FLORENCE — A 16-day layoff between games has given North Alabama a chance to recover from some nagging injuries and the Lions (5-3) hope to be almost at full strength when they host Tarleton State (4-4) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
One player expected to be back Saturday is Brian Sutherland. The senior wide receiver has missed the past five games after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.
“Brian has been back on offense this week and has looked good,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “He’s not in great shape as far as conditioning because he hasn’t been running for four or five weeks, but it will be good to have him back.”
Sutherland, who sat out the 2011 season after transferring from Tennessee-Chattanooga, was expected to give the Lions a deep threat in the passing game this season. He caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Chris Alexander that proved to be the difference in UNA’s season-opening 31-30 victory over Miles College.
In three games, Sutherland has five catches for 64 yards and one touchdown.
The Lions have made several changes at linebacker since Rod Woodson was lost for the season with a broken leg midway through the season.
They will make another change Saturday when Donelli Johnson starts at the Will linebacker spot with Brion James sliding over to the nickle linebacker spot where freshman Brian Barnett started the past two games.
It will be the first start of the season for Johnson, who has recorded 15 total tackles.
Wallace said he expects sophomore Cedrick Wilcox and freshman Edderick Harris to also see playing time at linebacker. Wilcox moved from fullback to linebacker before the Texas A&M-Kingsville game on Oct. 6. Harris, a former R.A. Hubbard standout, has played mainly on special teams in the first eight games.
Wilson leads GSC
Middle linebacker Tavarius Wilson is coming off a career-best performance in the 38-23 loss to West Georgia.
The junior recorded a 18 total tackles, including his first career sack against the Wolves. Wilson also had two quarterback hurries.
Wilson continues to lead the Gulf South Conference in tackles with 85 (10.6 per game). Teammate Caleb Massey is second in the conference with 74 total tackles (9.2 per game).