Preview 2008 - UAB Offense
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2008 UAB Offense Preview
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need to know:
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. QB Joseph 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
was unexpectedly solid in pass protection but needs to step it
up in the running game.
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
Junior QB Joseph Webb
Player that has to step up and become a star:
Sophomore RB Dexter Barnett
Unsung star on the rise:
Sophomore WR Frantrell Forrest
Junior OL Jake Seitz
three all-star candidates:
1) Seitz 2) Forrest 3) Webb
Strength of the offense:
Webb, the receivers
Weakness of the offense:
The running game
Projected Starter: After sharing the job with Sam
Hunt and even catching 30 of his passes as a wide receiver, the
wait is finally over for junior Joseph Webb. He’s the
undisputed starter in Birmingham, with two years to make people
forget about Darrell Hackney. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Webb isn’t
your typical dual-threat under center. Chiseled from a slightly
bigger mold than former Auburn quarterback Reggie Slack, he’s
got the quick feet to zoom past defenders and the size to run
them over. Webb also possesses the arm strength needed to reach
UAB’s faster receivers, throwing five touchdowns and one pick in
limited duty a year ago. Once he learns how to manage a game
and read defenses better, the potential is there for him to
evolve into one of Conference USA’s up-and-coming quarterbacks.
Projected Top Reserves: The battle to back up Webb
will pit sophomore Anthony Speight versus senior
Rodney Bivens. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, Speight is bigger and
is the better pocket passer of the two. He’s also dangerous on
the move, which somewhat neutralizes one of Bivens’ best
attributes. While only 6-0 and 195 pounds, Bivens is the
shiftiest of the three quarterbacks, a burner when he gets into
the open field. He’s the kind of athlete that can be used in
certain running packages or shift to another position to make
better use of his athleticism.
Watch Out For… Webb to have a breakthrough season
by UAB standards. No longer looking over his shoulder, he has
the improving receivers, the athletic package, and the
confidence of the coaching staff to become the new face of the
Blazer program in 2008.
Strength: Scrambling. Webb, Speight, and Bivens
are all nimble quarterbacks that aren’t bashful about tucking
the ball, bolting from the pocket and picking up a first down.
Offensive coordinator Kim Helton will undoubtedly script a bunch
of plays specifically designed to maximize Webb’s multi-threat
Weakness: Depth. The passing game will be on a
northern trajectory provided Webb stays off the injured list.
Speight and Bivens have taken a few meaningless snaps in their
careers, and aren’t quite ready to pilot the offense against one
of the league’s thorniest schedules.
Outlook: Whether it was by design or because of
injuries, using multiple quarterbacks had become a nuisance over
the last two seasons for the Blazers. With Webb locked in as
the starter, the passing game will begin making strides after
finishing last in the league in passing efficiency.
Projected Starters: In short, the UAB running game
is abysmal after finishing 104th in the country.
Last year’s top rusher, Rashaud Slaughter, only managed 325
yards on the ground and is moving back to wide receiver. The
team’s second and third best runners were quarterbacks, and
option No. 4 was dismissed from the team. Yup, the situation is
dire. Coming out of spring, sophomore Dexter Barnett and
junior Justin Brooks were battling for a chance to be the
At 5-10 and 180 pounds, Barnett is a scatback that can zip
through small spaces and double as a receiver coming out of the
backfield. One of the program’s top recruits from 2007, he
lettered as a true freshman, logging 19 carries, catching two
passes, and contributing on special teams. While only 5-10 and
190 pounds, Brooks brings a little more muscle to the backfield,
when UAB wants to run between the tackles. Before transferring
from Troy, he played in four games in 2006, running for 72 yards
and three scores on 17 carries.
Projected Top Reserves: Until the newcomers arrive
in the summer, there won’t be much depth in the backfield.
Junior Jim Mitchell brings the most experience, playing
in all 12 games and carrying 18 times for 83 yards. A 5-10,
190-pound former walk-on, he knows the offense and will hold on
to the ball, but is most susceptible when the new recruits
descend on Birmingham in August.
Watch Out For…the arrival of Aaron Johns.
Yeah, you’ve heard this one before. The Blazers are still
waiting on Johns, a former Alabama back that got the boot from
Mike Shula three years ago. Although he’d easily be the
program’s most talented runner, he failed to meet academic
requirements in 2007, and is still trying to work his way back
to the UAB program.
Strength: The offensive line. Hey, if nothing
else, the running backs shouldn’t get hurt by the blockers in
front of them. The UAB line is young, experienced, and
continually getting better under the watchful eyes of Neil
Callaway and Will Friend. Now all the unit needs is a back that
can hit the hole with authority and won’t dance around in the
Weakness: Talent and depth. Unless Johns can make
his grades and shake off a couple of years worth of rust, the
Blazer offense doesn’t house a running back that’s worthy of
being a starter at this time. If he’s a no-show once again, UAB
will depend heavily on QB Joe Webb to assist the ground game.
Outlook: Forget 1,000 yards. It’s been three
years since UAB even had a 500-yard rusher, a trend that’s
unlikely to change unless Webb goes berserk on the ground.
Barnett shows some spark and could be dangerous as a third-down
back, but it’s asking too much for him to carry the load at 180
Projected Starters: A liability a year ago, the
Blazer receiving corps is gradually becoming one of the team
strengths. Sophomore Frantrell Forrest, in particular,
shined when the opportunity presented itself, catching a
team-high 49 passes for 563 yards and five touchdowns as a
first-year player. The 6-2, 195-pound starter in the slot, he
runs good routes, has sticky hands, and can take a short slant a
long way with a timely downfield block.
