SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  UAB Blazers

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Watson Brown (9th year, 42-47)
2002 record: 5-7
C-USA finish: T-5th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 130.2 ypg
(5th in C-USA, 78th in nation)
Pass: 184.5 ypg (8th, 80th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 154.0 ypg (5th, 57th)
Pass: 228.2 ypg (8th, 76th)
Projected Starters
Offense (8 returning starters in bold)
WR   10   Roddy White   Jr.  
WR   87   Chico Cleveland   Jr.  
FL  12  Lance Rhodes  So. 
LT   70   Wilbert Hamilton   Sr.  
LG   72   Andy Galloway   Jr.  
50  Matt Batusic  So. 
RG   61   Larry Coachman   Sr.  
RT  75  Artavious Williams  Sr. 
TE   89   Sam Dudley   Jr.  
QB   4   Darrell Hackney   So.  
RB  34  Dan Burks  So. 
FB   6   Kendal Gibson   Jr.  
Defense (7)
DE  94  Anthony Garrett  So. 
DT  90  Sam Williamson  So. 
NT   93   Shamar Abrams   Jr.  
DE  49  Chris Mason  So. 
SLB  53  Gaylon Black  Jr. 
MLB   59   Nigel Eldridge   Jr.  
WLB   58   Zac Woodfin   Jr.  
CB   20   Dio Hill   Jr.  
CB   19   Carlos Hendricks   Jr.  
SS   8   Thurman Pearson   Sr.  
FS   24   Julius Wainwright   So.  
Special Teams
60  Nick Hayes  Jr. 
86  Parker Mullins  Fr. 
KR  Jason Southall  Jr. 
PR  34  Dan Burks  So. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at Baylor 
Sept. 4  Southern Miss 
Sept. 13  Troy State 
Sept. 20  at South Carolina 
Oct. 4  at Memphis 
Oct. 11  Cincinnati 
Oct. 18  at TCU 
Oct. 25  at Georgia 
Nov. 1  Army 
Nov. 8  Tulane 
Nov. 22  at South Florida 
Nov. 29  at Houston 
After consecutive winning seasons -- which produced realistic chances at the program's first postseason appearance -- UAB dropped back under .500 last season and off the bowl scouts' radar.

The main culprit for the Blazers' demise: a porous defense that ranked seventh in Conference USA, allowing more than 380 yards per game.

Enter Wayne Bolt, the former Troy State defensive coordinator. Despite a schedule last season that included games at Nebraska, Missouri, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Marshall, Troy State finished fourth nationally in total defense (276.8 yards per game), 11th in pass defense and 13th in rushing defense.

UAB coach Watson Brown was pleased with the defense's progress in the spring as it switched to a more traditional 4-3 scheme from a 4-2-5.

"I don't know that there will be an aggressive difference that you'll see. Both of them are attack-oriented defenses," Brown says. "We might play a little more zone coverage than we've played here. We've been man first, zone second. Now I think we'll be zone first, man second."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Quarterback Darrell Hackney, who emerged as the team's starter in week five last season, has the potential to become an all-league player. He went 4-4 in his eight games as a starter, and for the season passed for 1,977 yards and 14 TDs.

Sophomore Dan Burks will be the team's top running back. He started only two games last year, but he impressed coaches throughout the season with his running style. Burks doesn't wow the opposition with his size, but runs hard, plays tough and has a nifty spin move that keeps him moving forward.

Junior Sherrod "Roddy" White appears to be emerging as Hackney's favorite target. A big-play receiver who seems to be at his best late in the season, White made 33 of his team-leading 39 receptions in the team's eight conference games. Blessed with good size (6-foot-2) and speed, White has added strength, which should make him even more effective on routes across the middle.

Sophomores Lance Rhodes and Jhun Cook and junior Chico Cleveland should complement White. Rhodes transferred from Arizona State.

If the Blazers are to have a breakthrough season, it may be due to a deep, experienced offensive line. UAB returns four starters, including veterans Andy Galloway and Wilbert Hamilton.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Brown feels his defensive players flourished with Bolt's new scheme during spring practice. "I think our players have really embraced coach Bolt," he says. "I think they like what we're doing. There is a lot of penetration, a lot of blitzes. I am excited about it."

Bolt hopes the new scheme improves a unit that ranked last in total defense in conference games. There'll be challenges, starting on the defensive line where sophomores Anthony Garrett, Sam Williamson and Chris Mason are listed as starters alongside nosetackle Shamar Abrams, the group's lone returning starter.

There is experience at linebacker with Zac Woodfin, Nigel Eldridge and Gaylon Black, but backups are needed. The new defensive scheme calls for more linebackers than the Blazers had stockpiled.

And in the secondary, starters Dio Hill, Carlos Hendricks, Thurman Pearson and Julius Wainwright are back and will be joined by Warren Butler, who played behind Chris Brown, the team's best defensive player, a year ago.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Nick Hayes, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year, is back. Hayes connected on 17-of-22 field goals last year and 8-of-11 beyond 40 yards. Redshirt freshman Parker Mullins moves into the punting role.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

UAB's ability to become the dominating defensive team it was two years ago will be the key for the Blazers. UAB led the nation in rushing defense two years ago, but the unit slumped to 57th last year for a variety of reasons, mostly the loss of key personnel. If Bolt's new defensive scheme is effective, and if Hackney stays healthy at quarterback, the Blazers may surprise.

Click here for complete index of 2003 team previews

To purchase the 2003 College Football Preview from Athlon Sports, click here.

 


 
CNNSI