The good news: The Blazers return 19 starters from last season. The bad news: UAB only beat one Division I team (I refuse to say Football Bowl Subdivision) in 2007.
Coach: Neil Callaway (second year at UAB)
2007 Record: 2-10, 1-7 C-USA
Returning starters: 19 (Offense: Eight; defense: Nine; kicker/punter: Two)
Top Returnees: QB Joe Webb, WR Frantrell Forrest, C Jake Seitz, FS Will Dunbar, LB Joe Henderson, CB Kevin Sanders, PK/P Swayze Waters
Key Losses: G Adam Truitt, TE David Sigler, QB Sam Hunt
Aug. 30 Tulsa
Sep. 6 @ Florida Atlantic
Sep. 13 @ Tennessee
Sep. 20 Alabama State
Sep. 27 @ South Carolina
Oct. 2 Memphis
Oct. 11 @ Houston
Oct. 18 Marshall
Nov. 1 @ Southern Miss
Nov. 15 @ Tulane
Nov. 22 East Carolina
Nov. 29 @ UCF
Key game: Aug. 30 vs. Tulsa
Let’s be honest here: The Blazers aren’t going to contend in Conference USA this year. But maybe UAB can upset a Tulsa team that will be breaking in a new quarterback to replace Paul Smith.
If they win that game, perhaps the Blazers could be 3-2 heading into full conference play in hopes of finishing .500 overall...but probably not. Facing three consecutive bowl teams to start the season will be rough on this club.
After splitting time between receiver and quarterback last season, junior Joe Webb has the full-time job under center. Webb beat out Anthony Speight in the spring, capping it with 173 yards passing and two touchdowns in the first half of the spring game. In three scrimmages, Webb went 51-for-83 for 706 yards with six touchdown passes and two interceptions.
“We know what Joe can do. He’s an outstanding player and we’re excited about him. We just have to correct some of the lapses and work on the consistency part of it, but he’s definitely a guy who can make plays,” coach Neil Callaway said.
Wide Receiver Frantrell Forrest will no doubt be Webb’s top target. As a freshman, Forrest had 49 catches for 563 yards and five touchdowns, and he was the No. 1 option in the spring, tallying 14 receptions for 238 yards and four touchdowns in three scrimmages, and then two TDs in the spring game from Webb.
But who will run the ball?
That’s likely to come down to either Dexter Barnett or Justin Brooks. Barnett was impressive in the spring game with 26 yards rushing on six carries and four receptions for 53 yards and a TD.
Webb also will be a running threat—he was the leading rusher in the spring game. UAB was 104th in I-A in rushing last season; there’s really nowhere to go but up.
The defense returns nine starters, but the Blazers are still young and small in a front seven that included 10 freshmen and sophomores in its two-deep last fall. The strength of the team might be a secondary that returns four players with starting experience, led by all-conference safety Will Dunbar, who led C-USA in tackles last year with 12.2 per game.
Two returning starters at outside linebacker, senior Joe Henderson and sophomore Mike Tashman, missed significant time in the spring with injuries but are expected to be ready to go by camp.
Senior PK Swayze Waters is a weapon any team would like to have: He was all-conference and a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year after making 22 of 28 field goals and averaging 41.4 yards per punt.
UAB still has a ways to go before they’ll be a contender in Conference USA, but with a lot of their returning starters back, we should see a much-improved team in 2008.