2007 UAB Blazers

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 UAB Blazers Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 UAB Blazers

Recap: Neil Callaway knew he'd be rebuilding when he took this job a year ago, so a two-win season in Birmingham came as no surprise.  The Blazers used their 12-game schedule in 2007 to get reps for a flock of freshmen and sophomores that'll form the foundation of the program for the next few seasons.  While UAB was a pest in the first half of the season, it eventually ran out of gas from a lack of size and depth, which Callaway will attempt to address in the offseason.          

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Joseph Webb

Defensive Player of the Year: S Will Dunbar

Biggest Surprise: Completely outmanned and playing in Tallahassee on Sept. 8, the Blazers put a genuine scare into Florida State, carrying a lead into the second half before fading to the ‘Noles.  Although it was one of UAB's 10 losses on the season, it was also an early sign that the inexperienced roster was not going to be intimidated by any obstacles or opponents.   

Biggest Disappointment: Playing its best game in over a month, UAB had a chance to carry some momentum into the offseason, but couldn't stop Marshall in the regular season finale.  Despite producing  season-highs in points and total offense, the Blazers fell seven points shy on win No. 3 when Herd QB Bernard Morris scored a one-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. 

Looking Ahead: With so many returning regulars back, there's cause for optimism in Calloway's second season on the job.  For an immediate jolt of depth and experience, the coach will look to the JUCO ranks this February for help.

- 2007 UAB Preview
2006 UAB Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 at Michigan St L 55-18
Sept. 8 at Florida State L 34-24
Sept. 15
Alcorn State W 22-0
Sept. 29 at Tulsa L 38-30
Oct. 6 at Miss State L 30-13
Oct. 13
Tulane W 26-21
Oct. 20 Houston L 49-10
Oct. 27 at East Carolina L 41-6
Nov. 3 Southern Miss L 37-7
Nov. 10 UCF L 45-31
Nov. 17 at Memphis L 25-9
Nov. 24 at Marshall L 46-39

Nov. 24
Marshall 46 ... UAB 39
Marshall pulled out the win in the shootout when Bernard Morris capped off an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge with 1:07 to play. UAB bombed away with Joe Webb and Sam Hunt combining to throw for 389 yard and two touchdowns, but it was a four-yard Rashard Slaughter touchdown run with 5:22 that gave the Blazers their first lead of the game before the Herd's final drive. Kevin Saunders returned a punt 58 yards for a fourth quarter UAB score, and Darius Marshall returned a kickoff 91 yards for a Herd score after Mario Wright's second touchdown of the game. Will Dunbar made 16 tackles for the Blazers.
Player of the game: Marshall QB Bernard Morris completed 26 of 36 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown, and ran ten times for 55 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Joseph Webb, 14-26, 200 yds
Rushing: Sam Hunt, 8-64. Receiving: Frantrell Forrest, 7-64
Marshall - Passing: Bernard Morris, 26-36, 309 yds, 1 TD
Darius Marshall, 9-60. Receiving: Cody Slate, 6-72

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... This was a rebuilding year in every sense of the word for UAB, and with it were the expected losses. While dropping six straight to close the year isn't a positive, the passing game started to get going, at times, over the second half of the year. The running game never showed up and the defense had way too many problems, especially when it came to getting a big late stop. Marshall was able to drive too easily to close out UAB's season with a thud, and now there's lots of work to be done over the next several months.

Nov. 17
Memphis 25 ... UAB 9
Matt Reagan hit four field goals, Will Hudgens punched it in from one-yard out, and Joseph Doss ran for a 20-yard touchdown as Memphis cranked out 563 yards and had few problems in the win. UAB only managed a field goal and a one-yard Brandon Thornton touchdown run, but couldn't keep up with the Tiger offense. Jake Kasser and LeRico Mathis combined for 25 tackles for the Tigers.
Player of the game: Memphis RB Joseph Doss ran 19 times for 168 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 11-19, 121 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Joseph Webb, 9-44. Receiving: Frantell Forrest, 7-48
Memphis - Passing: Martin Hankins, 14-26, 298 yds
Joe Doss, 19-168, 1 TD. Receiving: Duke Calhoun, 4-159

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All the good things that started to happen with the offense last week went away in the loss to Memphis. The running game still isn't finding any sort of a groove, and the passing game isn't picking up the slack. Meanwhile, the run defense got ripped apart yet again, allowing the Tigers to control the game from the start. Against Marshall to close out the year, the team needs something it can hang its hat on, and could use a special performance from QB Sam Hunt.

