist and running back Tyler Boyd, who will likely play wide receiver or defensive back at UNA.
“I’ve always wanted to go to UNA, playing football there is just a bonus,” Gist said. “Playing with guys who wore the black and gold like me is very special.”
At Lauderdale County, Tyler Smith and Brian Puckett each signed with the Lions. Smith was an outstanding center, but will play defensive tackle at UNA.
“UNA is the place I want to be,” Smith said. “Coach Wallace is a great coach. They had a great recruiting class last year and have a lot of good players returning. The team is on the rise and I want to be a part of it.”
Puckett was an all-state player at defensive end but expects to play tight end for the Lions.
“The players at UNA is very close, just like a family,” Puckett said. “I like the morals that Coach Wallace has and the intangibles he talks about. I’ve seen the talent that they are recruiting and the program is definitely on the rise.”
Other area players signing with UNA are Florence offensive lineman Laurence Carmichael and Muscle Shoals defensive back Levi Fell.
Around the state, UNA signed athlete Trae Kyles, wide receiver Tevin Cook and defensive tackle Shaquan Glass from Handley High School in Roanoke. Cook had 30 catches for 620 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. Kyles finished with over 1,100 yards rushing and returned three interceptions for scores, while Glass recorded 60 tackles and 10 sacks.
Dora’s Kai Thomas ran for 2,134 yards and scored 39 touchdowns as a senior. He is expected to play cornerback for the Lions.
In addition to Cook, UNA added two other wide receivers in Columbia (Tenn.) Central’s Dre Hall and Korey Jones, of Southwest (Miss.) Community College. Hall had 74 catches for 1,286 yards and 11 TDs as a senior.
Wallace said the Lions filled their needs very well with this recruiting class.
“We signed a heavy dose of defense,” he said. “We feel like we’ve added good depth at linebacker and created good competition on the defensive line and at cornerback. Offensively we wanted some taller wide receivers and we signed three guys all 6-1 or taller.
“This is a talented group of players, who are also good people. We feel like these young men can help us win a national championship.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.
Sports writers Bryan App and Jeff Edwards contributed to this report.