UAB was one of the best stories in college football the past two years, with the program earning back-to-back bowl bids and winning the 2018 Conference USA championship immediately after the shuttered program was reinstated. However, the Blazers face new challenges after a wave of seniors graduated.
Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel ranked all 130 FBS teams in the country entering the 2019 season. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 130 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 95: UAB
Coach: Bill Clark (25-14, entering fourth season, 36-18 overall)
2018 record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in Conference USA; first in West Division, won C-USA title game
Look back: UAB school administrators decided to shut down the football program in 2014 due to lack of support, but coach Bill Clark never lost faith a groundswell of donations from alumni would help revive the program. Football was reinstated relatively quickly, but not before players transferred to other programs and much of the operations had been shut down. UAB went through a two-year process mandated by the NCAA before it could resume Conference USA play.
The Blazers returned with something to prove, posting an 8-5 record and earning a Bahamas Bowl bid in 2017. They followed it up with the best season in school history, winning the 2018 C-USA title and beating Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Clark then started his next big project during the offseason, working to replace seniors who played key roles in the program’s remarkable resurgence.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Offensive starters lost: 3
Defensive starters returning: 5
Defensive starters lost: 6
Key losses: WR Xavier Ubosi, WR Andre Wilson, WR Collin Lisa WR Kailon Carter, OL Justice Powers, OL Rishard Cook, OL James Davis, OL Malique Johnson, DL Anthony Rush, DL Quindarius Thagard, LB Chris Woolbright, DB Mar’Sean Diggs
Top returnees: RB Spencer Brown, QB Tyler Johnston III, OL Lee Dufour, DL Garrett Marino, LB Kris Moll, DB Brontae Harris, K Nick Vogel
Strengths: Quarterback Tyler Johnson III took over the UAB offense midway through last season and emerged as a strong playmaker. He distributes the ball well and will help anchor the offense. Running back Spencer Brown is one of the Blazers’ strongest returning players and is capable of handling a heavy workload. Center Lee Dufour is the sole returning regular starter on the offensive line and will need to mentor newcomers up front. On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Brontae Harris is a disruptive force.
Weaknesses: UAB lost its top four receivers, most of its offensive line and numerous top defensive performers. These were the players who invested in helping relaunch the program and beyond the loss of talent, there’s also a loss of leadership.
Clark reloaded with some junior college transfers, but it is unclear how exactly the revamped depth chart will click during the upcoming season.
Outlook: After the surprising success UAB pulled off the past two seasons and overall since the school first hired Clark 2013, it doesn’t seem smart to count out the Blazers. However, there unquestionably was a significant loss of experienced talent during the offseason and the program may be due to take a step back.
Aug. 29 Alabama State
Sept. 7 at Akron
Sept. 21 South Alabama
Sept. 28 at Western Kentucky
Oct. 5 Rice
Oct. 12 Texas San Antonio
Oct. 19 Old Dominion
Nov. 2 at Tennessee
Nov. 9 at Southern Miss
Nov. 16 UTEP
Nov. 23 Louisiana Tech
Nov. 30 at North Texas
Previously on the countdown: