2010 UAB Preview - Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - UAB Blazer Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: UAB has more depth, talent, and
experience on defense than at any time in Neil
Callaway’s tenure. Will it make a difference? The
Blazers have been shoved around over the last few
seasons, allowing 455 yards and 32 points a game in
2009. However, the returns of nine starters and 29
lettermen lend hope that progress is on the horizon.
While UAB will never be confused with Alabama’s
other FBS schools, it should be able to generate
more pressure on the quarterback and create a few
more big plays than last year. Up front, the team is
very deep and very feisty, led by the inside-outside
tandem of Elliott Henigan and Bryant Turner,
respectively. On the last line of defense, the
secondary will continue to yield big plays, but
thumpers, such as Hiram Atwater, Chase Daniel and
Jamie Bender, will make receivers earn every catch
they make. If LB Marvin Burdette can patrol the
middle and keep plays in front of him, this D has a
chance to break the recent cycle.
Star of the defense: Senior DE Bryant Turner
Tackles: Hiram Atwater, 89
Sacks: Bryant Turner, 6
Interceptions: Chase Daniel, Marquis Coleman, 3
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior CB T.J.
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Marvin Burdette
Best pro prospect: Turner
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Turner, 2) Senior FS Hiram
Atwater, 3) Junior NT Elliott Henigan
Strength of the defense: The defensive line, the safeties,
Weakness of the defense: Sacks, pass defense, third down
defense, red zone defense
Projected Starters: Don’t laugh, but UAB might be as
loaded on the defensive line as it’s ever been.
There’s experience and talent everywhere, led by
6-2, 265-pound senior DE Bryant Turner.
The Blazers’ leading pass rusher the last two
seasons, he had 23 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and
a half-dozen sacks in 2009. He has an insatiable
appetite for the backfield and the motor to fight
through blocks. Continuously improving, he’s poised
for a spot on the All-Conference USA squad.
Bucking to form a bookend with Turner is 6-2,
225-pound sophomore Daniel White ,
a converted linebacker making it difficult to keep
him off the field. He impressed in his first season
out of high school, making 43 tackles, five tackles
for loss, and 2.5 sacks, quickly getting comfortable
with the speed of the game. While undersized for run
support, he has the burst and natural lean to be a
real nuisance for opposing quarterbacks.
At nose tackle, the staff has been thrilled with the
progress made by 6-4, 275-pound junior
Elliott Henigan, who has not lost a step
despite bulking up to handle the pounding. A starter
for most of 2009, he wound up fifth on the team with
47 tackles, adding 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks,
and three forced fumbles. He’s just a playmaker,
constantly sticking his nose into the action and
beating his man off the snap.
Anchoring the run defense is 6-4, 280-pound senior
D.J. Reese , who enters his fourth season
as a starter on the inside. Physical at the point of
attack and able to occupy more than one blocker, he
had 24 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. While not a
penetrator, he does a nice job of clogging lanes and
freeing up his teammates.
Projected Top Reserves: Providing breathers for Reese
at tackle will be 6-0, 275-pound senior
David Decordova , a veteran and a luxury to
have on the second unit. While not flashy, he’s
strong in the upper body and picked up valuable reps
in his first full season out of El Camino (Calif.)
College, making a dozen stops.
Versatile senior Tim Davis is
back for one final season, providing depth at either
end or tackle. For now, he’ll be behind Turner, but
if an emergency arises, he has the experience and
the stout, 6-0 and 265-pound frame to shift inside
and make plays. As a part-timer in 2009, he made 18
tackles, 5.5 stops behind the line, and a sack,
flashing good quickness to the pocket.
Although he’s still clawing for more playing time
behind White, there’s something exciting and
intriguing about senior Derek Slaughter
, a former transfer from Coffeyville (Kans.)
Community College. Maybe it’s the explosiveness and
athleticism in a 6-2, 245-pound frame that helped
catapult him to 33 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss,
and 3.5 sacks.
Watch Out For … the Blazers to bring the heat on every down. While it
didn’t always show up in the sack totals last year,
this collection of athletes is capable of applying
constant pressure throughout the season. Best of
all, the tackles are cat quick, so it won’t be
predictable or have to come from the ends.
Strength: Agility. Sure, UAB is a little undersized up front, but
that’s expected when the regions wide-bodies sign
with Auburn, Alabama, or some other SEC school. The
Blazers will compensate with quicker linemen, who
can get around the edge and slice through the gaps
Weakness: Finishing. Considering how often the Blazers make
penetration, you’d think they’d boast more sacks and
tackles for loss. Instead, they were just 89th
nationally and ninth in Conference USA at getting to
the quarterback, a perennial problem in these parts
that has to change in 2010.
Outlook: No more building. No more waiting for next year. This should
be the season that UAB sets the tempo up front
against comparable opponents. There’s talent, depth,
and speed at both end and tackle, so the rotation
will be well-stocked and the trickle-down results
should reach the linebackers and defensive backs.
Unit Rating: 5.5
Projected Starters: The linebackers have done quite a
bit of shuffling around since the end of last
season. The one constant has been 6-2, 220-pound
junior Lamanski Ware, who’s back
for another season as the starter at strongside.
Second on the team in tackles, he had 71 stops and
3.5 behind the line. Big enough to support the run
and quick enough to fly off the edge, he brings
plenty of versatility to the corps.
Over at weakside will be 6-3, 220-pound senior
Darrion Wilson, propelling himself to the
top of the depth chart with a solid offseason. He
had 14 tackles and two tackles for loss in his first
season out of Jones County (Miss.) Junior College,
but has the range and instincts to blow past those
numbers after the first couple of games.
The youngest member of the unit and a possible
anchor for the future is 5-11, 240-pound sophomore
Marvin Burdette. The man in the middle for
the Blazers, he performed very well in his first
year on campus, making 43 stops and got more
comfortable with each passing week. His height may
have scared off the SEC programs, but he has the
speed, strength, and instincts to make a ton of
plays before he’s through in Birmingham.
Projected Top Reserves: The battle for reps at
strongside behind Ware is sure to include 5-11,
230-pound senior Keon Harris. No
longer safety-sized, he’s added considerable size
and strength while maintaining his lateral
quickness. A letterwinner in each of the last three
seasons, he had 33 tackles a year ago and brings a
ton of valuable experience to the B team.
In his first season of action, 5-11, 215-pound
sophomore Greg Irvin picked up
valuable reps as a reserve and on special teams. He
appeared in 11 games, making 16 tackles and showing
progress throughout the year. Even at weakside, he
lacks the girth to excel in run defense, but has the
closing speed to track down ballcarriers from
Watch Out For … Burdette to quickly become one of the stalwarts of the
D. From his demeanor to his work on film, you can
just see the sophomore becoming a 100-tackle guy
before too long. He plays with great intensity and
pad level, putting him in a position to bury
opposing players on running plays.
Strength: Range. What they might lack in girth, the Blazer linebackers
make up for with outstanding range and lateral
speed. Their ability to cover so much ground in pass
coverage and on blitzes allows the coaching staff to
get creative with this group.
Weakness: Big plays. For all of the good athletes that comprise this
group, UAB should be getting more money plays, such
as takeaways and stops for minus yards. The
linebackers are still a little raw, in general, and
have to guard against being out of position.
Outlook: While UAB has good athletes at linebacker and better size than
in recent years, the unit still must play with more
discipline and consistency in order to keep plays
from getting to the secondary. Ware and Wilson have
upside on the outside, and Burdette figures to be in
on a bunch of plays this fall.
Unit Rating: 4.5
Projected Starters: From a secondary that allowed
more yards per game than any school in America, UAB
will be looking to regroup and replace top cover
corner Brandon Carlisle. First in line to succeed
him is 6-0, 200-pound junior T.J. Ballou
, who’ll be making his debut out of East Mississippi
Community College. A former walk-on at Alabama, he
plans to bring more of a physical attitude to the
Blazer defensive backfield.
The veteran among the cornerbacks is 5-9, 175-pound
junior Terrell Springs , a starter
since the middle of his rookie year. While
undersized and prone to getting beat over the top,
he will not shy away from contact, and has improving
skills when the ball is in the air. In his first
season as a regular, he was third on the team with
68 tackles, adding a team-high 10 pass breakups.
At free safety, 6-3, 205-pound junior Chase
Daniel was holding a narrow lead for the
job coming out of spring. Like just about everyone
in this group, he has to improve his coverage
skills, but he compensates by stepping up in support
of the run defense and wrapping up in the open
field. One of the hardest hitters of this group, he
had 30 tackles and three interceptions in an
injury-shortened sophomore year.
