2012 UAB Preview
UAB RB Greg Franklin
UAB RB Greg Franklin
Posted Aug 4, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - UAB Blazers

UAB Blazers

Preview 2012 

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Garrick McGee
First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 23, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 24
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.
2012 Schedule
Sep. 1 Troy
Sep. 15 at South Carolina
Sep. 22 at Ohio State
Sep. 29 Tulsa
Oct. 6 SE Louisiana
Oct. 13 at Houston
Oct. 20 East Carolina
Oct. 27 at Tulane
Nov. 3 at Southern Miss
Nov. 10 Marshall
Nov. 17 Memphis
Nov. 24 at UCF
Garrick McGee must really want to be a head coach.

The hotshot former assistant at Arkansas accepted what is arguably the toughest job in the FBS, attempting to manufacture wins and a positive climate in Birmingham. Since appearing in their only bowl game in 2004, the Blazers have strung together seven consecutive losing seasons. The facilities are subpar, support is almost non-existent and beating out Alabama or Auburn for local talent just isn't going to happen. UAB is perennially faced with an uphill climb, but not an impossible one.

McGee and his staff realize that they'll need to locate motivated, albeit raw, athletes who can gradually be transformed into productive players. The process will take a lot longer than one year, so patience will remain a requirement for Blazers backers.

The holdovers from 2011 were part of a team that won three of its final six games, providing a rare feel-good jolt to carry into the offseason. The offense features potential at the skill positions, an emerging cast flanking dual-threat QB Jonathan Perry. However, line play, on both sides of the ball, will determine just how far this team might ascend in the fall. The O-line lost four starters from an underrated crew, and the D-line was the first line for a defense that got to the quarterback just eight times all year.

There's renewed, albeit tempered, feeling of optimism now that Neil Callaway has been replaced by McGee on the sidelines. The new staff, though, has no overnight solutions for what ails a Blazers team that simply lacks the depth and talent to even keep pace in the East Division of Conference USA. The season ahead will be all about laying a sounder foundation that hopefully begins reaping more dividends in 2013. Hey, the situation in the summer could have been far worse; when Bobby Petrino was fired by Arkansas on April 10, it was McGee who was considered a possible contender to be his successor in Fayetteville.

What to watch for on offense: Perry and thrust. The 2012 offense is going to be in the exciting hands of junior QB Jonathan Perry, the improbable starter a year ago after Bryan Ellis was injured. Perry is a legitimate dual-threat, with the athleticism to beat defenses two ways. In 2011, for example, he rushed for 406 pre-sack yards, and threw 10 touchdown passes in his final six games. New head coach Garrick McGee, who has had a history of success transforming college quarterbacks, is eager to guide his latest pupil to a whole new level of competency and consistency.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers to be everywhere. The line is weak. And the last line of defense is sketchy. The fallout? The linebackers, primarily Marvin Burdette, Greg Irvin and Patrick Bastien, should be good for at least 250 tackles this season. The trio forms the backbone of a necrotic D that will once again have trouble slowing down the other team in 2012. UAB likes its linebackers to be quick to the ball, accountable in the open field and tenacious to the whistle. The current edition is going to meet the requirement.

The team will be far better if … it improves in the red zone … on both sides of the field. More wins will require more money plays near the end zone than UAB cultivated last season. In 2011, the Blazers ranked 118th nationally in red-zone touchdowns, producing six points in less than half of their trips deep into enemy territory. The defense wasn't much better, standing 103rd in the FBS. If the program can't improve here, in a big way, the results in the standing won't look much different than they did last season.

The Schedule: The Blazers have an interesting opener for McGee against Troy before getting a week off to prepare for a brutal two-game road stretch at South Carolina and Ohio State. Kicking off Conference USA play against Tulsa won't be easy, and going to Houston to kick off a run of three road games in four weeks won't be easy. If that wasn't bad enough, closing out at UCF is going to be a problem after hosting Marshall and Memphis in November.

Best Offensive Player: Senior OT Chris Hubbard. The play of the offensive line has been one of the pleasant surprises in Birmingham the last few years. Hubbard has been an important cog in that group. He's the lone returning starter of a unit that's been ripped apart by graduation. He'll also be asked to switch sides of the ball in order to support former All-Conference USA first-teamer Matt McCants. Hubbard was all-league honorable mention in 2011, showcasing exemplary athleticism and balance for a 6-4, 285-pounder.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Marvin Burdette. Burdette has been one of the most consistent players on defense for UAB since moving into the lineup as a rookie in 2009. Stout, instinctive and always wrapping up his target, he's one of the league's most consistent run defenders. At 5-11 and 230 pounds, he plays with the pad level that allows him to take on much bigger players drifting out to the second level. In laying the groundwork for what should be an All-Conference USA finale, Burdette racked up 92 tackles and 4.5 stops for loss a season ago.

Key players to a successful season: The defensive linemen. Eight sacks. That's all that the Blazers were able to generate in a dozen games last season. UAB was manhandled at the point of attack in 2011, impacting both the run defense and a secondary that found it impossible to hold up under the pressure. It'll be incumbent on this year's linemen, especially ends Diaheem Watkins, Chris Walton and Trey Grissett, to crank up more heat or else the rest of the D will once again pay the price.

The season will be a success if ... the team can surpass last year's three victories. The talent is marginal for the new coaching staff, so bowl-eligibility will likely be out of reach. Four victories, though, might be attainable with a schedule that includes meetings with Troy, Southeastern Louisiana, Tulane and Memphis. If the program can get to 4-8, it'll be a show of progress that transcends just moral victories, and actually reaches out to the standings.

Key game: Sept. 29 vs. Tulsa. This is a game that'll tell a lot about the character, fight and perseverance of Garrick McGee's first team in Birmingham. In the two previous weeks, the Blazers are likely to get whipped by South Carolina and Ohio State in Columbia and Columbus, respectively. How will they respond in a return back home to face the Golden Hurricane in their Conference USA opener? If UAB is still hanging its head and licking its wounds, it could be a long and deflating season. If, however, the team plays angry and with something to prove, it could be dangerous over the final two months.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: UAB 20.2 – Opponents 36.8
- Sacks: UAB 8 – Opponents 18
- Time of possession: UAB 30:00 - Opponents 30:00
- 2012 UAB Preview | 2012 UAB Offense
- 2012 UAB Defense | 2012 UAB Depth Chart