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2011 UAB Preview
UAB LB Marvin Burdette
UAB LB Marvin Burdette
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 17, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - UAB Blazers


UAB Blazers

Preview 2011 


- 2011 UAB Preview | 2011 UAB Offense
- 2011 UAB Defense | 2011 UAB Depth Chart
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- By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Neil Callaway
5th year: 15-33
Returning Lettermen
Off. 17, Def. 20, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best UAB Players
1. LT Matt McCants, Sr.
2. DT Elliott Henigan, Sr.
3. LB Marvin Burdette, Jr.
4. QB Bryan Ellis, Sr.
5. RB Pat Shed, Sr.
6. S Jamie Bender, Sr.
7. WR Patrick Hearn, Jr.
8. WR Nick Adams, Sr.
9. CB T.J. Ballou, Sr.
10. LB Daniel White, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 OPEN DATE
Sep. 10 at Florida
Sep. 17 Tulane
Sep. 24 at East Carolina
Oct. 1 at Troy
Oct. 8 Mississippi St
Oct. 15 at Tulsa
Oct. 22 UCF
Oct. 29 at Marshall
Nov. 5 Houston
Nov. 12 at Memphis
Nov. 19 Southern Miss
Nov. 26 at Florida Atlantic

If fifth-year head coach Neil Callaway is going to get UAB over the wall, this season is as good as any to get it done.

Callaway has had predictable struggles in his first four years with the Blazers, a program with poor facilities, limited tradition, and Alabama and the rest of the SEC signing the area’s best players. The school hasn’t had a winning record since 2004, and whatever fan support that existed during the days of QB Darrell Hackney has been quickly evaporating. The team is flat-lining, and the staff recognizes that another losing season won’t be tolerated.

The promising news in Birmingham is that last year’s squad went 4-8 with very few seniors. The current edition is a veteran ensemble, with solid line play and a senior back behind center for a second straight season. Plus, the 2010 team was actually better than that record, accumulating confidence in close calls versus the SEC’s Tennessee and Mississippi State. There’s reason for optimism provided the Blazers can start learning how to win the tight ones.

UAB is going to take its cue in 2011 from the backfield tandem of QB Bryan Ellis and RB Pat Shed, two of last year’s biggest surprises. While Ellis came out of nowhere to throw 25 touchdowns, the versatile Shed amassed more than 1,300 yards from scrimmage. With those two operating behind a line that returns LT Matt McCants and three other starters, the Blazers are going to move the chains this season. The defense loses just a couple of starters, but after yielding nearly 32 points a game, it remains to be seen if that’s a blessing or a curse.

UAB will enter the upcoming season with a veteran team and very little margin for error. Callaway and his assistants have worked hard to change the program’s culture, but moral victories rarely save jobs. This staff needs to produce or else its fate will be in the hands of a frustrated administration in December.

What to watch for on offense: The development of the young receivers. The wideouts are the one missing piece of the puzzle for an offense that has chance to be very. Four of last season’s top seven pass-catchers are gone, leaving a running back as the most productive holdover. The Blazers will lean on a combination of veterans and freshmen, hoping they can support Bryan Ellis and the passing game. While Patrick Hearn and Jackie Williams flashed upside a year ago, it’s time for Nick Adams to shine and reach his full potential.

What to watch for on defense: Go West young men. A problem for years in Birmingham, UAB is entrusting its tattered D to long-time veteran coach Tommy West. At face value, it appears to be a great choice by head man Neil Callaway. West is a Conference USA veteran from his days leading Memphis, and has a deep and decorated resume. A no-nonsense preacher, he’ll command strong fundamentals from his Blazers. While the talent isn’t going to change, the new coordinator has a chance to get more out of it.

The team will be far better if … it begins to dominate in close games. UAB was embroiled in a bunch of nail-biters, winning two but losing four games that were decided by five points or fewer. Simply reversing that record would have made the Blazers bowl-eligible. The program fully expects to be in a bunch of tight contests this fall, and needs to do a better job of delivering over the final 15 minutes.

The Schedule: The Blazers get an extra week to prepare for the season starts, and then the fun kicks off with a date at Florida. The key will be to sharpen up as much as possible with two Conference USA games to follow against Tulane and at East Carolina. Going to Troy will be another tough, feisty game to deal with, and there's no letting up with Mississippi State, at Tulsa, and UCF to follow. The Blazers get an awful break playing both Houston and Southern Miss from the the West, but at least the games are at home.

Best Offensive Player: Senior LT Matt McCants. The senior has already been getting attention from NFL scouts, which doesn’t happen regularly to linemen in Birmingham. A member of last year’s All-Conference USA First Team, he was one of the primary reasons UAB led the league with the fewest sacks allowed. At 6-7 and 295 pounds, he has the long arms needed to fend off pass rushers and the quick feet to get out of his stance in a flash. He’ll be one of the best-kept secrets on campus this fall.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Elliott Henigan. The disruptive leader of a veteran Blazer front, Henigan is fresh off a Second Team All-Conference USA junior campaign. Entering his third season as a starter, he was difficult to block in 2010. Despite drawing the other team’s best blocker and occasional double-teams, he still managed to collect 55 tackles, 15.5 stops behind the line, and 2.5 sacks. He plays with perpetual energy, often outworking his man in the late stages of games.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DE Conner Boyett. The Blazers have to do a better job of reaching the quarterback this season or else the defensive results are going to be painfully familiar. Now, the responsibility isn’t solely on Boyett’s shoulders, but the coaches are cautiously optimistic he can make an impact early in his career. He was overwhelmed at times as a rookie, but has added weight and fashioned a solid offseason so far.

The season will be a success if ... UAB bowls for the first time in seven years. After making the kinds of gains that don’t always show up in the standings, the Blazers need a tangible accomplishment. For a school that’s been mired in mediocrity for so long, a postseason invitation and a nationally-televised appearance in December would do wonders for the program, the staff, and the fans. While never an easy goal, six wins is not out of reach for this veteran group.

Key game: Oct. 8 vs. Mississippi State. The Blazers came so close to beating the Bulldogs last season, falling 29-24 in Starkville. This year’s meeting will be at Legion Field in front of a sparse yet excited home crowd looking to mount an SEC head on the wall. If UAB can bring it for all 60 minutes, it’ll have a chance to hand Neil Callaway and the staff the signature win it’s been seeking.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: UAB 23 – Opponents 12
- Average yards per rush: UAB 4.5 – Opponents 4.2
- Passing yards per game: UAB 267.0 - Opponents 248.2

- 2011 UAB Preview | 2011 UAB Offense
- 2011 UAB Defense | 2011 UAB Depth Chart