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2009 UAB Preview - Offense
UAB WR Frantrell Forrest
UAB WR Frantrell Forrest
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 21, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - UAB Blazer Offense

UAB Blazers

Preview 2009 - Offense

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2009 CFN UAB Preview | 2009 UAB Offense Preview
- 2009 UAB Defense Preview
| 2009 UAB Depth Chart
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2008 UAB Preview | 2007 UAB Preview
| 2006 UAB Preview

What you need to know: Everyone is back, but will it make a difference? It should for a school that lacked consistency or balance a year ago, averaging just 22 points a game. The centerpiece of the offense will be QB Joe Webb, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and showed steady improvement as a passer in his first year as an every-down player. He’ll be surrounded by a nice collection of players, all of whom will be asked to elevate the level of their play. Rashaud Slaughter led all backs with 514 yards on the ground, adding valuable catches as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. The receivers and tight ends, led by Frantrell Forrest, are deep, big, and capable of causing mismatches. And while the line still needs to do a better job of creating daylight, it should be improved on experience and depth alone. With so many familiar faces wrapped around Webb, the offense will be ahead of the defense throughout the year.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Joe Webb
208-353, 2,367 yds, 10 TD, 16 INT
Rushing: Joe Webb
198 carries, 1,021 yds, 11 TD
Receiving: Frantrell Forrest
42 catches, 536 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Joe Webb
Player that has to step up and become a star
: Sophomore LT Matt McCants
Unsung star on the rise: Junior RT Terence Edge
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Frantrell Forrest
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Senior C Jake Seitz  2) Webb  3) Forrest
Strength of the offense: Webb, the receivers, the veteran O-line
Weakness of the offense: The backs, red zone offense, turnovers

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: The Blazers had to be kicking themselves that they didn’t hand the ball to 6-4, 220-pound senior Joe Webb sooner after he emerged as the program’s best offensive weapon. A jack-of-all-trades in his first two seasons, he became a full-time quarterback last fall, flashing exciting dual-threat ability at the position. Without Sam Hunt looking over his shoulder, he took almost every snap, going 208-of-353 for 2,367 yards, 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, adding 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Not your typical scrambling quarterback, he’ll lower his shoulder and bury defenders who don’t get their feet planted. As a passer, he needs to develop more touch and stop bird-dogging so many passes.

Projected Top Reserves: In his first offseason of action, 6-3, 185-pound redshirt freshman David Isabelle has played his way into the backup role. A good all-around athlete, he’ll ideally spend this season doing an apprenticeship behind Webb, while learning the finer nuances of the position. He still leans too heavily on his athleticism and needs to become a more accurate passer.

Running third on the depth chart is 6-1, 180-pound sophomore Joseph Bento. Another nimble athlete at the position, he’s yet to take a snap in Birmingham, and offers limited upside as a thrower at this stage of his career.

Watch Out For… Webb to keep maturing as a complete quarterback. Is he a next-level guy? Probably no, but a full year as the guy taking snaps has helped his decision-making and pocket presence. If he can stop staring down receivers and forcing passes, the Blazers will have one of the league’s more dangerous players.
Strength: Athleticism. Webb, in particular, but also Isabelle and Bento, are agile quarterbacks, who will escape pressure and pick up first downs on designed runs. Although the passing attack hasn’t quite hatched, the playbook can still be inventive when the man behind center performs like another running back.
Weakness: Consistency in the passing game. Webb is the program’s best hurler, and he’s still rather raw through the air. The Blazers were 87th nationally in passing efficiency, throwing more picks than touchdowns and failing to fully employ a decent corps of receivers.
Outlook: Not since Darrell Hackney graduated a few years ago has UAB had such a positive situation at quarterback. No, he’s not a finished product and he’ll make too many mistakes, but he’ll also frustrate defenses with his ability to break free and pick up big chunks with his feet. The leader and face of the program, he figures to make fewer costly errors in his second season as a full-timer.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters: After moving him between the backfield and wide receiver, UAB finally designated senior Rashaud Slaughter a running back. He responded with a healthy 514 yards and four touchdowns on 113 carries, while catching 29 passes for 176 yards and a score. At 5-9 and 185 pounds, he’s no workhorse, but if gets the ball in space, he can make people miss and run for a while. The Blazers would like to get the ball in his hands 20 or so times a game.

