Preview: First Opponent Has New Coach Too

Callaway and the Blazers will be ready to play come late summer. The following week they visit Tallahassee to play Florida State. A split in those first two games would be considered a major victory for a young, re-tooling program—overlooking them would be a dangerous misstep for a Michigan State program that wants to get Dantonio going in the right direction.

On Sept. 1, two first-year head coaches will begin building careers on a whole new level.

The Spartans' Mark Dantonio steps his head coaching experience up a notch as he moves from the mid-major Conference USA to the big-time in the Big Ten.

And the University of Alabama-Birmingham will welcome Neil Callaway as he steps onto the field as the Blazers' next head coach. Callaway enters the position as a first-time college head coach, leaving behind an extensive career as an offensive coordinator and line coach at schools that include Alabama and Auburn.

Callaway's mission at UAB is similar to Dantonio's at MSU; bring a hard-nosed edge to a young team while building a successful program in the ever-more competitive landscape of college football.

The Blazers' spring game was an inauspicious start for Callaway. He lamented a spotty scrimmage in which he witnessed over a half-dozen turnovers.

However, Callaway and the Blazers will be ready to play come late summer. The following week they visit Tallahassee to play Florida State. A split in those first two games would be considered a major victory for a young, re-tooling program—overlooking them would be a dangerous misstep for a Michigan State program that wants to get Dantonio going in the right direction.

But coach Dantonio should have to have his Spartans ready to play. He better—the schedule only gets more difficult as the season progresses.

Look for the following players to be major contributors for the Blazers when they travel north to East Lansing to face the Green and White in their opening game on the gridiron:

QB: Joseph Webb (So.) played significant time in the final two games last season and kept the Blazers competitive. He rushed for 38 yards and a touchdown in those games and is expected to contribute to the offense with more than just his arm. Sam Hunt (Sr.), who returns from back surgery, will compete with Webb through the summer for starting duties. "We'll go into camp and let them compete and see who it's going to be," Callaway said in a UAB release.

RB: Rasheed Slaughter (So.) will handle most of the ball-carrier duties. The Blazers lost plenty of talent at this position, but Slaughter hopes to soften the blow.

Secondary: Durrell Fuqua (Sr.) and Will Dunbar (Sr.) are the starting safeties and will anchor an experienced and deep secondary. CB Brandon Carlisle (So.) snagged two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown in the spring game, and he'll have trouble cracking the starting lineup.

Stay tuned to GSN for more previews of Spartan opponents in the following weeks.

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