UAB Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
UAB Blazers
Posted Aug 6, 2006

UAB Blazers Preview 2006 - Blazer Further Analysis

1st and Ten – McSwain is a McStud – Reviewing a season’s final stat sheet can tell you everything and nothing, all at the same time.  As an example, let’s look at UAB DE Larry McSwain, the Blazers’ havoc-wrecking edge rusher.  Last year, McSwain had, on paper mind you, a subpar year, but the reality was such that most teams knew they couldn’t get beat by McSwain on the edge, so they doubled, chipped and ran away from him.  Essentially, CUSA opponents put a focus on not allowing McSwain to take over the game as he had in 2004.  The numbers were marginal at best in 2005 – 4 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss, whereas in 2004 he led the Blazers with 13 sacks and also had 18 tackles for a loss.  But, because of that 2004 season, he took attention away from others on defense and will continue to do so with his quickness and explosiveness off of the edge this season.  After having seen nearly every protection/attack to stop him, the key for McSwain is whether he’ll be able to find his way to the quarterback even with facing double and perhaps triple teams.  His plight isn’t that different from what David Pollack, the great UGA defensive end, faced in his career.  After a tremendous sophomore season, he became the sole focus of the pass protection schemes and he struggled for a while.  Eventually, though, he found that when he kept his motor revved throughout a game, he could beat anything an offense threw his way.  That’s what McSwain must do this year – keep the motor high, don’t take himself out of a play and never, ever stop pushing the envelope and the pocket.  He’s not a 6’7”, 295 specimen, but he’s a special player when he’s let loose.  It’s time to let McSwain loose.

2nd and Seven – Shane Falco need not apply – Filling the shoes of Matt Leinart or Vince Young is one thing, but finding someone to capably follow after one Darrell Hackney, the best QB that UAB has ever had, is going to be a headache for the UAB coaching staff.  Hackney may have flown under the national radar throughout his stellar Blazer career, but trust me, the coaching staff knows how valuable he was to that team and the Blazer offense.  He meant so much that head coach Watson Brown envisions having not one, but two QBs, replace him this fall, either Chris Williams, Sam Hunt and/or Joseph Webb.  Oh, man, what do they say about having two quarterbacks – you really don’t have one?  Eventually, one guy has to take over the Blazer offense like Taylor Hicks does an American Idol set (or the Big Fella, Ruben Studdard, for that matter).  Can it happen?  Sure, if a white haired twenty something can win Idol, a QB can emerge out of Hackney’s big shadow.  No Shane Falco replacements are needed.

3rd and Three – Stocked! – Four seniors.  Four running backs with experience.  One ball.  Okay, something about the math doesn’t seem to work very well for the Blazers.  Now, having a couple running backs who could be five yard a carry guys or twenty five carry a game workhorses, that’s an acceptable situation.  But, four?  Dan Burks and Corey White have been the two main ball carriers the last two years, but Marculus Elliott and Trey Chaney will push for carries and playing time.  Elliott closed the season strong with two 100+ yard games in the final three, but he might end up being third on the depth chart to start the year.  That’s a good situation, huh?  Brown and Pat Sullivan now just have to find a few more footballs for this quartet.

4th and One – A chance flittered away? – Coming off a huge bowl win in Hawaii to close the 2004 season, the Blazers couldn’t have been a hotter dark horse candidate coming into 2005, especially with one final year for Darrell Hackney.  And, they were maybe one or two key plays away from being four and oh to start the season (a close loss to Tennessee in the opener in Knoxville), but then it went downhill quickly.  Three losses in a row by a total of 11 points.  Two more losses in the final four games by a total of 14 points.  Their six losses were by a total of 32 points.  But, 5 and 6 is still 5 and 6, and it hurts that much more when your record setting QB is off to the NFL.  So, the question is whether the door has closed and the Blazers are destined for a 5th or 6th place finish in CUSA East?  Have they lost their chance to leverage off of their 2004 bowl win?  The door is not totally and completely shut, but it isn’t wide open, that’s for sure.

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