UAB Preview 2006 - Defense
UAB Blazers
Posted Aug 6, 2006

UAB Blazers Preview 2006 - UAB Blazer Defense

What you need to know ... There will be plenty of position battles before the season opener with new defensive coordinator Rick Christophel keeping all his options open in the Blazer 4-3. Short on stars but long on experience, there are several jobs still up for grabs, especially in the secondary. Kevin Sanders appears to be ready to star at one corner spot while Chris Felder and Will Dunbar have to be solid at the safeties. Linebacker is solid with five good veterans returning, and there should be more of a pass rusher with all-star end Larry McSwain back. Size up front is an issue.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Orlandus King, 85
Sacks: Larry McSwain, 4
Interceptions: Several at 2

Star of the defense: Senior DE Larry McSwain
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Will Evans
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Kevin Sanders
Best pro prospect: McSwain
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McSwain, 2) LB Orlandus King, 3) LB Mastaki Smith
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Size up front, sure-thing second corner

Defensive Line
The line turned into a disappointment last season when it came to getting into the backfield, but it improved by leaps and bounds against the run. Now, it might be the other way around with Larry McSwain sure to be one of the league's best ends again and the combination of Jermaine McElveen and David Miller certain to get into the backfield more. The tackles will be the concern with Clarence Respress needing to be as good as his brother, Ernest, was last year. Brandon Jeffries and Jerricus Spreights are tall, light tackles who need to use their quickness to make an impact.
The key to the unit: The tackles have to be as strong against the run as last year's tackles were, and the ends need to get to the quarterback on a more regular basis. Everyone has to be healthy after a rough spring.

Defensive Line Rating:

Projected Starters
- DE Larry McSwain, Sr. - 53 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 TFL, 1 interception, 4 quarterback hurries, 3 forced fumbles
McSwain didn't quite grow into the superstar pass rusher he was expected to after a monster 13-sack 2004, but he was still a Conference USA first teamer for the second straight season. The former JUCO transfer will once again have to deal with double teams and all the attention from opposing blocking schemes, and once again, he should be able to handle it.

- DT Brandon Jeffries, Soph. - 6 tackles
Jeffries might only be 6-5 and 255 pounds, but he's a strong interior pass rushing prospect who should do a decent job right away of replacing Sam Williamson. If he's not getting into the backfield, he's not going to be too much use as an every down defender because of his size.

- NT Clarence Respress, Sr. - 16 tackles, 3 TFL
At 320 pounds, Respress is the team's biggest lineman by far. It'll be his job to replace his brother, Ernest, who made 42 tackles, three sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. The former JUCO transfer isn't his brother when it comes to rushing the passer, but at his size he'll be a rock against the run.

- DE Jermaine McElveen, Sr. - 26 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 interception
McElveen hasn't quite lived up to his potential as a top pass rusher, but he has plenty of experience and great athleticism. He'll combine with David Miller to see single blocking on the other side of Larry McSwain.

Top Backups
- DE David Miller, Sr. - 28 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 TFL
Miller started for most of last season. At 265 pounds, he's 15 pounds heavier than McElveen and decent against the run. He has to turn into more of a pass rusher and could occasionally see time at tackle.  
- DE Kyle Bissinger, Sr. - 8 tackles
Bissinger has see time all over the place in his career, but he hasn't played too much. He started out his career at quarterback before moving to linebacker before moving to defensive end. Now he'll back up Larry McSwain. 
- NT Jason Hamlin, Jr.
Out all of the last two years with a knee injury, the 280-pound junior brings his much needed size to the line behind Clarence Respress. He has a great motor and should be even more jacked up to get back in action.

The linebacking corps should be a strength with five very good veterans returning led by Orlandus King on the weakside and Mastaki Smith in the middle. Marcus Mark is a veteran on the strongside, but he has to be more productive. There's good depth with Kris Guyton and Joe Henderson good enough to start, and plenty of overall speed and range to do a little bit of everything well.
The key to the unit: More big plays are needed from the strongside and time needs to be carved out to get Kris Guyton and Joe Henderson on the field more.
Linebacker Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Marcus Mark, Sr. - 26 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL
Mark is a 230-pound big hitter on the strongside with a year of starting experience. He split time over the second half of last year, but he's good enough to be more of a factor this year when combined with the rest of the veterans in the corps. 