Nov. 10
UCF 45 ... UAB 31
UCF ran for 402 yards, led by 320 from Kevin Smith who scored from two, three, eight and 41 yards out. The final scoring dash finally put the game away in the final minutes as UAB pulled within seven on a four-yard pass from Joe Webb. Webb threw three touchdown passes, but the defense couldn't handle Smith, and it couldn't stop Curtis Francis on a 51-yard touchdown run, and Rocky Ross on a four-yard catch, to help the Knights pull ahead enough to hold off the late UAB rally.
Player of the game: UCF RB Kevin Smith ran 41 times for 320 yards and four touchdowns
Stat Leaders: UCF - Passing: Kyle Israel, 11-18, 91 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kevin Smith, 41-320, 4 TD. Receiving: Rocky Ross, 3-21, 1 TD
UAB - Passing: Joseph Webb, 15-25, 156 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Sam Hunt, 7-79, 1 TD. Receiving: Frantrell Forrest, 6-71, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Blazers might have lost to UCF, but the offense finally got going for the first time in weeks with Joseph Webb keeping the passing game moving and Sam Hunt stepping in to provide some rushing punch. The run defense wasn't even close to slowing down Kevin Smith and the Knight running game, and now it'll need to find a way to keep the offensive production rolling, and get better stops on defense, to have a chance on the road against Memphis and Marshall over the final two weeks.

Nov. 5
Southern Miss 37 ... UAB 7
Jeremy Young returned from injury and threw two second quarter touchdown passes to Ed Morgan to go along with three Justin Estes field goals and four-yard scoring runs from Tory Harrison and Damion Fletcher on the way to a 37-0 lead midway through the third quarter. UAB finally got on the board with a 32-yard scoring run from Sylvester Mencer, but only ended up with 244 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: Southern Miss QB Jeremy Young completed seven of 16 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns, and ran seven times for 58 yards.
Stat Leaders: Southern Miss - Passing: Jeremy Young, 7-16, 95 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Antwain Easterling, 16-85. Receiving: Ed Morgan, 3-47, 2 TD
UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 11-26, 125 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Joseph Webb, 6-26. Receiving: Sylvester Mencer, 4-65, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The wheels have come off over the last three weeks since beating to Tulane, losing to Houston, East Carolina and Southern Miss by a combined score of 127 to 23. The offense isn't generating anything on the ground, and neither Sam Hunt nor Joe Webb are doing anything with the passing attack. Things don't get any easier with UCF up next before going on the road for the final two games, so the key now is to find something that works to take into next year. There has to be something the team can hang its hat on. Right now, there's not much.

Oct. 27
East Carolina 41 ... UAB 6
East Carolina got up right away with a 35-yard John Williams touchdown run, and answered a UAB field goal with a field goal of its own and a three-yard Dominique Lindsay touchdown run. The game opened up in the third quarter with the Pirates scoring 21 unanswered points with Chris Johnson tearing off a 20-yard scoring run and Pat Pinkney throwing two touchdown passes, highlighted by a 52-yard play to Jamar Bryant. UAB only managed two Swayze Waters field goals.
Player of the game: East Carolina WR Jamar Bryant caught six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 12-29, 94 yds
Rushing: Brandon Thornton, 12-67. Receiving: Joseph Webb, 5-41
East Carolina - Passing: Patrick Pinkney, 6-7, 159 yds, 2 TD
Matt Chris Johnson, 15-79, 1 TD. Receiving: Jamar Bryant, 6-114, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UAB was doing a good job all year of battling hard. The team was losing, but things weren't as bad as the defeats seemed. The team was scrapping and staying alive, only to not have enough in the tank when push came to shove. Now the team just doesn't have it. East Carolina and Houston proved over the last two weeks just how far the Blazers have to go. Step one will be finding more from the passing game that got just 128 yards against the Pirates.

