Way Too Early Look Ahead: UAB

Is it too early to start talking about next fall? PonyStampede.com doesn't think so! Over the next couple of weeks, we will be previewing SMU's fall opponents with the people that cover them. Today, we talk with Birmingham News Writer Steve Irvine about UAB. Hear how the Blazers' practices went and what SMU should expect this fall! If you don't have a premium membership, you are missing out!

Head Coach: Neil Callaway (Alabama, ‘78) Record at UAB: 6-18 (2 yrs.)

2008 Overall Record: 4-8
2008 C-USA Record (Finish): 3-5 (4th-East, Tie)

SEASON OPENER: Sept. 5 vs. Rice

BASIC OFFENSE: "Multiple"

BASIC DEFENSE: "4-3"

LETTERMEN RETURNING: 51

Offense: 28 Defense: 23

LETTERMEN LOST: 14

Offense: 3 Defense: 8 STARTERS RETURNING: 18 of 25


Talk a little about spring practices, what is the state of the team coming out of them?
"The offense comes out of spring practice with plenty of confidence. The offense dominated each of the two scrimmages as well as the spring game. In a way, though, that's good news, bad news. The defense obviously struggled during the spring but a big reason was several key defenders missed spring practice because of injuries. The defense will definitely be better in the fall but no one knows how much better."


You return eleven starters on offense, is it safe to say the offense should click right away?
"I think that's safe to say. About the only concern is finding more production at running back. That will be a big emphasis once fall camp opens."


With the way you ended the season, is there a feeling of optimism amongst the UAB Players?
"The end of the season definitely gives the players confidence. Probably the best thing about it was it came on the heels of the 70-14 embarrassment at Southern Miss. The players could have folded at that point but they fought back and won two of the last three with the lone loss a close one to ECU."


Joe Webb established himself as one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the nation last season, how much did he improve this spring?
"The best thing he did during spring work was avoid turnovers for the most part. That was the one thing he did poorly as a junior. His focus this spring was making better decisions and he clearly did that. Now we'll see if he can do that on game days in the fall. There is no doubt that he's an extremely talented quarterback."


The defense struggled early at times, but seemed to really grow up late in the season. Returning seven starters, is there a feeling that they could be as good as the offense?
"I don't think the defense will be as good as the offense, but really they don't have to be. All they have to do is be solid. I think the secondary is a concern with the loss of three key guys and health is certainly a concern. I think they made huge strides from the first of last year until shutting out UCF in the season finale. If they continue improvement, at least once they are healthy, then it could be a solid defense."  


As you know, SMU likes to throw the football. How will UAB be against the pass this season?
"Once again the secondary is a concern. UAB is extremely inexperienced at safety, although sophomore Chase Daniel could eventually be a star in this league. Sophomore cornerback Terrell Springs is small, but should be extremely solid and senior cornerback Brandon Carlisle has plenty of experience. They will need secondary help from newcomers, which is always scary."


Realistically, what do you expect for a record this season?
"If Joe Webb stays healthy and the defense is solid then I think they can win six or seven games. If not then they could struggle getting to that number."


There are seven road games in a nine-game span, how much does that scare you?
"Going on the road that much certainly isn't helpful, but this is a pretty experienced group so it shouldn't be that much of a factor. I think the key thing is being relatively healthy for that stretch."  


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