Preview 2007 - UAB Offense
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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
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
Sophomore RB Rashad Slaughter
Player that has to step up and become a star:
Unsung star on the rise:
Redshirt freshman WR Courtney Smith
Junior OL Adam Truitt
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.