2008 UAB Preview
UAB DB Will Dunbar
UAB DB Will Dunbar
Posted May 2, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - UAB Blazer Preview

UAB Blazers

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello    

2008 CFN UAB Preview | 2008 UAB Offense Preview
- 2008 UAB Defense Preview
| 2008 UAB Depth Chart
2007 CFN UAB Preview
| 2006 CFN UAB Preview

Preview UAB's Opening Day Opponent
2008 CFN Tulsa Preview

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Head coach: Neil Callaway
2nd year: 2-10
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 20, ST. 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best UAB Players
1. FS Will Dunbar, Sr.
2. LB Joe Henderson, Sr.
3. QB Joseph Webb, Jr.
4. K/P Swayze Waters, Sr.
5. WR Frantrell Forrest, Soph.
6. CB Kevin Sanders, Sr.
7. OL Jake Seitz, Jr.
8. DT D.J. Reese, Soph.
9. WR Mario Wright, Soph.
10. LB Mike Tashman, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Tulsa
Sept. 6 at Florida Atlantic
Sept. 13 at Tennessee
Sept. 20 Alabama State
Sept. 27 at South Carolina
Oct. 2 Memphis
Oct. 11 at Houston
Oct. 18 Marshall
Nov. 1 at Southern Miss
Nov. 15 at Tulane
Nov. 22 East Carolina
Nov. 29 at UCF

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

Now that the storm of last season’s debacle has passed, head coach Neil Callaway can move on to the next phase of his extreme makeover in Birmingham. 

The Blazers were too young and too thin to compete effectively in 2007, winning just two games and slipping noticeably as the season progressed.  All of that youth, however, is now a year older, and Callaway padded his second recruiting class with 11 junior college players that should be able to contribute right away.  It’s unlikely to show up in the final standings, but UAB figures to be in a better position to hold its ground this year versus the rest of Conference USA.

The Blazers understand that their rebuilding blueprint won’t materialize overnight, so this fall is about creating momentum and a positive atmosphere, while weaving some of the JUCO transfers into the two-deep.  With QB Sam Hunt out of eligibility, versatile Joseph Webb has a chance to lock down the starting job and emerge into one of the team leaders.  Much like a year ago, there aren’t going to be many slam dunks on a non-conference schedule that includes games with Tennessee, South Carolina, and Sun Belt champion Florida Atlantic.  

What to watch for on offense: Topping Callaway’s list of offensive priorities is to improve a running game that was last in the league a year ago.  The coach is keeping his fingers crossed that Aaron Johns, a gifted former Alabama running back, can qualify academically after missing the mark last season.  Webb offers some interesting options, both as a strong-armed passer and a scrambler on designed running plays.  He’ll have no shortage of quality targets.  Frantrell Forrest led the team with 49 receptions as a freshman, Mike Jones tore it up in the spring, and Roddell Carter is physical junior college transfers capable of contributing immediately.  Jake Seitz anchors a young line that pass blocked unexpectedly well, but needs to step it up in run blocking.              

What to watch for on defense: Underclassmen were everywhere last year, which should start to pay dividends this season.  The Blazers got shoved around by every opponent not named Alcorn State, prompting Callaway to demand more physicality in the front seven. UAB does return its best player, all-league S Will Dunbar, who could have left for the NFL.  A sure-tackling playmaker that paced the team with 122 stops, he’s the leader of a vulnerable secondary. The Blazers other building blocks will be ends Bryant Turner and Joe Happe, linebackers Joe Henderson and Mike Tashman, and CB Kevin Sanders, all of whom showed flashes of productivity in 2007.  

The team will be far better if … the defensive line does a much better job at the point of attack.  Now matter the program, it all starts up front, which has been a problem for UAB the past two seasons.  The unit has done little to pressure opposing quarterbacks or stuff the run, negating some of the defense’s best talent in the back seven.  

The Schedule:
As if UAB isn't already battling to get out of the doldrums, it gets tagged with the West's two best projected teams, Tulsa and Houston. On a warped plus side, the Southern Miss and UCF games were probably losses anyway, so they might as well be on the road. Getting Memphis Marshall and East Carolina at home should bring at least one win and possibly two upsets, but those are hardly two-foot putts. A trip to Florida Atlantic won't be a breather, and forget about September dates at Tennessee and South Carolina.

Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Joseph Webb.  On an offense that’s craving an identity, Webb is the exciting, multi-dimensional talent that UAB needs at this time.  After sharing time with Sam Hunt and catching 30 passes as a part-time receiver in 2007, he delivered the type of spring that left no doubts about where he’ll be lining up the next two years.  Webb has the arm strength and escapability to blossom into an instant star by Conference USA standards.    

Best Defensive Player: Senior S Will Dunbar.  If there’s a current Blazer that’ll be playing on Sundays in 2009, it’ll be Dunbar.  Coming off the best season of his career, he’s proven to be a three-tool free safety that can defend the run, cover the pass, and rarely be in the wrong spot on the field.  With a couple more Dunbars on defense, head coach Neil Callaway wouldn’t have so many sleepless nights during game week.       

Key player to a successful season: Webb.  The defense lacks the depth and size to hold up in a Conference USA that’s fast becoming the new WAC.  It’s going to allow a lot of yards and a lot of points.  If UAB is going to make a positive step in 2008, it’ll need the offense to take the lead.  That means Webb will have to be special, making plays in every imaginable way and getting the ball in the hands of an underrated corps of young receivers.    

The season will be a success if ... the Blazers are more competitive in conference play.  UAB is not going to sniff a bowl invite, so what that means in terms of wins and losses isn’t the central issue.  Unlike last season, when the wheels came off in October and November, the program needs to improve as the season grinds on, as opposed to the opposite.  Of course, an upset along the way to rally around couldn’t hurt.

Key game: Oct. 2 vs. Memphis.  Aside from the breather with Alabama State on Sept. 20, the visit from Memphis will be the Blazers’ best chance to win a game in the first half of the season.  Plus, it’s a televised Thursday night affair that’ll give Callaway and his kids a wider audience to show the progress they’ve made since last year.          

2007 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