Oct. 20
Houston 49 ... UAB 10
Houston rolled for 540 yards of total offense as it overcame a 3-0 deficit to crank out 28 straight first half points on short touchdown runs from Anthony Alridge, Case Keenum and Terrance Ganaway before the Blazers got into the end zone on a four-yard Frantrell Forrest catch. The Cougar defense came up with four interceptions, while the offense cranked out 33 first downs and held on to the ball for 39:28.
Player of the game: Houston RB Anthony Alridge ran 17 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns, and caught four passes for 24 yards
Stat Leaders: Houston - Passing: Blake Joseph, 10-17, 105 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Anthony Alridge, 17-111, 2 TD. Receiving: Mark Hafner, 5-66, 1 TD
UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 12-34, 198 yds, 1 TD, 4 INT
Brandon Thornton, 3-16. Receiving: Frantrell Forrest, 5-96, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Blazer run defense is having major problems, but right now Houston is putting up big yards on everyone. For the first time since the season opening day loss to Michigan State, the team wasn't even close to being in the game, with the Cougar offense moving the ball at will. Four interceptions proved to be way too costly, while there wasn't a hint of a running game. Now comes a trip against an angry East Carolina team coming off a loss to NC State. The UAB offense has to start getting more consistent production to have any hope of winning the rest of the way.

Oct. 13
UAB 26 ... Tulane 21
Tulane took the opening kickoff 80 yard in ten plays with Matt Forte finishing it off with an eight-yard touchdown run, but UAB answered with a Frantrell Forrest kickoff return for a score. The Blazers reeled off 19 straight points starting with a fumble recovery in the end zone late in the first half, and kicking off the second half scoring with a 17-yard Joe Webb touchdown grab and two field goals. The Green Wave came back with a six-yard Jeremy Williams touchdown catch with just over two minutes to play, but couldn't get any closer.
Player of the game: UAB QB Sam Hunt completed 17 of 32 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown, and ran four times for 22 yards.
Stat Leaders: Tulane - Passing: Anthony Scelfo, 19-37, 264 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Matt Forte, 32-209, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Williams, 6-133, 1 TD
UAB- Passing: Sam Hunt, 17-32, 262 yds, 1 TD
Rashaud Slaughter, 13-63. Receiving: Joseph Webb, 6-106, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UAB had been close at times, and had been playing better than its record, but it had nothing to show for it. It got outplayed by Tulane, but Sam Hunt had a nice day throwing the ball, and the defense did just enough to hold on to get the win. To have any prayer over the next few weeks against Houston, East Carolina, Southern Miss and UCF, Hunt has to be better on third downs. UAB only converted three of 12 chances.

Oct. 6
Mississippi State 30 ... UAB 13
MSU scored 21 fourth quarter points on Anthony Dixon runs from ten and 12 yards out, and Anthony Johnson returned a pick 30 yards for a score, to put away UAB late. The Blazers took the lead on a 31-yard Frantrell Forrest touchdown catch, and was up 13-9 going into the fourth on a 29-yard Swayze Waters field goal. UAB outgained the Bulldogs 288 yards to 284, but penalties and tackling problems in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
Player of the game: Mississippi State RB Anthony Dixon ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 16-35, 217 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Rashaud Slaughter, 12-43. Receiving: Frantrell Forrest, 7-122, 1 TD
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 9-12, 93 yds
Anthony Dixon, 32-152, 3 TDs. Receiving: Jamayel Smith, 4-38

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense did a fantastic job against Mississippi State overall, but couldn't handle Anthony Dixon and the running game late. The UAB offense couldn't run the ball on the Bulldog D, and didn't do nearly enough to move the chains, but the real problems were the penalties, committing ten, and the time of possession. UAB couldn't stop the run, couldn't get enough third downs, and allowed MSU to have the ball for over 21 minutes in the second half. The D wore down.

