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2007 UAB Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 5, 2007


Preview 2007 UAB Blazers

UAB Blazers

Preview 2007


By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2007 UAB Offense Preview | 2007 UAB Defense Preview
-
2007 UAB Depth Chart | 2006 CFN UAB Preview 


Former Blazer coach Watson Brown made the unorthodox decision last December to voluntarily leave a I-A program he’d built from the foundation up for I-AA Tennessee Tech.  Or maybe he knew exactly when it was time to go.  Brown was getting pressure from within after losing a school-worst nine games, while 27 seniors were about to be part of a mass exodus.  It’s overhaul time in Birmingham, but instead of Brown, Neil Callaway will be wearing the hardhat and taking a hammer to the Blazer two-deep.

Head coach: Neil Callaway
1st year
Returning Lettermen: 39
Lettermen Lost: 30
Ten Best UAB Players
1. FS Will Dunbar, Sr.
2. LB Joe Henderson, Jr.
3. DE Brandon Jeffries, Sr.
4. LB Kris Guyton, Jr.
5. RB Rashad Slaughter, Soph.
6. QB Joseph Webb, Soph.
7. C Jake Seitz, Soph.
8. CB Kevin Sanders, Jr.
9. WR Sylvester Mencer, Jr.
10. OT Adam Truitt, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2-10

Sept. 1

at Michigan State

Sept. 8

at Florida State

Sept. 15

Alcorn State

Sept. 29

at Tulsa

Oct. 6

at Mississippi St

Oct. 13

Tulane

Oct. 20

Houston

Oct. 27

at East Carolina

Nov. 3

Southern Miss

Nov. 10

UCF

Nov. 17

at Memphis

Nov. 24

at Marshall

2006 Schedule
2006 Record:
3-9

9/2 at Oklahoma L 24-17
9/9 East Carolina W 17-12
9/16 at Georgia L 34-0
9/23 Miss State L 16-10 OT
9/30 Troy W 21-3
10/7 Memphis W 35-29
10/14 at Rice L 34-33
10/21 Marshall L 31-24
10/31 at SMU L 22-9
11/10 UTEP L 36-17
11/18 at So. Miss L 26-20
11/25 at UCF L 31-22

Callaway is an SEC guy through and through. A lineman under Bear Bryant at Alabama and an offensive coordinator with Georgia, he’s by many measures a quality coach. But the task he’s undertaking at UAB has the potential to be a career roadblock.  Short term, he’ll need to sort out the hodge-podge of talent he’s inherited and recruited.  Long-term, Callaway wants to prove that seven wins and a Hawaii Bowl invite back in 2004 wasn’t as good as it gets at the school.

At its peak a few years ago, UAB gained national recognition largely because of one player, quarterback Darrell Hackney.  It’s asking an awful lot, but in order to hasten the rebuilding project, the Blazers need their next Hackney, a larger-than-life figure that fills seats and makes everyone around him better.  While sophomore Joseph Webb has a long way to go to become Hackney, he showed hints last November that he could be the type of player the program can build around.  He’s raw, but he’s also 6-4, 210 pounds and one of the school’s best overall athletes.     

From top to bottom, UAB will look nothing like the one that bottomed out a year ago.  Considering the results, it’s probably a good thing that Callaway will be working with the equivalent of a clean slate to get ready for next season. Building a program from scratch doesn’t happen overnight.   

What to watch on offense …Callaway landed Kim Helton, a coordinator with a war chest of knowledge and experience in college and the NFL.  He’d like to install a pro-style offense that sprinkles in some no-huddle and option plays, but he realizes the first-year playbook must fit the personnel he inherits.  Webb is clearly the future behind center, but senior Sam Hunt flashed playmaking ability last year and won’t go away without a fight.  While the receiving corps returns virtually intact, the Blazers are putting out APBs for capable backs.  Last season’s top three rushers are gone, meaning anyone from former Alabama player Aaron Johns to prized recruit Darell Norman could shoulder the load.       

What to watch on defense …If the Blazers are going to bring the kind of pressure they desire, they might be forced to do a lot of blitzing.  While the back seven is a strength, the defensive line was gutted by the graduations of Larry McSwain, Jermaine McElveen and Tony Haynes-Dalton and might not get into the backfield on a regular basis.  There’s an immediate need in the middle of that line which could be filled by Antonio Forbes, another former ‘Bama player.  As a sophomore last year, linebacker Joe Henderson showed the kind of range and sure tackling to be the headliner of the unit for the next two seasons.  

The team will be far better if …the retooled offensive line matures in a hurry.  Without three of 2007’s best blockers, the group must open more holes and do a better job in pass protection if Webb is going to make the quantum leap the program is banking on.   

The Schedule: The concentration of road games early, and with two to close out the season, means UAB has a nice stretch in the middle of the year with four home games in five weeks. Unfortunately, the schedule makers didn't do the Blazers any favors giving them Houston and Tulsa from the West and three East games (East Carolina, Memphis and Marshall) on the road. A 1-3 non-conference record is likely facing Michigan State, Florida State and Mississippi State away and Alcorn State at home.

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Willie Edwards. He always had the speed and the ability to go along with his 6-3, 215-pound size, but he was never able to stay healthy. Last year he finally put it all together turning into the team’s leading receiver and a steady target. Now he has to become more of a scoring threat after only getting in the end zone twice.

Best Defensive Player: Senior FS Will Dunbar. One of the league’s bigger hitters, the 6-1, 195-pound Dunbar became the team’s top tackler and a decent pass rusher in his first year as a starter. Now as the unquestioned quarterback of the defense, and one of the few returning starters, he has to be even better.    

Key player to a successful season: Offensive tackles Adam Truitt and Patrick Swoopes. The two new starters have to be good right away and eventually provide better pass protection than former starters Cornelius Rogers and Julius Wilson. They have the size and a little bit of experience, and now they have to be cornerstones.

The season will be a success if ... the Blazers crank out six wins. With only one winning season in the last five, and with this looking like a possible rebuilding year, getting to .500 would seem like a major accomplishment. However, they lost five games by a touchdown or fewer. It’ll take a few upsets, both lines to surprise right away, and Callaway and the coaching staff to be tremendous from the start.

Key game: Oct. 13 vs. Tulane. The Blazers have to establish some sort of a home field advantage in conference play under the new coaching regime. After playing four of the first five games on the road, and the only home game against Alcorn State, UAB needs to break a three-game losing streak the Green Wave to likely give the season a jump-start. The last time these two teams played, 2004, Tulane won a 59-55 classic.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Third down conversions: Opponents 63 of 148 (43%) – UAB 48 of 149 (32%)
- Penalties: UAB 74 for 702 yards – Opponents 68 for 595 yards
- Punt return average: Opponents 10.7 yards per attempt – UAB 4.6 yards per attempt

 

Related Stories
2007 UAB Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 4, 2007
2007 UAB Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 4, 2007
2007 UAB Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 4, 2007








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