Sophomore Mario Wright has the edge at the X receiver
following a strong finish to 2007 and a terrific spring
session. As a true freshman, he had 27 catches for 272 yards
and four touchdowns, using his 6-5, 205-pound to sky above
defenders and laying the groundwork for a promising career in
The competition at Z receiver involves sophomore Mike Jones
and junior Darryl Harris. The 6-1, 180-pound Jones
caught 15 passes for 122 yards a year ago, but announced in the
spring that he’s ready to obliterate those numbers. Routinely
getting behind defensive backs, he caught a slew of long passes
and could give the offense the deep threat it’s lacking. Harris
is smaller at 5-10 and 175 pounds, relying on his quickness and
ability to find the soft spot in defenses to make his plays.
In sophomore Jeffrey Anderson, UAB may have located a
four-year starter at tight end . An All-Freshman selection at
6-3 and 255 pounds, he caught 15 passes for 216 yards and a
touchdown, showing an ability to pick up yards after the catch.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Rashaud
Slaughter was miscast as a running back, so he’s moving back
to his natural spot in the slot. A threat to make plays in the
open field, he led the Blazers with 325 and a touchdown on the
ground, adding 22 catches for 123 yards.
The veteran of the corps is 5-11, 185-pound senior Sylvester
Mencer, a three-time letterman with 44 career receptions and
four touchdowns. Although he was pushed to the background by
the freshmen, his experience will be invaluable for an ensemble
that’s characterized by its youth and inexperience.
Watch Out For… junior college transfer Roddell
Carter. Big, physical, and blazing fast at 6-4 and 220
pounds, he’s going to challenge the outside receivers as soon as
he arrives on campus. Carter could have played in the Big 12
this year, but opted for UAB, where the opportunity to shine is
within arm’s reach.
Strength: Length. If Carter is as good as
advertised, a strong likelihood, the Blazers will boast eight
wide receivers that go at least 6-1, a mismatch for most
Conference USA defensive backfields.
Weakness: Consistency. The future is bright, but
the present is still littered with the occasional dropped passes
and sloppy routes that come with sophomore-dominated unit.
They’ll get there in time and will be crisper than last season,
but the receivers are still going to make a fair amount of
Outlook: This group of receivers is a microcosm of
where Neil Callaway would like to take the UAB program. They’re
young, fast, and only going to get better with more reps and
more time with new full-time QB Joseph Webb. If the Blazer
offense begins to slowly get out of neutral, it’ll be because of
this emerging passing game.
Projected Starters: Seven letterwinners return
from an offensive line that quietly exceeded expectations a year
ago. The leader of the group is junior Jake Seitz, a
two-year fixture at center who made the switch to left guard
this spring to fill a need. At 6-2 and 290 pounds, he’s a heady
player that brings the footwork and quick hands of a former
state wrestling champion.
Although it’s not set in stone, the right guard spot was being
filled by junior Daniel Seahorn at the conclusion of
spring. A first-year player out of Tyler (Tex.) Junior College,
he’s 6-2 and 300 pounds, impressing the coaching staff with his
strength and quick retention of the offense.
The move of Seitz to guard has been made possible by the rapid
development of 6-3, 290-pound Caleb Thomas at center.
Just a redshirt freshman, he’s particularly versatile and was
the starter at right guard in last year’s opener before a foot
injury curtailed his season. Showing good toughness and
consistency with his shotgun snaps, he’ll keep Seitz at guard as
long as he keeps learning.
The favorites at tackle are a pair of sophomores, 6-7, 295-pound
Matt McCants on the left side and 6-4, 295-pound
Terence Edge over on the right. Both started as true
freshmen, overachieving on a line that allowed the second fewest
sacks in Conference USA. McCants has a high ceiling and the
long arms needed to wall off opposing pass rushers. After
spending three years in the high school band and less than a
season playing football, the coaches believe his best on the
field is yet to come.
Edge has continuously added weight and muscle since arriving in
Birmingham, yet hasn’t lost the quickness that makes him one of
the line’s best athletes. Another late-bloomer, last year’s
baptism under fire will really begin paying dividends to the
offense this fall.
Projected Top Reserves: At guard, 6-3, 300-pound
sophomore Adam Hollifield has the potential to crack the
lineup, but slipped in the pecking order after missing spring
practice with a foot injury. A starter in last year’s first
five games, the former walk-on tore a tendon in his foot against
Mississippi State that prematurely ended his season.
Adding more depth to guard is another sophomore, 6-5, 290-pound
Logan Creel. A versatile blocker who can also play
tackle, he lettered as a freshman, flashing quickness off the
snap and a need for more upper body strength.
The Blazers are still waiting for junior tackle Willie
Thompson to blossom into the player that was the gem of the
2005 recruiting class. A tremendous physical specimen at 6-6
and 295 pounds, he earned significant playing time in 2007, but
is currently lagging a step behind McCants on the left side.
Watch Out For … the staff to continue shuffling
the deck. The goal is to get the five best linemen in the
huddle, and as the spring demonstrated, that process is far from
over. Hollifield, Creel, Thompson are all listed as backups,
but have the potential and the experience to earn a promotion.
Strength: The future. There isn’t a senior on the
two-deep, and underclassmen will lead the way up front. The
Blazers used four freshmen a year ago and lived to tell about
it. Now that those rookies are a year older and wiser, the unit
expects fewer false starts and more holes for the running
Weakness: Run blocking. The problems in the
running game are a shared responsibility. No, the backs aren’t
very good, but the line hasn’t exactly helped the situation. A
little undersized as a group, the unit needs to somehow become
more physical at the point of attack.
Outlook: Although the Blazers are still going to
get schooled by some of the league’s better lines, there’s
reason for optimism, especially if Thomas allows Seitz to stay
at guard. McCants and Edge are green, but will keep getting
better, eventually giving UAB a formidable bookend at tackle.