Sept. 29
Tulsa 38 ... UAB 30
It took Tulsa a little while to get going, and then it got a big game from Paul Smith, who threw touchdown passes from 24 yards to Cameron Clemons, and two to Marion Brennan from 35 and 52 yards out. It wasn't until Smith ran for a one-yard score that Tulsa could breathe easily as UAB kept the heat on with two fourth quarter touchdown passes from Sam Hunt. Tulsa finished with 695 yards of total offense, while UAB cranked out 403.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith threw for 333 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, running for 47 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 13-26, 152 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Joseph Webb, 18-81. Receiving: Mario Wright, 5-51, 1 TD
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 19-37, 333 yds, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
Tarrion Adams, 24-183, 1 TD. Receiving: Dion Tolliver, 5-88

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The two quarterback system sort of worked against Tulsa, with plenty of rushing yards from Joseph Webb, and decent passing from Sam Hunt, but there was little continuity to the attack. The offense is all about the quarterbacks, and now it's up to the running backs, primarily Rashaud Slaughter, to give more options. Even with the 1-3 start, the team is playing far better than originally expected. The wins will come.

Sept. 15
UAB 22 ... Alcorn State 0
Swayze Waters connected on field goals from 42, 32, 52, 22 and 38 yards out, but UAB also got a touchdown from David Ziegler on a four-yard pass play with 19 seconds to play in the first half. Alcorn State never mounted much of a threat, failing just 233 yards of total offense and converting just 3 of 13 third down chances. UAB outgained ASU 211 to 96 on the ground.
Player of the game: UAB PK Swayze Waters hit all five of field goal attempts
Stat Leaders: Alcorn State - Passing: Chris Walker, 13-25, 133 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Antoine Young, 13-57. Receiving: Nate Hughes, 5-89
UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 7-16, 88 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brandon Thornton, 21-89. Receiving: Joseph Webb, 3-62

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UAB might have gotten its first win in the Neil Callaway era, beating Alcorn State with ease, but there are more question marks than ever before. The offense was inconsistent, at best, with little from the passing game, while drive after drive stalled, giving Swayze Waters plenty of chances to be a hero with five field goals. This was supposed to be the cupcake game to establish Sam Hunt as the leader and star under center, and that didn't exactly happen. Now comes Tulsa and its high-powered attack. After this game, the Blazers don't appear equipped to stay with the Golden Hurricane for more than a half.

Sept. 8
Florida State 34 ... UAB 24
It took a while, but Florida State eventually put UAB away. Tied at 24 late in the third quarter, the Noles finally pulled ahead for good on a 50-yard touchdown pass to Richard Goodman. Gary Cismesia added a 40-yard field goal for a little breathing room, and FSU escaped. Weatherford threw three touchdown passes, but UAB hunt tough thanks to a 21-yard Will Dunbar interception return for a touchdown, a four-yard Sam Hunt scoring run, and a 16-yard pass from Hunt to Joseph Webb. The Noles outgained UAB 520 yards to 345, but turned it over three times.
Player of the game: Florida State QB Drew Weatherford went 22-of-35 for 332 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Stat Leaders: UAB
- Passing: Sam Hunt, 17-35, 226 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Sam Hunt, 11-56, 1 TD. Receiving: Joseph Webb, 6-89, 1 TD
Florida State
- Passing: Drew Weatherford, 22-35, 332 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Antone Smith, 19-62. Receiving: Preston Parker, 4-89
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Considering Michigan State ran all over the Blazers in the season opener, the loss to Florida State was a step up as the D only allowed 188 yards. Fine, so the Noles cranked out 520 yards in the win, but UAB showed great heart in hanging tough as long as it did. No help for Sam Hunt and 12 penalties for 110 yards didn't help the upset bid, but this was still a positive performance going into the apparent breather against Alcorn State. A young team like UAB can learn a lot from playing FSU so tough, even if it was a loss.

Sept. 1
Michigan State 55 ... UAB 18
Jehuu Caulcrick ran for three first quarter touchdowns, including a 42-yard dash for a 21-0 lead, and added a fourth score early in the second quarter as the Spartans got out to a 42-0 lead before UAB finally got on the board with a 35-yard Swayze Waters field goal. The Blazers didn't get into the end zone until the fourth quarter on a 15-yard Joe Webb catch, but that was the only highlight. The Spartans outgained the Blazers 298 yards to 12 on the ground.
Player of the game ... Michigan State RB Jehuu Caulcrick ran for 93 yards and four touchdowns on ten carries.
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 21-39, 214 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Rashaud Slaughter, 13-25 Receiving: Joseph Webb, 6-98, 1 TD
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 14-17, 201 yds, 1 TD
Jehuu Caulcrick, 10-93, 4 TDs  Receiving: Devin Thomas, 5-106, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UAB is undergoing a major rebuilding job and will need a long, long time before it's competitive against the better teams, and the blowout loss to Michigan State showed it. The lines got shoved around all over the place, and the running game never had a chance to work on anything after getting down so quickly. Sam Hunt might not have been horrible throwing the ball, but he didn't push the ball down the field at all, mostly because he was under pressure all game long. Don't expect things to get much better next week against Florida State; the Blazers will have to wait until the Alcorn State game to work on everything it needs to.