The Blazers went the JUCO route to bolster its
overall talent at strong safety as well. Junior
Jamie Bender is already slated to start,
rising to the top of the depth in the spring. After
doing an apprenticeship at Jones County (Miss.)
Junior College, he’s set to be an instant
contributor for a secondary that needs it. At 6-0
and 200 pounds, he’s a headhunter, with the
quickness and agility of a former running back.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Hiram Atwater
is still going to be a major factor in the defensive
backfield, but you just wouldn’t have known it by
following the spring. After leading the team with 89
tackles and earning second team All-Conference USA
honors in his debut out of Garden City (Kans.)
Community College, he was suspended in April for
violating team rules. A heavy hitter, with a good
feel for the flow of a play, he’ll eventually be
tough to keep off the field at safety.
The Blazers have a couple of experienced players
providing depth at cornerback. Behind Springs is
5-9, 175-pound junior Andre Hicks
, who has lettered in each of the last two seasons,
making 34 tackles and a pick a year ago. Vulnerable
when matched with more physical receivers, he does a
nice job of sticking to his man and has the speed to
play the position.
If Ballou can’t hold the top spot, it’ll likely mean
that 6-1, 185-pound junior Marquis Coleman
has beaten him out. He has the size to cover taller
receivers and has played in each of the program’s
last 24 games, making 26 tackles and a team-high
three interceptions a year ago. He has a role in
this defense, needing to tighten up his coverage
skills in order to elevate up a rung.
Watch Out For … the new guys. It’s already clear that Ballou and
Bender were signed to contribute immediately. If
both can live up to expectations and play as if
they’ve been here longer, they’re capable of
upgrading a very shaky group.
Strength: The safeties. Assuming Atwater returns without incident, UAB
has three quality safeties, who’ll defend the run
and force receivers to short-arm passes. He,
Daniels, and Bender are wrap-up tacklers, who’ll
bring the payload like a linebacker.
Weakness: Defending the pass. Yes, the Blazers are participating in a
difficult conference for defensive backs, but even
by that standard, they’ve missed the mark. Unless
things change markedly, this team will have a hard
time getting beyond 2009, when it yielded a whopping
311 yards a game through the air.
Outlook: Good athletes and big hitters don’t always equal a stingy pass
defense. UAB is proof of that. Its size and speed
are impressive coming off the bench, but too often,
this group gets burned by opposing quarterback.
While the JUCO transfers lend some hope for
immediate rewards, the climb to respectability is a
Unit Rating: 4.5
Projected Starters: The UAB special teams returns
virtually intact, with junior Trey Ragland
and sophomore Josh Zahn set to
be the punter and placekicker, respectively, once
again. Ragland showed good leg strength in his first
season, averaging 42.8 yards a punt. For a kid who
didn’t play the position in high school, he has a
bright future that continued to shine through during
Ragland was supposed to pull double-duty a year ago,
but Zahn beat him out in his first year out of high
school and has not looked back. His accuracy needs
work, going 14-of-21 on field goals and missing
three extra points, but he showed an ability to
reach from 50 yards and has laid a foundation to be
a four-year starter in Birmingham.
Like last season, when he averaged 21.9 yards a
return, senior Frantrell Forrest
is expected to be the primary kick returner. Out of
junior Nick Adams , Pat
Shed , and T.J. Ballou ,
however, a new punt returner must emerge.
Watch Out For … Zahn to be more consistent than a year ago. A late
signee from Arizona, he did well just to win the job
last summer. Now that he has a full season of
experience in the rear view mirror, he’ll be better
positioned to improve his accuracy, which the
offense will desperately need.
Strength: Ragland’s distance. The junior averaged nearly 43 yards in
his first season, ranking No. 30 in the nation. Now,
if he can improve his hang time and directional
kicks, the Blazers can move up the charts in net
punting as well.
Weakness: The return game. Whether they were
returning kicks or defending them, the Blazers were
just plain awful a year ago. They ranked near the
bottom of Conference USA in returns, allowed two
kickoffs to be taken back for a touchdown, and had a
couple of punts blocked.
Outlook: UAB has a lot of work to do on special teams if it’s going to
be considered an asset to the offense and the
defense. The good news, however, is that unlike this
time last year, the punter and placekicker will not
be first-time starters.
Unit Rating: 4
- 2010 UAB Preview |
- 2010 UAB Defense |
UAB Depth Chart
- UAB Previews 2009 |