With a traditional 4-3 defense, the UAB Blazers are coached by Tommy West, in his first year on the job. The 30 year veteran coach knows a thing or two about defense, but has a very young defensive line and a bit undersized as well. Going 230, 275, 275, and 250 across the front, sophomore defensive end Connor Bryant is the only lineman with real experience and has seven starts to his name.
Linebacker is a different story and Coach West coaches the position as well. With 41 starts among them just from last year, the linebacker corps is led by junior Marvin Burdett (5-11, 230). They are a fast moving group and really know what they are doing.
Florida showed they can run the ball last week and this will be a little bit of a different challenge with the Blazer's experience and quality play at linebacker. Still, the Florida line will outweigh their counterparts by a solid 40 pounds a person or more and should really be able to open holes for the speedy backs. It is up to Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey to make use of fullback Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer and get past that second level of the defense.
Florida passing game vs. UAB pass defense:
This is a little more evenly matched. The back seven of UAB has all those starts returning at linebacker. Safety Jamie Bender started all 12 games a year ago and they also have three cornerbacks with some experience. It is a pretty seasoned group albeit they are in a new system.
Florida is feeling a little high on themselves after looking pretty good a week ago and that confidence should help. Charlie Weis will have to use a lot of play action to keep those linebackers shallow when he does want John Brantley to throw. The Florida receivers have to do a better job of fighting through the defender and getting open.
I don't see this one as a clear cut advantage yet for the Gators. They can go a good way in making me feel even better with another good game. However I will say…
Advantage: Slightly Florida
UAB running game vs. Florida rush defense:
UAB has decent size along the line of scrimmage, but it won't be the biggest line the Gators face by a wide margin. They were pretty balanced a year ago and rushed for 1,870 yards or 155 per game. The tricky part will be is if their top ball carrier will play in the game. He has missed the last three weeks of practice but is due back soon. Does the coach go ahead and play Pat Shed, who ran for 847 yard a year ago or maybe sit him out and go with four guys that had a total of 56 yards a year ago.
Florida's defense is designed first to stop the run and their beefier front did well a week ago doing just that against a pretty good running back.
UAB passing game vs. Florida pass defense:
Although he played in 11 games a year ago, he only started nine games and Blazer quarterback Bryan Ellis was able to throw for 2940 yards and 25 touchdowns, almost three TD passes per start. That also came with 12 interceptions and Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn thinks it is important to get in Ellis' face on Saturday.
"He is certainly a talented QB," Quinn said of Ellis on Wednesday. "We talk about affecting the QB every week. Sometimes it is hits on the QB, we don't really put a number on sacks. Sometimes it may be how many hits we can get, pressures we can get, batted balls. Those are the things that affect a QB. Certainly with a talented QB, the more hits and more pressure, that will bode well for us."
Florida's front seven showed well last week against a team that didn't drop back and throw it much at all. They actually got pressure despite that fact. This week, the offensive line led by Coach Kim Helton, a Gator grad and very well respected coach will be a different ball of wax.
"With each offensive line that you look at, you kind of look at the history of the offensive line coach or the coordinator," Quinn said. "When you put the tape on they are well coached, I thought. The QB doesn't get hit a lot. They are a solid group. One of the best things you can say as an offensive line is that they play well as a group. I think you can say that of this group."
Junior Patrick Hearn returns as the teams most experienced receiver and started all 12 games a year ago. However, he still only finished fourth on the team in receptions (35) and yardage (536), but was tops in terms of yards per pass reception (15.3) over anyone with at least 10 receptions on the team.
With a veteran quarterback, an offense that features passes to the running backs, and a fairly inexperienced receiving corps, Florida counters with a dynamic linebacker corps and its own inexperience in the secondary. This will definitely be the match up everyone should be watching on Saturday.
In the end, I think the Florida defensive front will be much too much for the Blazers and that will offset and even help the inefficiencies of a secondary that still has to grow up. So….
Advantage: Slightly Florida