Sept. 1 – at Michigan State
Offense: In keeping with the overall belief system of the new coaching staff, the offense will try to become more physical and should play to the strength, which will be running the ball. The line is big, and now has to start hitting to open things up for the speedy duo of Javon Ringer and A.J. Jimmerson and the pounding Jehuu Caulcrick. All eyes will be on Brian Hoyer, who might not be Drew Stanton talent-wise, but should be a more consistent quarterback as long as the receiving corps, which loses the top three targets, becomes productive right away.
Defense: The aggressive, attacking approach didn't work under the old regime, and now the new coaching staff will want to play it a bit closer to the vest to start, and then will start to make big plays as everyone figures out their roles. There won't be too many bells and whistles in the basic 4-3, but some chances will need to be taken, and head coach Mark Dantonio is great at adjusting and forcing teams out of their gameplans, after not doing much to generate any pressure in the backfield last year. A pass rusher has to emerge, but the overall potential is there to be better with Otis Wiley and Nehemiah Warrick good safeties to build around, while the linebackers should be one of the team's biggest strengths. The line is the key after a few awful years of doing a lot of nothing.

Sept. 8 – at Florida State
Offense: After a dreadful two seasons, the offense is under new leadership with new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher coming in to breathe life into the nation's 70th ranked attack. Step one is to find some semblance of a running game, and that starts with talented junior Antone Smith getting more carries. The offensive line, problem one over the last few years, gets a big upgrade with the addition of line coach Rick Trickett from West Virginia. He's immediately pushed everyone to get into better shape and to get a lot tougher. The passing game won't be forgotten about, with Fisher wanting to bomb away down the field to Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg. Now a steady quarterback has to emerge between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee.

Defense: The defense came up with a better year than it got credit for, but it gave up too many points. Now the potential is there for this to be a Florida State defense again with tremendous speed and talent in the secondary and a good enough front seven to come up with a big year. There are question marks. Everette Brown is a good-looking pass rushing end, but he needs help from the other side. The linebacking corps will be special as long as Derek Nicholson and Marcus Ball can quickly return from torn ACLs, otherwise it'll be an undersized group with no depth. As always, there's a slew of NFL talent to work around, highlighted by tackle Andre Fluellen and safety Myron Rolle.

Sept. 15 – Alcorn State

Sept. 29 – at Tulsa
Offense: Can Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle offense really work at this level … take two.  All the buzz about Malzahn's fancy playbook fizzled in Fayetteville last year, but unlike at Arkansas, Tulsa coach Tood Graham is on board and prepared to see all of the offense's bell and whistles.  The system aims to control the tempo, physically and mentally wear out opponents, and sort of run a two-minute offense for four quarters.  Senior quarterback Paul Smith is liable to go berserk running this offense, but a makeshift offensive line and a whole new set of receivers will be two major stumbling blocks.  When the Hurricane runs the ball, it'll turn to senior Courtney Tennial and junior Tarrion Adams, arguably the best running duo in Conference USA.   
Defense: Head coach Todd Graham brings the 3-3-5 and a very aggressive style back to Tulsa, where he led the defense from 2003-2005.  The fact that he coached and recruited many of this year's players should make for a smoother-than-expected transition.  Graham will showcase a swarming unit that brings turnovers back to Tulsa.  In his final season as the defensive coordinator, the Hurricane had 36 takeaways.  Without him last year? 14.  The strength is at linebacker, which features three senior starters and Nelson Coleman, one of the nation's best middle linebackers you've never seen play.  With so much over pursuing going on in 2007, a retooled secondary could give up as many big plays this year as it has in the last two combined.

