The big 2014 UAB football preview: Bill Clark takes on the impossible

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

UAB's 2013 season was an outright disaster, fraught with horrific attendance and a defense patched together with duct tape. With health, depth, and a new, local coach, the Blazers might find a sliver of hope in 2014.

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1. A steep, uphill battle

Eight wins in three years, and an average of 3.9 per year since 2004. Worst home attendance in nearly two decades. No momentum for a new stadium and a move out of cavernous, outdated Legion Field. An adversarial relationship between students and trustees. Stiff (and well-coached) competition from a new up-and-comer in state.

No program is completely hopeless; any team is just one hire away from some level of success. But some jobs are a whole lot harder than others, and among the FBS ranks, few jobs are more difficult than UAB.

It has become a bit of a résumé killer in recent years. Neil Callaway coached the Blazers from 2007-11 and was fired; his next job was as WKU's offensive line coach. After two years on the job, his successor, Garrick McGee, bailed to become Louisville's offensive coordinator, avoiding his résumé falling into disrepair.

In the absence of greatness, you aim for moments. In the absence of moments, you aim for hope. And at UAB, it has become increasingly difficult to muster even that. But every coaching hire is an opportunity to find a program savior, and any program can be saved.

2. If anybody can get the job done ...

... it might be Bill Clark.

Clark is an Alabama lifer. He was born in Anniston, Ala., and attended nearby Jacksonville State. He has been a football coach since 1990, holding the following jobs: Alabama high school assistant, Alabama high school defensive coordinator, Alabama high school defensive coordinator, Alabama high school defensive coordinator, Alabama high school head coach, South Alabama defensive coordinator, Jacksonville State head coach, UAB head coach.

He won 106 games and two 6A state titles in nine seasons as the head coach of Prattville High School, then won 11 more games last year at JSU. Clark's 2013 JSU squad set 49 school records. The Gamecocks scored quickly and frequently, killed opponents on the ground, and scored the first two playoff wins in school history.

Clark hasn't been a college head coach for very long, but if it takes an Alabama guy to win at UAB, the 45-year-old Clark is as Alabama as they come.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 0-12 | Final F/+ Rk: 115
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug at Troy 105 31-34 L 26.8 - 36.1 L
7-Sep at LSU 17 17-56 L 19.0 - 35.6 L
21-Sep Northwestern State N/A 52-28 W 26.7 - 39.3 L
28-Sep at Vanderbilt 50 24-52 L 27.1 - 49.1 L
5-Oct Florida Atlantic 73 23-37 L 33.6 - 41.5 L -13.7
12-Oct at Florida International 125 27-24 W 24.7 - 49.7 L -16.8
26-Oct at UTSA 67 31-52 L 38.6 - 42.8 L -14.4
2-Nov Middle Tennessee 85 21-24 L 27.1 - 35.7 L -13.6
9-Nov at Marshall 52 14-56 L 38.4 - 58.4 L -13.2
16-Nov at East Carolina 40 14-63 L 27.5 - 41.8 L -14.4
21-Nov Rice 69 34-37 L 26.6 - 31.3 L -10.4
30-Nov Southern Miss 120 27-62 L 27.2 - 54.4 L -15.0
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -4.8% 78 -23.9% 121 -0.1% 71
Points Per Game 26.3 82 43.8 121
Adj. Points Per Game 28.6 62 43.0 124

3. Is it any wonder why Clark signed 14 JUCOs?

Clark is not wasting time. Sixty-four percent of his first UAB recruiting class comes from the JUCO ranks. He inherited a situation in need of an immediate, drastic talent upgrade, and he attempted to deliver just that.

Recruiting a large number of JUCO transfers is risky; if they don't work out, they prevent you from developing five-year depth. Sometimes new hires in tough jobs take the long road, committing to high school recruits and sacrificing a couple of years of poor play for success in Years 3 through 5. (Example: Doug Martin at NMSU.) Others are willing to attempt a few shortcuts. (Example: Paul Petrino at Idaho.)

Risk or not, it's not hard to see why Clark felt the need to go this route. UAB was mostly hopeless at the start of Garrick McGee's second season, and the Blazers became completely hopeless amid a crushing wave of defensive injuries and attrition.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 3 games): Opponent 37.0, UAB 24.2 (minus-12.8)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): Opponent 43.8, UAB 30.2 (minus-13.6)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Opponent 46.5, UAB 29.9 (minus-16.6)

The offense improved, but not enough to keep up with a dilapidated defense, and after wins over Northwestern State and hapless FIU, UAB's season ended with six straight losses. Average (real) score of the last four: Opponent 55, UAB 22.

