#90 UAB 2018 Football Preview

UAB Blazers
Overall Rank: #90
#8 Conference USA
 UAB Logo
The revival of the UAB football program was one of the best stories in all of college football in 2017 as the Blazers went to the Bahamas Bowl and won eight games. Thus, expectations have been escalated for the UAB program as they moved into their second season back after a two-year hiatus. It will be very important for the Blazers to build off the momentum gained last season and find a way to get to six wins and another bowl appearance.
2017 Record: 8-5, 6-2
2017 Bowl: Bahamas Bowl vs. Ohio (L 6-41)
Coach: Bill Clark (14-11 at UAB, 25-15 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bryant Vincent
Defensive Coordinator: David Reaves
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Spencer Brown, RB, 1,329 yards
Passing: A.J. Erdely, QB, 2,331 yards
Receiving: Andre Wilson, WR, 677 yards
Tackles: Broderick Thomas, DB, 95
Sacks: Stacy Keely, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Broderick Thomas, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: OL James Davis, DL Garrett Marino, LB Fitzgerald Motor, K Nick Vogel, P Joel Dixon, OL Lee Dufour, OL Malique Johnson, RT Justice Powers, RB James Noble III
Key Losses: LB Shaq Jones, LB Tevin Crews, DB Darious Williams
The lack of a dangerous passing attack for the Blazers was problematic in 2017 as they only averaged 180.5 yards per game through the air. A.J. Erdely is back at quarterback to lead an offensive unit that returns eight starters. Erdely did a nice job of managing the offense, throwing 16 touchdowns. Spencer Brown should be one of the top running backs in Conference USA and he will be joined in the running back room by guys like James Noble III and Michigan transfer Kingston Davis. Experience is aplenty along the offensive line, which should help establish a running attack that will need to push towards 200 plus yards per game in 2018. Andre Wilson is the top returning playmaker at wide receiver after catching 54 passes for 677 yards and six touchdowns. Now, for UAB to really move forward offensively they need another wide receiver to catch 50 plus passes in order to keep opposing defenses honest.
This was the strength of the Blazers in 2017 and more than likely will be the strength of the team this season. Garrett Marino will headline the defensive line that will need to impose their will up front to free up the linebackers to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks on a regular basis. The loss of Shaq Jones and Tevin Crews is a problem as these two combined for 159 tackles and six sacks in 2017. Stacy Keely is moving to linebacker this season and that should mitigate some of the lost productivity out of the linebacker corps from 2017. Broderick Thomas is back in the secondary, which has plenty of experience with two other starters in Will Dawkins and D.A. Williams also returning. The goal for the secondary is into increase the amount of interceptions from 2017 as they do have to replace five interceptions from Darious Williams, who was a free agent signee with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Bottom Line:
The schedule is conducive to a fast start for the Blazers as they play Savannah State and travel to Coastal Carolina before returning home to play Tulane and Charlotte. On October 6th, UAB will face their first test of the season with a road trip to Louisiana Tech as the Blazers will look to avenge a 23-22 loss at home to the Bulldogs last season. In addition, road trips to Texas A&M, and Middle Tennessee State to end the season will not be easy. But, if they can get a split of those two games, it should set UAB up to be in position to win around seven to eight games in 2018 and return to a bowl game.
Projected Bowl: Hawaii Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 183.2 (45th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 180.5 (99, 10)
Total Offense: 363.7 (98, 10)
Scoring Offense: 27.8 (72, 5)
Rushing Defense: 175.9 (79, 8)
Pass Defense: 189.7 (22, 2)
Total Defense: 365.6 (41, 5)
Scoring Defense: 25.6 (55, 7)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (40, 4)
Sacks: 1.46 (110, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 1.77 (43, 5)