Tommy West’s New Defense

Tommy West’s New Defense

In Conference USA defense is always important due to the plethora of pass happy offenses. On a national level, the conference usually does not do very well on defense and understandably so. However, UAB’s defense has been pretty bad even by Conference USA standards. New defensive coordinator Tommy West has a new plan to make the Blazers defense at least a little more respectable. With quite a few starters returning, mostly in the back seven, there is some potential to improve.

Coach West’s idea is to simplify the schemes. That could work, but only if the defensive line can get some pressure on the opposing quarterback. That is not exactly UAB’s specialty and defensive tackle Elliott Henigan is the only experienced linemen returning. Last year it was Bryant Turner who could occasionally get pressure on the opposing quarterback. Now the Blazers have to find some new pass rushers. Connor Boyett is a sophomore with some experience, but UAB will have to rely on freshmen like Diaheem Watkins and Chris Walton. That is not a recipe for success.

Simplifying usually means less blitzes and tricky packages. For that to work, the defensive line has to get better. Otherwise this is a team that may be better off trying to confuse the opposing offense. The fear is they will just end up confusing themselves. In time Coach West should be able to turn the defense around, but until the players arrive that can fit into his ideas of what a defense in Conference USA needs to be, it may not work. Either way, it will not be a quick fix.

The good news for this year is that UAB has a very experienced secondary. They were experienced last year too and still ranked 105th in the nation and 8th in the conference in pass defense. This year they may feel even more pressure as the defensive line makes some adjustments. Quarterbacks like Case Keenum of Houston will have a field day against this defense even with a talented secondary. Give Keenum, or just about any other quarterback in Conference USA, enough time and they will pick you apart. UAB learned that lesson last season and they will probably have to endure the results again this year.

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