The season-ender might have been the most depressing Saturday in program history; in front of just 6,383 fans in a stadium that seats 71,000, UAB lost by 35 points to a Southern Miss team that hadn't won in almost two full calendar years. The Blazers held a 21-13 halftime lead, then got outscored by a stunning 49-6 margin in the second half. A month or so later, McGee left for Louisville.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.29 11 IsoPPP+ 113.6 13
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.2% 93 Succ. Rt. + 88.9 98
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.0 68 Def. FP+ 99.4 66
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.1 78 Redzone S&P+ 99.4 63
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.5 ACTUAL 20 -2.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 79 79 99 77
RUSHING 53 76 90 75
PASSING 80 80 106 58
Standard Downs 91 109 20
Passing Downs 57 61 32
Q1 Rk 50 1st Down Rk 51
Q2 Rk 83 2nd Down Rk 81
Q3 Rk 97 3rd Down Rk 91
Q4 Rk 31

4. Jacksonville State wanted to run

We obviously don't know for sure what Clark and offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent will be attempting to accomplish offensively in 2014. UAB returns a potential wealth of receiving talent, and in 2013 Vincent was the quarterbacks coach for a rather well-balanced South Alabama offense.

We do know this, however: in 2013, Clark's Jacksonville State ran the ball at will. Not including sacks, the Gamecocks attempted 49 rushes (for 251 yards) per game. A foursome of running backs averaged 168 rushing yards per game, and JSU was able to keep moving forward despite a revolving door at quarterback. JSU was able to raise the tempo at times and could pass when it needed to, but the 'Cocks wanted to run the ball down your throat and occasionally did so.

Will UAB be able to do the same? And if Clark's preferred style requires a wealth of running backs, exactly who will end up getting carries?

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Austin Brown


93 178 1199 9 3 52.2% 14 7.3% 5.8
Jonathan Perry 92 174 1379 10 6 52.9% 12 6.5% 7.0
Myles McKee 6'3, 205 Jr. NR








Jeremiah Briscoe 6'3, 210 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)








Cody Clements 6'2, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)








Taz Wilson 6'4, 207 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)








Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Darrin Reaves RB


202 934 12 4.6 4.7 34.7%
Jordan Howard RB 6'1, 228 So. 2 stars (5.4) 145 881 2 6.1 5.5 44.1%
Jonathan Perry QB 49 355 2 7.2 4.1 61.2%
Bashr Coles (2012) RB 5'11, 212 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 39 262 1 6.7 6.7 N/A
Greg Franklin RB 19 76 0 4.0 1.8 47.4%
Austin Brown QB


7 18 0 2.6 2.0 57.1%
D.J. Vinson RB 5'10, 194 Sr. 2 stars (5.4)





Ja'Won Arrington RB 5'11, 215 Jr. NR





Marcus Reaves RB 6'2, 190 So. NR





5. A backfield free-for-all

UAB had a stellar running back in Darrin Reaves last year, but he received a decent NFL Draft evaluation and departed Birmingham after his junior season. Big sophomore Jordan Howard actually surpassed Reaves' averages with a smaller load; one has to imagine that he will be heavily featured in Clark's first season.

After that, the answers are less certain. Bashr Coles posted averages even better than Howard's when he was a sophomore in 2012, but he's coming off of a knee injury. D.J. Vinson is known as a strong athlete but hasn't been healthy and/or eligible in quite a while. Alabama A&M transfer Ja'Won Arrington is an option, but the number of proven, healthy bodies is limited.

Of course, before you figure out the running back situation, you have to figure out who's taking snaps, and there are even fewer known quantities at the quarterback position. You've got a pair of former junior college transfers (Cody Clements, Myles McKee) fighting it out with a redshirt freshman coming off of shoulder surgery (Jeremiah Briscoe). Walk-on Mike Miller could enter the equation at some point, and incoming freshman Taz Wilson will have a chance to make an impression in the fall. Total combined passes these players threw last year for UAB: zero.

