2006 Record: (3-9, 2-6)
Coach: Neil Callaway (1st season at UAB, 0-0 overall)
Starters Returning: 6 (2 offense, 3 defense, 1 specialist)
Offensive Starters Lost: QB Chris Williams, RB Corey White, RB Dan Burks, WR Steven Brown, WR Norris Drinkard, WR Willie Edwards, OL Quinton Harris, OL Tommie Keys, OL Julius Wilson
Offensive Starters Returning: OL Jake Seitz, OL Adam Truitt
Defensive Starters Lost: DT Clarence Respress, DE Jermaine McElveen, DE Larry McSwain, LB Orlandus King, LB Mastaki Smith, CB Will Evans, S Chris Felder, S Brandon Register
Defensive Starters Returning: DT Brandon Jeffries, LB Joe Henderson, CB Kevin Sanders
Starting Specialists Lost: P Parker Mullins
Starting Specialists Returning: K Swayze Waters
UAB needed a change and the Blazers hope new head coach Neil Callaway is the answer. Coach Callaway brings a tough SEC attitude to Birmingham and spent the last six seasons running the Georgia offense. Running the UAB offense will be a little more difficult, but the team has some tools to at least show some signs of improvement.
Quarterback Sam Hunt returns after missing much of last season with injuries. The senior has the experience, but sophomore Joseph Webb is not giving up on earning the starting job. Both quarterbacks can make plays with their feet, but some more efficient passing would be helpful. The return of Nick Coon could help the passing game. The receiver missed the entire 2006 campaign and brings some much needed experience to the unit. Sylvester Mencer, who caught 31 passes for 400 yards last year, also returns.
The Blazers lost their top three rushers from a year ago. Rashad Slaughter was the only scholarship rusher on the roster during the spring and he was a wide receiver in 2006. He is quick, but does not have the body to handle all the carries. David Sigler, who is listed as the H-back, will line up just about anywhere on the field and figures to play a bigger role this season as a playmaker. Junior college transfer Aaron Johns and freshman Darell Norman will both get opportunities in the wide open race for a running back.
At the least the defensive side of the ball has some star quality. The biggest questions are on the line where Brandon Jeffries is the lone returning starter. Jeffries, who is moving back to an end spot after spending last year at tackle, needs to get some pressure on the quarterback or the whole defense could be in trouble. Cortlin Johnson, Todd Howanitz and junior college transfer Antonio Forbes will spend time in the middle. Linebacker Joe Henderson anchors what is probably the team's best unit. Kris Guyton has some experience, which is more than can be said for most of the defense, but still needs to prove that he can handle a full-time position.
The linebackers may have the most talent, but the secondary has the experience. The secondary was torched time and time again in 2006 even with a decent pass rush. With the line going through some major changes, the secondary will be asked to do a lot more. Free safety Will Dunbar led the team in tackles and interceptions in 2006 and will be joined by Durrell Fuqua. Fuqua, a senior, has some experience, but will need to be better in run support. Junior Kevin Sanders is the top corner and will be joined by seniors Zach Britten and Carnell Williams and sophomore Brandon Carlisle.
The Bottom Line:
The Blazers will struggle to increase their win total from last year. The 2006 UAB squad lost six games by eight or less points and they were not as far away from a bowl bid as their 3-9 record would indicate. If the fresh blood in the coaching ranks can get the team on their side quickly, UAB will soon forget about the couple down years. But that may take a couple more seasons while the team builds some depth.