Oct. 6 – at Mississippi State
Offense: It might not be saying much, but this should be the best offense yet under Sylvester Croom. The line gets four starters back, with the fifth spot occupied by Mike Brown, a starter late in the year and the best blocker up front. The receiving corps is easily the deepest area on the offense with good talent and a world of upside, but QB Michael Henig has to stay healthy and get them the ball consistently. Anthony Dixon is an All-SEC caliber running back, and true freshman Robert Elliott should become a fantastic backup. The overall depth is lacking, so injury problems could be disastrous.
Defense: The whole will be better than the parts. The Bulldogs couldn't hold down the better offensive teams last year, and things might not be better right off the bat with tremendous concerns all over the place after losing six key starters. There's plenty of speed and athleticism, but this is a young, inexperienced defense that'll have to force more turnovers and do a much better job of getting to the quarterback. End Titus Brown and defensive back Derek Pegues are All-SEC talents who have to be disruptive forces from day one. The line needs more pass rushers, the linebacking corps has to do more against the pass, and the secondary is relying on green corners so Pegues can play safety.

Oct. 13 - Tulane
Offense: New head coach Bob Toledo would like to get vertical get the passing game moving, but it's not going to happen at the expense of the ground attack. With a good back in Matt Forte to work with, the Green Wave will try to run the ball to create some semblance of balance, but the offensive line might not be in place to do it. Scott Elliott is the odds-on favorite to win the starting quarterback job in a four-man race, and he has some decent young receivers to work with.
Defense: Tulane hasn't played consistent defense in a few years, and it needs to count on experience, especially up front, to change things around. Eight starters return led by senior tackles Frank Morton and Avery Williams. The secondary needs to be far better after allowing over 250 passing yards a game, but that could be a bit of an issue with two new starting corners being broken in. The new coaching staff will use a variety of formations and schemes to try to get more production, and while the overall defense should be better, there will still be times when it'll get bombed on.

Oct. 20 - Houston
Offense: The graduation of four-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb signals a new era in Houston, but it doesn't mean the Cougars will be inept on offense in 2007.  There's too much explosiveness and veteran leadership for that to happen.  Last year's backup, sophomore Blake Joseph, is expected to get the nod at quarterback.  He's got a huge arm and about as much fear as he does experience.  Surrounding Joseph will be a half-dozen players that earned all-league honors last year, headed by senior running back Anthony Alridge, one of the nation's fastest players.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Alan Weddell's goal is to bring pressure from every angle and invent ways to get as much speed as possible on the field.  With that in mind, he'll be installing some elements of a 4-2-5 package in 2007 to periodically get an athletic rover into the mix.  The personnel is deep and reliable, especially with a front seven that includes dynamic junior end Phillip Hunt and a couple of all-league linebackers in junior Cody Lubojasky and senior Trent Allen.  If senior safety Rocky Schwartz is all the way back from knee surgery and the corners hold up, the pieces are in place for this to be Conference USA's stingiest defense.

Oct. 27 – at East Carolina
Offense: Skip Holtz likes to spread the field out and turn his quarterback loose, but with the battery of James Pinkney and Aundrae Allison gone, the Pirates will put more emphasis on the ground game.  That means extra carries this year for versatile senior Chris Johnson and his young understudies, Dominique Lindsay and Norman Whitley.  While strong-armed sophomore Rob Kass will replace Pinkney behind center, an adequate replacement for Allison will be much tougher to find.  Look for the quarterback to utilize a group of tight ends that has the potential to be as good as any in Conference USA.  For ECU to improve on last season's weak offensive output, the veteran line needs to give Kass an extra second or two in the pocket and create more daylight for the backs.        
Defense: If the Pirate defensive line doesn't outright dominate at times this season, heads will roll at the end of the year.  There's way too much talent and depth on this unit for it not to make a quantum leap from 2006.  Junior end Marcus Hands, in particular, has the size and quickness to be special after underachieving last fall.  Penetration up front figures to help a secondary that's easily the weak link of this defense.  Three starters, including both corners, need to be replaced from a group that was one of the underrated team strengths for the past two seasons.