At both of these positions, there are a lot of potential answers and no guarantees. But if the backfield situation is stable, the Blazers could take advantage of some strong options lined up wide. Jamarcus Nelson was one of the nation's better big-play guys in 2013; as you notice from the stats above, big plays tended to be quite big (and too rare) for UAB last fall, and he was the primary source of them. Arkansas transfer Maudrecus Humphrey is eligible, and the Blazers return a wealth of players who averaged between about 6.5 and 8.0 yards per target last year. If one or two are able to step forward (perhaps former three-star recruit Nyiakki Height?), the position will easily be a strength for this team.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jamarcus Nelson WR-Z 5'11, 160 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 74 42 846 56.8% 22.1% 54.4% 11.4 303 11.8 112.3
Jamari Staples WR 6'4, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 69 31 458 44.9% 20.6% 51.9% 6.6 1 7.1 60.8
Kennard Backman TE 6'3, 258 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 44 28 302 63.6% 13.1% 52.6% 6.9 -39 7.3 40.1
Darrin Reaves RB


40 29 294 72.5% 11.9% 44.4% 7.4 -37 7.6 39.0
Darius Powell WR-Z 5'10, 181 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 23 13 174 56.5% 6.9% 62.5% 7.6 6 5.8 23.1
Dequindre Adams WR-X 5'10, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 20 11 145 55.0% 6.0% 30.8% 7.3 0 5.0 19.2
Nyiakki Height WR-W 6'2, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 18 7 113 38.9% 5.4% 37.5% 6.3 0 8.1 15.0
Jordan Howard RB 6'1, 228 So. 2 stars (5.4) 14 4 83 28.6% 4.2% 50.0% 5.9 4 6.6 11.0
J.J. Green WR-X 6'2, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 9 5 36 55.6% 2.7% 100.0% 4.0 -29 2.8 4.8
Tristan Henderson TE 6'4, 265 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 8 5 40 62.5% 2.4% 50.0% 5.0 -21 4.1 5.3
Santonio Jones FB 5 3 13 60.0% 1.5% 60.0% 2.6 -25 2.7 1.7
Greg Franklin RB 4 2 23 50.0% 1.2% 0.0% 5.8 -5 2.7 3.1
Nolen Smith WR-W 6'3, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 3 2 27 66.7% 0.9% 0.0% 9.0 3 0.7 3.6
Rickey Hrabowskie WR 2 1 9 50.0% 0.6% N/A 4.5 -5 0.0 1.2
Maudrecus Humphrey WR 6'3, 185 Sr. 3 stars (5.6)








Rodney Morris TE 6'3, 220 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Quincy Perdue WR 6'3, 210 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)









Collin Lisa WR 5'10, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)









Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 100.5 2.95 3.73 42.3% 58.6% 17.7% 72.8 7.7% 8.0%
Rank 69 66 25 33 106 43 106 113 80
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Kaycee Ike OT 24
Billy Autrey C 20
Brian O'Leary OG 6'2, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 15
Cameron Blankenship OG 6'4, 305 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 13
Victor Salako OT 6'6, 315 So. 2 stars (5.2) 11
Roscoe Byrd OG 6'3, 319 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 8
Dominic Sylvester LG 6'4, 315 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 3
Wesley Carter OT


0
Hayden Naumann OG 6'5, 280 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Uneik Crumbley OL 6'3, 327 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Zach Sims OL 6'2, 290 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Vincent Hunter OL 6'4, 325 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)
Kevin Shelton OL 6'4, 270 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Kelepi Folau OL 6'3, 305 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Carson Miller OL 6'4, 300 Jr. NR
Daniel Anousheh OL 6'4, 270 Jr. NR

Ryan Krum OL 6'5, 325 Jr. NR

Deontae Crumitie OL 6'3, 270 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

Justin Brown OL 6'3, 295 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

6. No excuses for the line

Compared to the rest of the offensive stats, UAB's line stats were rather solid, at least in terms of run blocking. The Blazers weren't great in short-yardage situations, but Reaves was able to find quite a few open-field opportunities -- due to either his own talent or the line's blocking (likely both) -- and opponents did not make a ton of stops behind the line.

UAB returns five of seven players with starting experience up front (50 career starts, a decent total), and the line was a severe focus for Clark's first recruiting class. Clark signed a whopping five junior college transfers to compete up front; of the 15 players listed above, then, 10 are juniors, and one is a senior.

Even if Reaves was responsible for making these line stats look better than the line deserved, there's no excuse for UAB's line to struggle too much. It should be a strength, even if we are just speaking relatively.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.34 119 IsoPPP+ 82.2 121
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 48.6% 116 Succ. Rt. + 79.0 122
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.7 76 Off. FP+ 96.5 96
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.8 125 Redzone S&P+ 72.2 125
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.4 ACTUAL 14.0 -1.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 118 124 122 123
RUSHING 110 123 120 123
PASSING 117 123 119 112
Standard Downs 125 122 124
Passing Downs 119 122 115
Q1 Rk 124 1st Down Rk 125
Q2 Rk 118 2nd Down Rk 116
Q3 Rk 126 3rd Down Rk 115
Q4 Rk 124

7. The D never had a chance

In all, UAB's offense took a solid step forward in 2013, from 95th in Off. F/+ to 78th. Garrick McGee is an offensive coach at heart, so this isn't incredibly surprising. The problem for UAB in McGee's second season, however, was that the defense got absolutely obliterated by injury.