- Mastaki Smith, Sr. - 60 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Smith took over for Nigel Eldridge in the middle and had a nice season finishing third on the team in tackle. He's a good-sized hitter in the middle at 230 pounds with excellent range.

- Orlandus King, Sr. - 85 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 2 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
The former JUCO recruit stepped in and led the team in tackles from the weakside. He's not huge at 6-3 and 215 pounds, but he's great at doing a little bit of everything. He's a solid pass rusher and is great against the pass.

Top Backups
- Kris Guyton, Soph. - 43 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 interception
Guyton saw starting time in the middle for a three game stretch last season and will be one of the team's key defenders next year. He's 230 pounds and a pure tackler; now all he needs is more time.
- Joe Henderson, Soph. - 35 tackles, 1 interception
The star of the future, Henderson appeared to be on his way to a starting spot last fall before getting banged up and moving behind Orlandus King. He's one of the team's fastest linebackers and should be a top all-around playmaker on the weakside when he gets on the field.

Defensive Backs
More production is needed from a defensive backfield with plenty of starting experience but not enough sure-thing stars. Kevin Sanders is growing into a strong corner and there are options at each position, but there needs to be consistency and more big plays from everyone. Will Dunbar and Chris Felder have good potential at safeties and Brandon Register has more than enough experience to step in and start. 
The key to the unit: Be better on third downs. The Blazers allowed teams to convert 45% on third downs and got picked apart by decent passers.
Secondary Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- CB Will Evans, Sr. - 27 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception
Evans has to prove he can be better now that he's the full-time starter. He's a tough and very quick 5-9 and 175 pounds with plenty of experience. He has to make more big plays against the pass and needed to grow into a more consistent defender against deep passes.

- FS Will Dunbar, Jr. - 35 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes
A top special teamer so far, Dunbar will take over for the team's second-leading tackler
Dominique Cosper after starting to get more work at the end of last year. The 6-1, 195-pound junior is a huge hitter with the quickness to play free safety and the strength to play strong safety if needed.

- SS Chris Felder, Sr. - 24 tackles, 2 broken up passes
A star recruit who originally signed with Alabama and then went the JUCO route to UAB, Felder is a fantastic athlete who saw a little starting time last year in two games in the middle of the season. He's a strong hitter with the speed and range to possibly be the team's top tackler.

- CB Kevin Sanders, Soph. - 15 tackles, 2 interceptions
Used as a nickel back and a starter over the first half of last season before missing the final few games, Sanders showed flashes of being an eventual star. He's a pure cover-corner with good technique for such a young player and decent size at 5-11 and 185 pounds. He'll be the number one man against top receivers.

Top Backups
- CB Carnell Williams, Jr. - 22 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Williams grew into a starter over the last three games and will battle with Kevin Sanders to get the job back. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, he's the team's biggest corner and is a solid open-field tackler. He's not the talent Sanders is but he'll see plenty of time on both sides.
- Nickel Back Durrell Fuqua, Jr. - 20 tackles, 2 TFL
One of the team's most versatile defensive backs, he'll be the main nickel back and a top backup corner. He has plenty of experience and enough speed to make more of an impact.
- FS Brandon Register, Sr. - 32 tackles, 2 interceptions
A good contributor for the last few years with 87 career tackles, Register started at strong safety over the first five games and made two interceptions against Tennessee, but he wasn't nearly consistent enough and wasn't the pass defender he needed to be.

Special Teams
Parker Mullins will once again do a little of everything again for the kicking game with Swayze Waters handling the kickoffs. Mullins is great from short to medium range, but he's not going to bomb any kicks. The punt return game needs far more punch after averaging a mere 5.89 yards per kick. Kevin Sanders will take over for Reggie Lindsey, while Norris Drinkard will once again handle kickoff returns after averaging 22.4 yards per try.
The key to the unit: More blast is needed from Parker Mullins and the kicking game, while more is needed from Kevin Sanders and the punt return game.
Special Teams Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- PK/P Parker Mullins, Sr. - 14-18 FGs, 37-27 extra points, 44 punts, 1,698 yds, 38.6 ypc, 14 inside the 20
Mullins is a decent all-around kicker, but he doesn't have a booming leg topping out at only 41 yards on field goals last season while averaging a mere 38.6 yards per punt. He was great inside the 40 hitting 12 of 13 field goal attempts and put 14 punts inside the 20.

Related Stories
UAB Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 6, 2006
UAB Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 6, 2006
UAB Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 6, 2006

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > UAB
[View My HotList]