Nov. 3 - Southern Miss
Offense: While it's become fashionable for programs across the country to switch to some fancy derivative of the spread offense, Southern Miss is content to pound the ball on the ground, control the clock and let its defense win games.  Sure, the Eagles prefer balance, but in Hattiesburg, the run continues to set up the pass.  Last year's league-leading rusher, sophomore Damion Fletcher, is back for an encore, and this time, he brought friends.  Southern Miss is deep in the backfield, which will take pressure off versatile, yet erratic, senior quarterback Jeremy Young.  His favorite target will again be tight end Shawn Nelson, a future pro with All-America potential.  For a change, there are restless moments about an offensive line that's replacing three starters, two of which were First Team All-Conference USA in 2006.
Defense: The "Nasty Bunch" defense that's become the trademark of Southern Miss football under Jeff Bower should be one of the nation's top ranked units in 2007.  It's fast and experienced, and if Bower gets his way, about to become as physical as his vintage teams of the late 1990s.  The Eagles return nine starters, including the entire front seven and five players that earned all-Conference USA recognition in 2006.  Good luck moving the ball on this veteran group.  If there's a weak link on defense it's in the secondary, where two new starting corners will be broken in.  One way to help rookies Eddie Willingham and Michael McGee will be to get more pressure on the quarterback than last year, when USM was No. 81 in the country in sacks.

Nov. 10 - UCF
Offense: Quarterback Steven Moffett and premier receiver Mike Walker have graduated, so logic dictates the Knights will lean on junior Kevin Smith for a while.  He's as good as any back in the league when he's healthy, and has the luxury of four starting linemen returning.  Don't expect any drop-off from Moffett to senior Kyle Israel.  In fact, the veteran of 16 games and five starts was so sharp down the stretch in 2006, some around the program feel he could be even better running the pro-style offense if a couple of the young receivers emerge.
Defense: Nothing typified UCF's collapse in 2006 more than the shoddy play of the defense, which finished 106th nationally and allowed almost 30 points a game.  The secondary was a particular mess, prompting George O'Leary to open up the competition at every spot, despite the return of four starters.  The coach had a chance to take the wrappers off some of his young kids late last year, which will benefit players, such as tackles Torrell Johnson and Travis Timmons and end Jared Kirksey, this season.  More than anything else, the Knights are looking to improve their team speed after looking a step slow throughout the 2006 season.

Nov. 17 – at Memphis
Offense: The offense had its moments, but it was consistently mediocre and not nearly explosive enough. The ground game struggled behind a bad offensive line, and now the hope fill be for Joseph Doss to get more room behind a more experienced front five. The passing attack should shine, led by veteran quarterback Martin Hankins and the usual array of tall, athletic Tiger receivers. Duke Calhoun is a rising star touchdown maker, while Earnest Williams is a solid target to keep the chains moving.
Defense: A disaster last year, especially against the pass and at getting into the backfield, the defense is undergoing an almost complete overhaul with several newcomers taking over for established veterans. The 4-3 needs to start making more big plays behind the line, and the hope will be for a steady rotation of players to keep everyone fresh and be more productive. The key will be the play of corners LaKeitharun Ford and Michael Grandberry, who need to beef up a secondary that allowed 231 yards per game and finished 116th in the nation in pass efficiency defense.

Nov. 24 – at Marshall
Offense: Not since Byron Leftwich graduated has Marshall been Marshall on offense.  That should begin to change this fall provided erratic senior quarterback Bernard Morris can make the most of a receiving corps that's brimming with young game-breakers.  All-conference back Ahmad Bradshaw, a 1,500-yard rusher in 2006, left early for the NFL, leaving Chubb Small to shoulder the load.  If he can't handle the promotion, look for one of three blue-chip freshmen to rise up and accept an expanded role.  While the offensive line has pending issues at tackle, Doug Legursky is a beast at center that could parlay big efforts early versus Miami and West Virginia into post-season awards.
Defense: Disgusted with the play of last year's defense, head coach Mark Snyder changed course, hiring veteran Steve Dunlap as the coordinator.  While last year's team sat back, and often paid for the conservative approach, the 2007 edition will attack wherever and whenever it makes sense.  The chief attacker will be junior end Albert McClellan, a sack machine that'll be in the mix for just about every individual award given to defensive players.  At linebacker, junior Josh Johnson is good enough to consider early entry into the 2008 NFL Draft once the season concludes.  Dunlap's biggest concerns in his first season on the job surround a pedestrian group of tackles and a beatable secondary that allowed way too many long gainers last season.



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