Breaking Down the Blazers

UAB comes into the season opener with number six Florida looking to replace 10 starters off a defense that was number one in the country versus the run in 2001.The Blazers, who are in Conference USA, have had consecutive winning season under Watson Brown, without having a very good offense. This is the first ever meeting between Florida and UAB, and more importantly, the beginning of the Ron Zook era at Florida.

UAB's Offense:
The Blazers were 107th in total offense a year ago, but did get a spark from the insertion of Thomas Cox into the offense. He was 6-1 as a starter and can really run with the ball. The offensive line features five players with experience and good young players that average 307 across the front. Willie Quinnie is a talented receiver while big things are expected from sophomore Roddy White and Chico Cleveland.  UAB was horrible last season finishing 105th in passing.  14 of their top 22 players on offense are either sophomores or freshmen.

This is a very diverse offense in that they give you multiple looks. They go three wide, double slot and shotgun one back and may do it all in the same series. They will throw on run downs and run on passing downs. They run the midline option which attacks Florida's tackles, the veer option which attacks Florida's ends and outside linebackers and they also run some of the new wave option out of the shotgun.  Cox is not a great passer so his route throwing is reduced to safe routes such as deep comebacks, bootleg passes and quick screens. They did emphasize over the summer to get better in this area. His backup is a good athlete as well in Darrell Hackney, a redshirt freshmen. Their one back is Theron Dudley, the leading returning rusher and it may be running back by committee. They like to put pressure on the linebackers to be option sound in the running game and will  pass out of the same look if they have success running.  THE ONE THING A GOOD OPTION TEAM DOES IS FORCE YOU NOT TO BLITZ.

What to Expect:
In short yardage situations look for the option out of the a double wing formation which could end up being Cox following the back into the hole. Also, look to see if the Blazers run "trips" formation to one side to spread out the Gator defense. They like the screen out of this formation as well.  Cox has carried the ball 26 times in a game before and most of those runs were between the tackles.

Gators on the Prowl:
Both Bryan Savelio and Darrell Lee will be the focus of the early option and must be disciplined in their rush. Ian Scott is an x-factor and he can really disrupt things in the middle. Depending on which defense is up the linebackers Bam Hardman or Mike Nattiel will make a lot of tackle on the midline option. The veer  and the outside option is all about Matt Farrior and the safeties Guss Scott and Todd Johnson or Lester Norwood.  It will be interesting to see if Florida plays with three down lineman three linebackers and five defensive backs. I think the only way UAB moves the ball is if a Gator player blows an assignment and gets out of position.

Big Game Gators:
Mike Nattiel, Guss Scott, Darrell Lee and Bam Hardman.

UAB Defense:
This unit was awfully good last year because they had great players. It was also a great scheme and gave good passing teams like FSU, Central Florida and Pittsburgh fits a year ago. They lost there top three tacklers and their entire defensive front. The strength should be the secondary where Dio Hill and Carlos Hendricks are good cover corners who relish the idea of playing man. Hill has been bothered by an ankle sprain during camp so keep an eye on him. Chris Brown at safety is an NFL prospect as well. The one thing the defensive line does return is speed on the front four and Hassan McKeithan is the leader of the bunch. The linebackers are new with two sophomores in the mix.  Gaylon Black did play 10 games a year ago.

This is an aggressive 4-2-5 defense. The ends like to get up the field and the two inside linebacker will fill the holes. They like to play three-forms of man to man coverage's including one in which the corners are on an island. The most popular is the safety in the middle because Chris Brown has such good instincts and is a fierce hitter.

What to Expect:
Pretty much the same as they have been. They are committed to this defense and are geared to stop the run by bringing as many as eight men up to the line of scrimmage. Julius Wainwright a red-shirt freshmen will get up or near the defensive line. Florida outweighs this defensive line considerably and should be able to lock on and create a positive line of scrimmage in the run game.

Gators on the Prowl:
I expect the receivers to catch a lot of crossing routes against UAB. When a team plays a lot of man coverage it is easy to bring multiple receivers across the coverage out of different formations. I think Taylor Jacobs will get a chance to catch the ball on the move as well as Carlos Perez and OJ Small from the slot receiver spot. Tight man coverage makes it difficult to throw short to the wideouts, so look for Aaron Walker to get the ball in those situations. I think both backs could get one hundred yards with Ran Carthon having a chance to get his as the Blazers wear down. The new run blocking schemes including the option should have great success this week. I also think Ciatrick Fason may get a chance to play at fullback in the two back set as well. Rex Grossman will be efficient and depending on the R.A.C.(run after the catch)  yardage could put up huge numbers on 24-27 completions.

Big Game Gators:
Rex Grossman, Taylor Jacobs, Earnest Graham and Carlos Perez.

Special Teams:
Watson Brown
has always had sound special teams and this year should be no different. Willie Quinnie is an outstanding punt returner and Jason Southall averaged more than 25 yards a return on kickoffs a year ago. Nick Hayes is a good kicker who took the job at midseason a year ago.

How will it play out?
Who Knows? C'mon... it is Zook's first game and the anticipation is high. I think Florida will be a smart polished team because I believe that Zook's staff is ready for this challenge. There will be some blips but overall a solid opener for the Zooker.  Gators win 45-7.

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