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2007 UAB Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 5, 2007


Preview 2007 UAB Blazer Offense Preview

 

UAB Blazers

Preview 2007 - UAB Offense

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


What you need to know: From the staff and the system to the personnel, the offense will be getting a complete facelift in 2007.  Nothing will look the same which isn’t such a bad thing considering how poorly the unit executed last season.  New coordinator Kim Helton is installing a pro-style attack that sprinkles in some no-huddle and option calls, but realizes he’ll have to tailor the first-year playbook to the talent he inherits.  All eyes in August will be on the continuing quarterback battle between senior Sam Hunt and sophomore Joseph Webb, a potential savior once he gets up to speed.  Whether or not the offense climbs out of the Conference USA cellar will depend heavily on the maturation of a rebuilt line that’s replacing four senior starters.             

Returning Leaders
Passing: Sam Hunt
48-82, 655 yds, 2 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Sam Hunt
69 carries, 159 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Sylvester Mencer
31 catches, 400 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore RB Rashad Slaughter
Player that has to step up and become a star: Webb
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Courtney Smith
Best pro prospect: Junior OL Adam Truitt
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Slaughter  2) C Jake Seitz  3) Truitt
Strength of the offense: Young tight ends, quarterback mobility
Weakness of the offense: Lack of playmakers, inexperienced line

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: In a program that’s rebuilding and possibly taking a big step back to hopefully take a leap forward, a glimmer of hope can be found in sophomore Joseph Webb, a good looking quarterback who’s neck-and-neck with senior Sam Hunt for the top spot.  Webb debuted in the final two games of 2006, showing off his big arm and nimble feet wrapped in a 6-3, 210-pound frame.  Cut from a slightly bigger mold than former Auburn quarterback Reggie Slack, he’s still raw with the cerebral side of the position and prone to poor decisions. 

Versatile and somewhat unpolished as a passer, Hunt is a near clone to Webb.  He runs well at 6-3 and displayed uncanny leadership a year ago, nearly engineering an upset of Oklahoma, but has struggled to stay healthy.  Hunt missed half of last year with injuries and had two off-season back surgeries that have stunted his development.  This is a tight competition that could last until just before the opener at Michigan State

Projected Top Reserves: While Webb and Hunt will constitute the top two spots on the depth chart, the battle for the No. 3 job pits redshirt freshman Anthony Speight versus sophomore Rodney Bivens.  While Speight is the better pure pocket passer, Bivens can be dynamite with his feet when he breaks containment.  If Bivens is fourth in this group, don’t be surprised if he freelances at a different position this fall.

Watch Out For… both Webb and Hunt to make appearances in a number of games this year.  Ideally, Neil Callaway wants to tab a starter, and ride him all year, but this is hardly an ideal situation.  When either player struggles this season, the coach won’t hesitate to look for a spark from the bench.
Strength: Scrambling.  Webb and Hunt are big, athletic quarterbacks that aren’t shy about tucking the ball, bolting from the pocket and picking up a first down.  New offensive coordinator Kim Helton will script a few plays each week specifically designed to maximize their dual-threat capabilities.
Weakness: The receivers.  As if the quarterbacks won’t be facing enough of an uphill battle in 2007, their receivers are very short on talent and woefully inconsistent on the routine plays.
Outlook: The system is new, the receivers are awful, and the line is a question mark, three signals that indicate UAB will pull up the rear in league passing numbers no matter how Webb and Hunt perform.
Rating: 5.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Last year’s top three rushers have graduated.  This year’s favorite is a 5-9 sophomore that lined up at receiver in 2006.  Shifty Rashad Slaughter was the team’s best back in the spring, but at 185 pounds, will he able to handle more than 12-15 carries a game without breaking down?  His elusiveness and pass-catching are assets the coaching staff will look to utilize as much as possible this season. 

Senior David Sigler sometimes lines up at fullback, other times will play tight end, and is officially listed as the Blazers’ starting H-back.  One of the team’s most versatile and selfless players, he’s a very physical blocker with reliable hands and an increasing role in the new offense.

Projected Top Reserves
: Coming out of spring, senior Tony Shepherd was listed as the top reserve in a very loosely constructed pecking order.  He’s been exclusively used on special teams, but at 5-11 and 210 pounds, he represents a much bigger option than Slaughter in short yardage situations.  T.J. Slaughter, Rashad’s older brother, is also in the mix with two more years of eligibility remaining.  He’s 5-10 and 215 pounds with enough of a burst to make a strong push for the No. 2 job.  Sophomore Reggie Jones is a walk-on transfer from the Citadel that impressed the coaching staff in his first spring with the team.  While only 5-9 and 185 pounds, he runs with a purpose and can dish out a surprising amount of pain when he lowers his shoulder.             

Watch Out For… newcomers Darell Norman and Aaron Johns.  As muddled as the situation is at running back at UAB, the true freshman and JUCO transfer, respectively, have a pretty clear path to immediate playing time.  A speedy back with the hands of a receiver, Norman was one of the program’s top recruits of 2007.  Exiled from the University of Alabama by Mike Shula two years ago, Johns is hoping to rekindle his career after starring at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College in 2006.
Strength: Johns.  What does it say about a unit when the biggest asset has yet to arrive?  Johns was a second-tier back in Tuscaloosa, but in Birmingham these days, he could be the solution for a running game pining for a playmaking back.
Weakness: Talent and depth.  As it stands now, the Blazers are comprised of backups that should only play late in blowouts and a probable starter that’s better suited as a change-of-pace on third downs.
Outlook: Running back is one of many positions on this year’s team that lacks depth and genuine playmakers.  Unless one of the two newcomers can quickly ignite the backfield, UAB will labor to produce its first 500-yard rusher in two years.
Rating: 5

Receivers

Projected Starters: The Blazer receiving corps was gutted by graduation, a painfully familiar theme on this year’s team.  Six of the team’s top eight pass-catchers are gone, leaving behind a young and undependable group that really struggled with its consistency over the spring.  One bright spot is the return of senior Nick Coon, who was enjoying a terrific last August before an injury that cost him all of 2006.  He brings a veteran presence to a young offense and sneaky-good speed that allowed him to average 36 yards on ten receptions way back in 2003. 