Projected Top Reserves: When the offense needs someone to move a pile between the tackles, it turns to 5-11, 210-pound junior Justin Brooks, easily the biggest of the backs. A north-south runner, who began his career at Troy, he gets good leg drive and can shake free from arm tacklers. As a part-timer a year ago, he rushed 53 times for 218 yards and three scores, adding 11 receptions for 101 yards.

While he hasn’t played much in his first two seasons, that could change in 2009 for 5-10, 175-pound sophomore Dexter Barnett. A scatback in the Slaughter mold, he’s able to fit through small cracks in the defense, taking a pitch or a pass and running for a long time. After not playing in 2008, he should see a spike in touches.  

Watch Out For… more involvement from the running backs. Although Joe Webb might very well lead the team in rushing again, the staff would prefer that he endure a little less of a beating this season. Ideally, Slaughter, Brooks, and Barnett can pick up more slack, allowing the quarterback to be less of a target for defenses.
Strength: Wiggle. Slaughter brings it, as does Barnett, if the spring is any indication. Both players run with nice body control and accelerate upfield in a hurry, making it difficult for defenders to get a clean lick on them.
Weakness: A true feature back. In a more ideal situation, Slaughter would have a role in the offense, but not as the every-down back. He just doesn’t have the right body type for that job description. The Blazers need a runner, who can handle 25 carries a game, if asked, and wear down defenses late in tight contests.
Outlook: Yeah, Slaughter will snap off a big play every now and then, but UAB’s quest to find a really talented running back is going to continue. The Blazers will try to get him touches far from the trash, mixing in Brooks occasionally as a change of pace and trying to get Barnett more involved with the offense.
Rating: 4.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: UAB feels great about a receiving corps that welcomes back all but two of the 13 players who caught a pass in 2008. The leading man will once again be 6-2, 195-pound junior Frantrell Forrest, the team’s top receiver in each of the last seasons. A year ago, he caught 42 passes for 536 yards and two touchdowns, a decline from his freshman year, yet still the best among the Blazers. More than just a gifted athlete, with improving hands, he’s also developed a chemistry with QB Joe Webb, which benefits both players.

At “X” receiver, junior Mario Wright is UAB’s most physically imposing receiver, a 6-5, 205-pounder, who’ll climb the tree to make a grab and is a quality downfield blocker. While still somewhat raw with his fundamentals, he’s already started 18 games in two years, making 47 catches for 515 yards and five touchdowns. After laying the foundation, he’s ready to take the next step in his maturation process.

In the three-wide set, 6-2, 220-pound senior Mark Ferrell will be lined up at “Z” receiver. While he only caught 13 passes for 177 yards in his debut out of Mississippi Delta Junior College, most of his production came in the final few games of the season. A thick, physical receiver, he’ll use his body to shield defenders and sit down in soft spots.

The Blazers have one of the best tight end situations in all of Conference USA, boasting two starting-caliber players. Senior Zach Lankford is the lesser known of the pair, catching 16 balls for 190 yards and two touchdowns in 2008, yet came out of spring atop the depth chart. At 6-4 and 250 pounds, he’s an effective blocker and a sure-handed pass-catcher.

Projected Top Reserves: Running second to Wright at the “X” is 6-4, 220-pound junior Roddell Carter, a second-year transfer out of Georgia Military College, who opened with 16 catches for 206 yards. He has the triangle numbers to be a success at this level, but needs the reps and the consistency to improve as a receiver.

It hasn’t taken 6-2, 195-pound sophomore Nick Adams, now No. 2 at “Z”, to move up the depth chart. A first-year, he showed big-play skills in his only year at Fort Scott (Kans.) Community College, catching 48 balls for 784 yards and displaying blazing 4.4 speed.

Although 6-3, 255-pound junior Jeffrey Anderson is currently listed on the second team, he’s basically like having another starter at tight end. He’s been one of the team’s best pass-catchers over the last two seasons, pulling down 38 passes for 684 yards and four touchdowns. He shows an ability to stretch the seam of the defense and pick up yards after the catch.