Go ahead and look at the players listed below; look at the GP (games played) column. Only six UAB defenders played in all 12 games. Six! Former end Trey Grissett (now a JACK linebacker) was the only lineman to make it through the season unscathed. It got so bad that offensive lineman Uneik Crumbley was starting at defensive tackle by the end of the year. And things might have been even worse in the secondary, where at least four defensive backs (three safeties) missed significant time.

With no continuity you've got almost no chance, and UAB's duct-tape defense had no consistent strengths. The Blazers ranked 119th or worse in just about every major category listed above; they were 123rd (out of 126) in Rushing and Passing S&P+. They were 124th or worse in three of four quarters. They were 125th on standard downs. They were 125th in the redzone. A team like UAB is going to struggle to build quality depth anyway; when iffy depth meets this level of injury and attrition, there's just no hope.

With health comes at least a little bit of hope, however. Diaheem Watkins and Chris Rabb are decent pass rushers (they're the only ones, of course), Jake Ganus is a solid mess-cleaner at linebacker, and lord knows the secondary goes three-deep with experience. Clark signed two junior college transfers on the line, one at linebacker, and five in the defensive backfield.

As I end up saying a lot when previewing less successful teams, depth only matters if talent is involved. But UAB currently has depth and experience it could only dream about a year ago. The options are there, and if at least a few of them work out, the defense could improve significantly. (Of course, improving "significantly" could just mean fielding a top-110 defense ...)

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 87.2 3.14 3.39 42.3% 68.8% 18.6% 59.0 2.1% 7.0%
Rank 113 94 74 101 76 73 117 117 59
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Diaheem Watkins DE 6'4, 258 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 33.5 5.1% 7.5 5.5 0 0 0 0
Deric Scott DT 11 29.0 4.4% 3.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Chris Rabb DE 6'0, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 28.5 4.4% 5.0 3.0 0 0 0 0
Connor Boyett DE 10 12.0 1.8% 4.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Uneik Crumbley OL 6'3, 327 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 6 10.5 1.6% 2.0 2.0 0 1 0 0
Jontavious Morris DT 6'2, 295 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 11 10.0 1.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Chris Walton DE 6'3, 260 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 8 9.5 1.5% 2.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Shaquille Roberson DE 6'4, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 9 5.5 0.8% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Neal Gray DE 6'1, 225 So. NR 6 3.0 0.5% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jose Casanova DE 8 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Steve Pickren DE 6'4, 245 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Parrish Huddleston DT 6'0, 295 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Robert Mondie DT 6'2, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jake Ganus LB 6'2, 215 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 75.5 11.5% 8.0 0.0 1 1 1 0
Daniel White LB 11 39.5 6.0% 0.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Shaq Jones LB 6'3, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 26.5 4.1% 2.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Trey Grissett LB 6'5, 260 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 23.0 3.5% 3.0 0.5 0 1 1 0
Derek Slaughter LB 5'11, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 22.0 3.4% 3.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Patrick Bastien LB 12 21.0 3.2% 2.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Destin Challenger LB 5'11, 215 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 5 16.0 2.4% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tevin Crews LB 6'2, 212 Jr. NR 8 10.0 1.5% 1.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Jesse Parrish LB 8 9.0 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ervin Alston LB 6'2, 215 So. 2 stars (5.3) 7 4.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Je'Niah Jackson LB 6'1, 200 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Brandon Fuller LB 6'1, 220 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jalen Coleman LB 6'3, 210 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Alonzo McGee LB 6'1, 225 Jr. NR

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Calvin Jones (2012) S 5'10, 187 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 55.0 8.1% 2.5 0.5 0 1 1 2
Jordan Petty SS 5'10, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 10 45.5 7.0% 3.5 1 1 3 1 1
Vashon Landers FS


8 33.5 5.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Kelton Brackett CB 5'11, 186 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 28.5 4.4% 2 0 1 8 1 0
Jimmy Jean CB 6'3, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 28.5 4.4% 1 0 2 3 0 0
Lamarcus Farmer CB 5'11, 170 Jr. NR 7 27.0 4.1% 4 1 1 0 1 1
Nick Jackson SS 6'2, 205 So. NR 12 26.0 4.0% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Franklin FS 12 19.5 3.0% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Greg Maclin S 6'3, 185 So. 2 stars (5.4) 5 14.5 2.2% 1 1 0 0 1 1
Cortez Webb CB 11 11.5 1.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Devon Brown CB 5'11, 182 So. 2 stars (5.2) 10 4.5 0.7% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Jay Davis S 6'1, 194 Sr. NR 2 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
T.J. McCollum S 6'3, 205 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Kalen Jackson DB 6'1, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Bobby Baker DB 6'3, 195 Jr. NR








Desman Carter S 6'2, 205 Jr. NR








Rolan Milligan DB 5'11, 185 Jr. NR
Darvell Harris DB 6'2, 180 Jr. NR







8. The secondary will come around first

Calvin Jones returns after a medical redshirt. Jordan Petty made plays both near to and far from the line of scrimmage as a freshman. Nick Jackson and Greg Maclin were also thrown into the deep end as frosh. T.J. McCollum was the star of the 2013 recruiting class. At least one of the junior college transfers, Desman Carter, fills a spot on the depth chart. There is experience and at least a little bit of proven play-making ability at the safety position.

Meanwhile, at least three cornerbacks are worth watching; Lamarcus Farmer made four stops behind the line of scrimmage in seven games, and Kelton Brackett and Jimmy Jean combined to either pick off or break up 14 passes in 2013.

Between experienced box-score fillers, sophomores who were once overwhelmed freshmen, and junior college transfers, there is reason to believe that the UAB secondary could be legitimately solid. The unit's success will obviously depend in part on the front seven -- both the run defense and pass rush need to improve significantly -- but if the defense does turn around quite a bit in 2014, the secondary will likely be the primary reason.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Hunter Mullins 6'3, 195 Sr. 51 43.1 8 14 14 54.9%
Ty Long 6'2, 188 Sr. 5 39.2 0 1 1 40.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Ty Long 6'2, 188 Sr. 62 62.8 33 0 53.2%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Ty Long 6'2, 188 Sr. 35-35 11-13 84.6% 5-11 45.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jamarcus Nelson KR 5'11, 160 Sr. 27 22.7 1
Greg Franklin KR 13 22.5 0
Jamarcus Nelson PR 5'11, 160 Sr. 8 11.0 1
Lamarcus Farmer PR 5'11, 170 Jr. 2 14.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 71
Field Goal Efficiency 71
Punt Return Efficiency 65
Kick Return Efficiency 95
Punt Efficiency 64
Kickoff Efficiency 32
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 24

9. Potentially excellent special teams

Between return touchdowns, nearly automatic place-kicking inside 40 yards, touchbacks on kickoffs, and a punter averaging more than 43 yards per kick, special teams was a bright spot for UAB in 2013. It put the Blazers in position to win the field position battle with even a semi-competent defense, and it could be just as good, or better, this fall. Everybody of note is back.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug Troy 111
6-Sep at Mississippi State 29
13-Sep Alabama A&M NR
27-Sep Florida International 119
4-Oct at Western Kentucky 91
11-Oct North Texas 94
18-Oct at Middle Tennessee 99
25-Oct at Arkansas 48
1-Nov at Florida Atlantic 103
8-Nov Louisiana Tech 98
22-Nov Marshall 59
29-Nov at Southern Miss 110
Five-Year F/+ Rk -17.8% (111)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 95
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -6 / -7.1
TO Luck/Game +0.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 16 (7, 9)

10. A 3-1 start is within reach

It's easy to forget thanks to the debacle of his second year, but UAB made quite a bit of progress in McGee's first season, improving from 108th to 91st in the F/+ rankings. With good health, it is at least reasonably conceivable that the Blazers could bounce back to the top-100 range, and if they do, they could start the season quite well in 2014.

Three of their first four games are at home against teams projected 111th or worse, and a 3-1 start would be huge for a program desperate for momentum. First of all, UAB hasn't won more than three games in a season since 2010, so winning three in September would be an incredible sign of progress. Beyond that, however, it would simply give fans a reason to show up and care again.

UAB is in a tough situation for all the reasons listed at the top of this piece. But in Bill Clark, the program made a solid, local hire, and this roster has depth last year's simply didn't have. If UAB can establish the run on offense and simply field 11 healthy bodies on defense, the Blazers could win four or five games. With proof of hope, perhaps goals like building a new, smaller stadium near campus become more attainable.

If you win games, everything gets easier, and in 2014 UAB has an opportunity to win a couple more games than it has in quite a while.

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