2019 College Football Rankings: No. 95 UAB tries to extend hot streak despite departures

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.

2019 Schedule

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:

No. 96 Miami (Ohio)

No. 97 Illinois

No. 98 Hawaii

No. 99 Middle Tennessee

No. 100 Oregon State

No. 101 Colorado State

No. 102 Eastern Michigan

No. 103 Tulsa

No. 104 Louisiana

No. 105 UNLV

No. 106 Western Kentucky

No. 107 ULM

No. 108 Ball State

No. 109 Old Dominion

No. 110 Rutgers

No. 111 East Carolina

No. 112 Kansas

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