Watch Out For… progress. This was a raw collection of athletes a year ago, but a full season and another spring of action have a way of smoothing out many of the wrinkles. No, they’re not quite where assistant Tim Bowens needs them to be, but they’re a lot closer than they were last summer.
Strength: Measurables. One size and speed alone, there aren’t many defensive backfields in the league that are going to be slowing these guys down. From top to bottom, all of the receivers are tall, strong, and able to get down the sidelines in a hurry. If they can ever tweak the little things, Webb is going to have a dynamite set of pass-catchers.  
Weakness: Consistency. Yeah, the future is bright here, but the present is still flush with the occasional dropped passes and sloppy routes that come with a relatively young unit. As a group, the receivers have to do a better job of adjusting to bad balls, which they’re going to see playing in this offense.
Outlook: This ensemble of wide receivers and tight ends is a microcosm of where Neil Callaway and his staff plan to take the UAB program. It’s oozing with raw talent, athleticism, and upside potential. If they can put it all together this fall, the passing game will reap the benefits.
Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Absolutely everyone returns to a UAB offensive line that has a chance to be the best in the 18-year history of the program. Not only is every starter back, but so is 6-7, 295-pound sophomore Matt McCants, a projected starter, who missed all of 2008 for academic reasons. Too bad, too, because he appeared headed for a breakthrough campaign. A starter as a true freshman, he has the long arms and light feet needed to be a wall-off blocker in pass protection. Having spent more time with the band than the football team in high school, the staff believes his best football is ahead of him.

Over at right tackle is 6-3, 295-pound junior Terence Edge, who also started on this line as a true freshman. He, however, was available in 2008, elevating his game and earning honorable mention All-Conference USA honors. One of the best athletes on the line and a tough competitor, he’s excelled despite being better suited and better sized to be a guard.

The line leader will once again be 6-2, 290-pound C Jake Seitz, a fourth-year starter and the quarterback of this unit. Although he’s able to play guard as well, he more valuable at the pivot, where he’ll be barking out signals and assuming more of a leadership role. A former Alabama state wrestling champion, he’s especially skilled at hand fighting and has a solid base.

The competition at both guard spots has been heated and is expected to continue in August. The edge in experience goes to 6-5, 295-pound senior Daniel Seahorn and 6-3, 300-pound junior Adam Hollifield on the left and right side, respectively, but they’ll need more than just a track record to win jobs. In his first year out of Tyler (Tex.) Junior College, Seahorn started a handful of games and showed improvement, but still has plenty of room for growth.

Hollifield was the starter for the first half of the year before being sidelined with an injury. It was the second straight season that his availability had been cut short, raising questions about his durability. A former walk-on, he’s a self-made grinder, who always plays to the whistle.

Projected Top Reserves: Going toe-to-toe with Seahorn at left guard is 6-4, 290-pound junior Greg Bulls, one of last season biggest surprises up front. A late signee out of Blinn (Tex.) College, he showed quick retention and a nice punch as a blocker, starting all 12 games of the season. No matter who wins this battle, the Blazers will have an experienced guard on the second unit.

Senior Willie Thompson is the most seasoned veteran at tackle, bringing three letters and a bunch of starts into his final season in Birmingham. At 6-6 and 295 pounds, he’s a tremendous physical specimen and a former heralded recruit, but has never quite hit the high note, like everyone within the program anticipated.

While Thompson started the first six games of 2008 at left tackle, 6-4, 300-pound junior Greg Calhoun started the final six games. In the first significant action of his Blazer career, he played well, and is firmly entrenched as Edge’s caddy on the right side.

Watch Out For… McCants. He’s the key to the fortunes of this unit. Just the fact that he’s remained ahead of Thompson and Calhoun, a pair of serviceable tackles, is an indication of the staff’s confidence level. If he meets expectations and helps keep the quarterback upright, the entire offensive line will reap the benefits.
Strength: Experience. From top bottom and left to right, the Blazers are home to one of the most seasoned and deep offensive lines in Conference USA. Not only do all of last year’s starters return, but all of the backups have seen relevant live action as well.
Weakness: Run blocking. If not for the nifty feet and escapability of QB Joe Webb, where would the running have been last fall? Sure, none of the backs will be meeting with prospective agents soon, but their production would be much healthier with a little more room to navigate. 
Outlook: After using a bunch of underclassmen over the last two years, UAB is ready to roll out a deep and talented offensive line that’s capable of dominating against certain opponents. If the supporting cast can grow up around Seitz, the anchor, this group is going to catch a bunch of teams by surprise throughout the season.
Rating: 5


  

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