Coon is likely to be joined by Sylvester Mencer, a 5-11 and 180-pound junior coming off a building block year as UAB’s second-leading receiver.  He had 18 catches and two touchdowns in a four-game, mid-season stretch, finishing the year with 31 receptions for 400 yards and three scores. 

Leading a group of young and talented tight ends is redshirt freshman Jeffrey Anderson, a 6-3, 255-pounder that arrived on campus as a wide receiver intent to bulk up and find a new position.  He’s added the weight and has had a great off-season, but now needs to get in better shape in order to remain a downfield threat.  

Projected Top Reserves: The hope around the program is that redshirt freshman Courtney Smith is ready to evolve into the top playmaker the Blazers lured to Birmingham two years ago.  At 6-4 and 210 pounds, he’s the most physically advanced of the program’s receivers with the leaping ability to create mismatches in opposing secondaries. 

Senior Blake Thackston is a possession receiver with an eye on the starting job at the X receiver.  He did his apprenticeship at Division III Maryville College before transferring to UAB three years ago. 

Redshirt freshman Darryl Harris is in a battle with Coon for the top spot at the Z receiver.  At 5-10 and 170 pounds, he’s not very sturdy, but gives the unit a game-breaking option that it’s presently lacking. 

Freshmen Cory Powers and Justin Cofer are a pair of untested tight ends with the mix of size and athleticism to eventually play important roles in this offense.   

Watch Out For… the tight ends to be the preferred targets of the Blazer quarterbacks.  Who could blame them?  They’re big, athletic and loaded with upside, a refreshing alternative to an erratic collection of wide receivers.
Strength: Long-term potential at tight end.  Although Anderson, Powers and Cofer aren’t quite there yet, the freshmen trio isn’t that far away from realizing its sizable potential within the UAB offense.
Weakness: Consistency.  Collectively, the receivers are very young, very unreliable and, if the spring session is a fair indication, prone to too many dropped passes and sloppy routes.
Outlook: As UAB attempts to install a more balanced, passer-friendly offense, this group of receivers figures to be a hindrance to those plans in 2007.  Somewhere down the road, Smith has the tools to develop into the second coming of former Blazer Roddy White.
Rating: 5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: As if the UAB offense doesn’t face enough challenges in 2007, the once steady line has been stripped of four senior starters, and is in the process of basically starting over.  The leadership is expected to come from sophomore center Jake Seitz, senior right guard JaMarius Dismuke and junior right tackle Adam Truitt, all of whom got playing time last season.  Truitt is the most experienced and versatile of the group, having played some center and guard before making the shift to right tackle for the upcoming season.  A heady kid who possesses a nice combination of quick feet and upper body strength, he’ll be one of the anchors of the line.  Seitz learned on the fly as the starting center in 2006, making mistakes, yet growing markedly as the season progressed.  A former state championship wrestler, he brings that toughness and work ethic to Legion Field.  At 6-5 and 320 pounds, Dismuke is the biggest, and arguably the strongest of the Blazer linemen.  A valuable reserve the last two years, he needs to finally turn all of that raw ability into consistent protection for the Blazer quarterbacks. 

A couple of underclassmen round out the left side of the interior, sophomore tackle Willie Thompson and redshirt freshman guard Adam Hollifield.  The star of the 2005 recruiting class, Thompson is beginning to show some of the potential that made him so coveted in high school.  He’s long and lean at 6-6 and 285 pounds with the athleticism to grow into a dynamic pass blocker as he gets more experience.  Until proven otherwise, Hollifield figures to be the weakest link of this unit.  A former walk-on that worked his up the depth chart in April, he’ll be trying to fend off a couple of older teammates when camp resumes in August.

Projected Top Reserves
: After bouncing between tight end and tackle with the Blazers, senior LaDarrius Stanley will be staying on the offensive line out of sheer necessity.  A fluid athlete at 6-3 and 310 pounds, he caught the first touchdown pass of his career in 2006. 

Along with Seitz, Hollifield and Thompson, redshirt freshman Logan Creel will be an integral part of the future in the trenches.  A rangy lineman that can play either guard or tackle, he’ll be a key contributor as soon as he adds a little more girth to his 6-5 frame.   

Watch Out For… Thompson’s development.  He’ll have the quarterback’s backside in 2007, so the coaching staff is pensively hoping that all of his vast potential reaches the surface before the Week 1 trip to East Lansing.
Strength: The right side of the line.  From Seitz over, the Blazers have a decent amount of experience and their best chance to establish a running game while the entire unit slowly gels this fall.
Weakness: Pass blocking.  Even when the offensive line was a senior-laden crew, it couldn’t stall opposing pass rushes, finishing 81st nationally in sacks allowed.  With so much turnover and youth on this line, the Blazers will be even worse in 2007.
Outlook: Seitz and Truitt give UAB a decent foundation, but they’re surrounded by mediocrity, uncertainty, and poor depth.  The weakness up front will hinder the development of the quarterback and prevent Kim Helton from completely installing his new offense.
Rating: 4.5

  

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2007 UAB Preview
 -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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