UAB preview

The UAB Blazers lived up to their nickname last fall. Their pass defense went up in smoke.

Neil Callaway's troops ranked dead last among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in 2009 by allowing a whopping 311.5 passing yards per game. The next-worst pass defense in America belonged to Nevada, which allowed 297.8 yards per game.

The Blazers also ranked 114th in completion percentage allowed (65.02) and tied for 112th in passing touchdowns surrendered (27). That last stat is a bit deceptive since four of the teams who gave up more passing TDs played 13 games; the Blazers played just 12.

Although UAB placed a respectable 60th nationally in rushing defense (143.7 yards per game), its problems vs. the pass caused it to finish 114th nationally in total defense at 455.2 and 102nd in scoring defense at 32.3 points per game.

In spite of their defensive ineptitude, the Blazers went 5-7 last season and proved to be one of the most entertaining teams in major-college football. That's because of Joe Webb, the only quarterback in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

Webb ran for 1,427 yards and passed for another 2,299 yards last fall, single-handedly accounting for 73 percent of UAB's 2009 yardage. Unfortunately for UAB, he's now playing for the Minnesota Vikings, who picked him in Round 6 of the recent NFL Draft.

Webb's heir-apparent is David Isabelle, a sophomore who also is a dual-threat quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder completed 6 of 14 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown last fall. He also was the team's second-leading rusher, averaging 9.0 per carry en route to 288 net yards.

UAB's most productive running back is Justin Brooks, a 5-foot-11, 215-pounder who averaged 4.7 per carry last fall and finished with 211 yards.

The top two pass catchers of 2009 return in 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior wideout Frantrell Forrest (34 catches, 556 yards, 16.4 yards per catch, 9 touchdowns) and 6-foot-3, 255-pound senior tight end Jeffery Anderson (26 catches, 398 yards, 15.3 per catch, 5 TDs). Nick Adams, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior, also is back after averaging 18.5 yards per catch on 15 receptions last fall.

With nowhere to go but up, UAB's defense will be looking for big years in 2010 from safeties Hiram Atwater (6-0, 200) and Chase Daniel (6-3, 200), along with linebacker Lamanski Ware (6-2, 220) and end Bryant Turner (6-2, 260).

Atwater posted a team-high 89 tackles last fall. Ware was second with 71 stops. Daniel contributed 30 stops and 3 interceptions. Turner registered a team-high 6 sacks.

In spite of its defensive woes, UAB's scores against common foes were surprisingly close to Tennessee's last season. The Blazers prevailed 31-21 against Memphis, a team Tennessee beat 56-28. UAB lost 48-13 to an Ole Miss team that hammered the Vols 42-17.

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