2012 OUTLOOK: First year UAB head coach Garrick McGee said he was genuinely surprised with the talent level the Blazers have and thinks there may not be the rebuilding project first anticipated. If the team can catch up to the pace of practice and game-sped McGee demands, the Blazers could catch some teams off guard and make a run at a .500 season. But the schedule is unforgiving early and it will be hard to keep a program used to losing from reverting back to old ways with a slow start. The defense will be tested, especially with its inexperienced secondary. Many position changes on both sides of the ball were done with the intention of improving athleticism and speed. The Blazers may still struggle in 2012, but they'll do it in a hurry.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
QB Jonathan Perry is known as a scrambler, which isn't exactly how the Arkansas offense light up scoreboards last year when McGee was the offensive coordinator there. But when the new Blazers coach spent some time in spring with Perry, any doubt about the junior's ability to run the offense was erased. While Perry was completing only about 60 percent of his passes in spring (McGee says he needs that to improve for this scheme to be successful), he was also showing an ability to learn and adapt to the new offense in a hurry. McGee said the strength of the offense this fall may be with the skill at wide receiver, but he was also impressed with the unexpected depth he saw at running back.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
The secondary has a lot of inexperienced players and some position changes that were still clearly not gelling at the end of spring camp. McGee said some corners who weren't as fast as he liked were moved to safety and some speedy wide receivers were shifted to corner. How that all plays out is still very much a guessing game, but there won't be a lack of speed in the secondary for UAB this fall. UAB is deep at linebacker where Marvin Burdette is the clear-cut star of the defense after a standout spring. UAB ranked No. 11 in the 12 team C-USA last year in total defense, allowing 485.6 yards per game. That will have to improve by a good 75 yards a game just for this unit to possibly be considered a middle of the pack team in this league. C-USA is still high scoring though and it's doubtful UAB's defense will be much better in McGee's first season as head coach.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS
It's hard for special teams to get much love or attention in a spring camp with a first-year head coach implementing a new offense. Still, the Blazers are confident heading into 2012 that sophomore K Ty Long will be a solid performer this fall. He was a breath of fresh air in 2011. P Trey Ragland is gone and Hunter Mullins will get the chance to replace him. If the new offense struggles, the punter will be relied on heavily so this is a position to watch. WR Jackie Williams is an all-league candidate in the return game.
CB Kelton Brackett -- Brackett had four interceptions as a senior in 2011 and was selected to play in the Mississippi/Alabama All Star Classic where he had a pair of tackles, forced a fumble and had a tackle for loss. He and fellow UAB signee Larry Pettaway played together in high school. Brackett could see the field this fall with some more development physically.
WR Nyiakki Height -- It may still be a little unclear which side of the ball Height will play on at UAB as he was a standout wide receiver and defensive back in high school. UAB could use the help at either position. Height probably isn't an Day 1 star as he could still stand to improve on his speed, but he has the makeup of becoming a great all-around player for McGee.
QB Josh Greer -- The 6-4, 215-pounder was the first person UAB head coach Garrick McGee offered a scholarship to and Greer enrolled at UAB early in January so he can participate in spring drills. Greer threw for 2,691 yards as a prep senior to go along with 24 TDs. He's an extremely accurate thrower and with this spring under his belt, he may play his way into some true freshman playing time in 2012.
--OG Cody Payne was moved from DL to OL before spring drills began and will likely be a starter this fall at one of the two guard positions.
--DL Connor Boyette, the 6-5, 265-pounder who had 31 tackles and three tackles for loss last year, was moved to DT this spring in an effort to get more speed and athleticism across the defensive front.
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