A Quick Look At The Blazers

Calloway had been the offensive coordinator at the University of Georgia for the previous six seasons, after serving stints at 'Bama, Auburn, and Houston, as well as Wyoming and East Carolina. Although he has an ocean of experience as an assistant, Calloway has never served as a head coach

Watson Brown, the older but less successful of the coaching Brown Brothers, was head coach of the UAB Blazers for 12 seasons, amassing a won-loss record of 62-74. W. Brown also served as Blazer athletic director for four seasons. His best seasons as far as won-loss record were the 7-4 in 2000 and the 7-5 in 2004. The 2004 season was crowned by a Hawaii Bowl appearance.

Brown finally declared himself done in Birmingham after the Blazers finished 3-9 in 2006. He is now the head coach at Tennessee Tech.

The powers that be in Alabama hired Neil Calloway, a graduate of the University of Alabama, as Brown's successor. Calloway had been the offensive coordinator at the University of Georgia for the previous six seasons, after serving stints at 'Bama, Auburn, and Houston, as well as Wyoming and East Carolina. Although he has an ocean of experience as an assistant, Calloway has never served as a head coach.

The Calloway era at UAB got off to a rocky start Labor Day weekend when the Blazers travelled to East Lansing, Mich. to face the Michigan State Spartans in a payday game and fell on their own swords after losing the game 55-18.

It doesn't get any easier this weekend as the Blazers will frog march to Tallahassee, Fla. for another payday contest against the Florida State Seminoles.

One thing to keep in mind about the Blazers is that Calloway's defensive coordinaor is former Green Wave defensive coordinator Eric Schuman. 'Zo Costantini, SPQR, is the Blazers d'line coach, reprising the role he played under Schuman at Tulane.

In some respects the Blazers and Tulane are in similiar situations, both teams facing a tough schedule under new coaches.

But the Blazers may be in a tougher spot than the Green Wave. Twelve true freshmen played against Michigan State, and fifteen other players saw their first game action against the Blazers. Altogether 15 true freshman travelled. This is just to point out that Calloway faces a major rebuilding project in Birmingham.

The losses start with the offense, graduation gutted the Blazers run game. Four backs who had ground out a combined total of 5,400 yards and 41 touchdowns left the program with the final whistle of the Central Florida game. Only four starters return on the offensive side of the ball.

Like nearly everything else the o'line has to be rebuilt. The tackles are brand new starters - Adam Truitt, a 6-3 300-pound senior, and Matt McCants, a 6-7 295-pound freshman. McCants lines up at left tackle, while Truitt is the most experienced and versatile linemen the Blazers possess.

The guards are freshman Caleb Thomas, a 6-3 280-pounder; and Adam Hollifield, a 6-3 300-pound sophomore.

Sophomore Jake Seitz, 6-2 300-pounds, lines up at center.

The o'line may still need some fine tuning as the Blazers finished with 32 carries for 12 net yards in the Michigan State game and Hunt was sacked 5 times.

The receivers are Joseph Webb, 6-4 220-pounds; and Mike Jones, 6-1 180-pounds, and a red shirt freshman. Webb moved to receiver after losing the starter quarterback job to Sam Hunt. Webb caught six passes for 98 yards against the Spartans.

The third starter at wide receiver is junior Sylvester Mencer, 5-11 185-pounds, and the team's leading returning receiver after catching 31 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Reserve Frantrell Forrest, a 6-2 195-pound redshirt freshman, caught 5 passes for 41 yards against the Spartans.

The tight end is redshirt freshman Jeffrey Anderson, 6-3 220-pounds.

Senior Sam Hunt, 6-3 215-pounds, is the starter at quarterback. Hunt completed 21 of 39 passes for 214 yards against Michigan State.

Sophomore Rashaud Slaughter is the top running back. Slaughter's speedy but a wee bit small at 5-9 185-pounds. Against the Spartans he was the Blazers leading ground gainer with 25 yards on 13 carries.

The fullback or H-back is David Sigler, a 6-3 250-pound lead blocker.

And the losses weren't limited to the offense. Altogether the Blazers lost 30 seniors from the 2006 team. Notably the defense lost seven of their top 10 tacklers from the 2006 team. Only three starters return on the defensive side of the ball.

UAB's best player is probably senior free safety Will Dunbar. WD stands 6-1 and weighs 195-pounds. He has the reputation of being a big hitter. He was the team's top tackler last season, his first as a starter.

The other secondary starters are cornerbacks Brandon Carlisle, 5-10 180-pounds, a sophomore; and Kevin Sanders, a 5-11 185-pound junior.

Durrell Fuqua, rounds out the secondary at strong safety. Fuqua stands 5-11 and weighs 185-pounds.

Dunbar's status signals that the best part of the defense is the back seven, with the weakest part being the front four.

Three veteran starters departed from the defensive line, the top hand returning for this season is Brandon Jeffries, a senior who shifts back to end position after playing tackle in 2006. Weighing only 250 pounds, Jefferies posted 22 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and is a candidate for post-season all-conference honors.

The starters at defensive end are Bryant Turner, a 6-2 245-pound redshirt freshman and Joe Happe, a 6-4 250-pound sophomore. Jeffries is currently listed as their backup.

Inside the starters are senior Jerrickus Speights, 6-5 255-pounds and Tim Davis, 6-0 260-pounds. Yes, this is a small starting defensive front. And the Spartans chewed them up for 298 yards and five touchdowns.

Linebacker Joe Henderson, 6-2 220-pounds, shows the ability to be the anchor of the front seven. The other starters are sophomore Josh Tauanuu, 6-2 230-pounds, and freshman Mike Tashman, 6-2 220-pounds.

Tashman, who prepped at Hoover High, spent the 2006 season at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School.

Henderson led the Blazers with 12 tackles against Michigan State.

The linebackers are a good unit. The secondary allowed 295 yards passing, probably attributable partially to a non-existent pass rush. The Blazers managed only one sack and 3 quarterback hurries.

The book on teams like the Blazers, under a new coach and playing a lot of new and very young players is that they will improve as the season wears on. So be forewarned that the team that the Green Wave faces in five weeks is not going to be the same team that plays against Michigan State and Florida State.


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