2022 UAB Blazers Preview

by Matt Fargo

UAB Blazers

2021-22 Season Record 9-4 (6-2 C-USA West) - 9-3-1 ATS - 6-7-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 6
Defense - 8

Overview

UAB entered the FBS in 1997 as an Independent for two years before joining C-USA with very little success. Through 2014, the Blazers had a winning record just three times and made it to one bowl game, the Hawaii Bowl in 2004 and then suddenly, the university cut football altogether. They basically gave up. But in 2017, football was reborn and all they have to show for that is five straight winning seasons, a pair of C-USA championships and five bowl bids. Not bad for a team that took two years off and won with JUCO castoffs. Head coach Bill Clark led the resurgence but unfortunately, he resigned in June with back issues and offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent will serve as interim coach this season in what is the final one in C-USA before moving to the AAC next season. After having 18 and 19 starters back the last two seasons, only 14 return this year so there is work to do.

Offense

The offense was not great but it did enough to win three games by one possession and it did put up a decent number of points in most games. Overall, the Blazers finished No. 79 in total offense and No. 59 in scoring offense with the latter partially attributed to the defense that put them in good positions. Only six starters are back this season but quarterback Dylan Hopkins is one of those after throwing for 2,275 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions and while he is not a running threat, he did rush for five touchdowns as well. After checking out the transfer portal, leading receiver Trea Shropshire is back after gaining 702 yards with seven touchdowns but there is not much else experience. The running game is in fantastic shape as DeWayne McBride and Jermaine Brown are both back after combining for 2,002 yards but will be behind a patchwork offensive line.

Defense

The defense has been the strength for years and last season was no exception as UAB was No. 16 in total defense and No. 41 in scoring defense and with eight starters back, they are in great form. The linebackers took a hit with Alex Wright and Justin Thomas no longer around after combining for 10.5 sacks last season but they can work around Kyle Harrell and Noah Wilder who combined for 117 tackles and three sacks. The defensive line was stout against the run, finishing No. 11 in the nation but two key pieces of that three-man front have departed and there is not a ton of depth behind Fish McWilliams who is a massive body at nose tackle. It may take a while for the front seven to come together but the secondary can carry the unit in the early going. Safeties Keondre Swoopes and Will Boler combined for 111 tackles last season while corner Starling Thomas is a playmaker as well.

2022 Season Outlook

It is unfortunate that Clark had to retire but did have successful spinal fusion surgery so hopefully he can come back at some point. Vincent has a good knack for the offense so the unit should be fine as long as additional receivers can step up and keep the downfield attack vibrant. With once season left in C-USA, the goal is simple and that is to claim one last championship before moving on. The nonconference schedule includes a pair of easy games at home but the Blazers have to go to Liberty and then to LSU late in the season. The conference slate is pretty tame although they do get Western Kentucky from the East Division on the road with nothing else to demanding and the home schedule is manageable. The O/U win total is set at 8.5 which is lofty but deserved with a fairly easy schedule and the total wins could come down to a pair of November home games against UTSA and North Texas. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2022 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.