UAB Football Predictions
UAB finished up the 2011 season with a 3-9 record, but they did manage to go 3-5 inside C-USA with a couple of huge upsets at home against UCF (16 point underd0gs) and Southern Miss (23 point underdogs). While the Blazers played better than their record might indicate, there’s no hiding the fact that this team has went seven years without a winning record.
Neil Callaway was the man responsible for each of the last five losing seasons, and it really didn’t come as much of a surprise when UAB decided to let him go after last year. They went out and added in Arkansas assistant Garrick McGee, who many thought would take over at Arkansas once it was learned that Bobby Petrino would not be returning. McGee ended up staying in Birmingham, and a lot of people are excited to see if he can get this program back on track.
Hard to expect a huge turnaround in 2012, as the Blazers have just 11 starters back (7 offense, 4 defense), but things really can’t a whole lot worse. It’s going to take some time for the players to learn the new systems that will be installed on both sides of the ball and for McGee to get the right players into the program to make them work. Here’s a look at what the Blazers will be sending to the field on both sides of the ball in 2012.
The Blazers are coming off one of their worst offensive seasons in years. While UAB averaged 364 yards of total offense, they only managed to score 20.2 ppg. That simply won’t cut it in C-USA, especially when you have a defense that gives up nearly 40 points a game. Fans are counting on McGee to get this unit back on track, as he played a huge role in the Razorbacks averaging 36.8 ppg (438 yards of total offense).
It’s going to be interesting to see if McGee sticks with starting quarterback Jonathan Perry or decides to plug in one of his recruits. Perry entered the 2011 season as the backup to Bryan Ellis, but Ellis couldn’t stay healthy and ended up only playing in four games. In eight starts, Perry threw for 2,042 yards with 10 touchdowns and was third on the team with 294 rushing yards (3 TDs). I think Perry has the potential to put up some big numbers, but it’s all about whether or not he fits the new system.
In 2009, UAB featured one of the best rushing attacks in all of college football (230 ypg), but have regressed each of the last two seasons. Last year the Blazers only managed 129 ypg on the ground. However, UAB figures to have a pretty decent shot at turning this unit around in 2012. The Blazers return their top backs from last season in Greg Franklin (430 yards) and Darrin Reaves (372 yards), but the focus this spring has been on Georgia transfer Dontavius Jackson, who many think will open the season as the starter.
There is plenty to be excited about at the wide receiver position. Prior to the start of last season, the Blazers had to replace two starters, including Frantrell Forest (3rd all-time with 2,215 yards), and it wasn’t exactly sure where the production would come from. Sophomore Jackie Williams emerged to lead the team with 58 catches for 607 yards and Nick Adams returned from a season ending injury in ’10 to finish second on the team with 390 yards. Patrick Hearn was third with 364 yards and Jamarcus Nelson was fourth with just 17 catches for 358 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. Everyone is back for 2012, and you have to think this unit will only get better.
Things don’t look as promising on the offensive line. The only starter back up front is senior left tackle Chris Hubbard. This unit was already heading in the wrong direction and will now feature four new faces who have never started a single game in their career. This is without question the biggest concern I have on the entire team. It doesn’t matter who you have at the skill positions if you can’t keep the opposing team out of your backfield.
To say the Blazers have fielded some pretty bad defenses would be a understatement. UAB had nine starters back to a unit that allowed just 31.6 ppg in 2010. You would at least expect a similar result in 2011, but the Blazers wound up giving up 36.8 ppg (most in school history) and nearly 90 more yards of total offense. With just four starters returning in 2012, opposing offenses should continue to put up huge numbers.
UAB had a horrible time stopping the run last year, as they allowed 203 ypg on 5.2 ypc. A lot of that had to do with a lack of experience. The Blazers had several true freshmen and sophomores playing big time minutes. While I still think the Blazers are going to continue to give up big plays on the ground, this should be one of the most improved defensive lines in the entire country.
The Blazers have to replace starting outside linebacker Lamanski Ware, but get back one of the top linebackers in the conference in Marvin Burdette (92 tackles) and starting outside linebacker Greg Irvin (68 tackles). Unfortunately two of their leading backups in D.A. Autry and D.J. White are both questionable for the start of the season. White, who was the No. 3 tackler in 2010, suffered a knee injury in spring practice and Autry, No. 6 tackler in 2011, has a medical issue that could keep him from playing.
While opposing offenses rarely had to throw the ball against the Blazers defense, the secondary offered little resistance when the ball was in the air. The Blazers allowed the other team to complete 71% of their attempts, which is about as bad as it can get for a defensive unit. It doesn’t figure to get any better in 2012. UAB has to replace all four starters from last year.
Conference USA Prediction – 5th East Division
I think the addition of McGee is going to pay dividends in the long run, but he steps into a pretty bad situation in 2012. The offense has some talent to work with, but the offensive line is going to make it very hard for them to reach their full potential. Defensively, they should be stronger against the run, but it will likely just lead to more big plays in the passing game. A home game against Memphis is all the only thing that is keeping the Blazers out of the basement in the East, as they draw both Tulsa and Houston out of the West.
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