Three days after defeating Southern Mississippi 45-24 in late November of 2014, UAB President Ray Watts announced that the program would be shut down. Almost exactly two years and four months later, The Return is nearly complete.
UAB played its 2017 Spring Game today in front of a crowd eager to see the Green and Gold take the field once again. The Green team was loaded with starters and the first teamers flexed its muscles against an overmatched Gold team en route to a 49-7 win.
As expected, UAB showed a lack of depth on both sides of the ball. It was especially evident early on when Green jumped all over Gold in the first quarter to the tune of four touchdowns while allowing just one. Green scored one touchdown in each of the remaining quarters and held Gold scoreless.
There is plenty of reason to be excited about the quarterback position if you’re a UAB fan. The Blazers are deeper at quarterback than any other position in terms of talent. Junior A.J. Erdely didn’t throw often in the run-first offense but was spot on when he did. Erdely had a touchdown pass in the first quarter and all three of his second quarter completions went for first downs.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Johnston is even with Erdely in the quarterback race and showed off his legs today along with an accurate deep ball. Johnston had a rushing touchdown in the first quarter on a designed keeper and then connected with redshirt junior Collin Lisa for a 58 yard touchdown pass.
Kylen Binn is listed as a tight end but played quarterback in junior college and got some playing time at the position today. Binn was limited to short roll out pass plays but showed great mobility for his 6-6 251 lb frame.
James Nobles only had two carries after the first quarter but doesn’t need to show the coaches anything else. The 5-7 walk-on blazed a trail through the defense in fall scrimmages and picked up where he left off in the spring game when he scored the first touchdown of the game.
Donnie Lee was a linebacker just weeks ago but is now demanding playing time at running back. Lee bulldozed his way to the end zone twice in the game while leading both teams in rushing yards. Kalin Heath got the majority of Green’s carries in the second half, rushing for 55 yards on seven carries in the last two quarters.
UAB used an array of pass catchers with at least 10 different players making a reception. Collin Lisa was the standout as a Wes Welker type receiver. His quick feet earned him extra yardage after each catch. Both offenses limited the downfield passing and ran well over half of the pass plays off of play-action roll-outs.
While the Blazers have depth at wide receiver, it remains to be seen how talented that depth will be. After Lisa, around four different receivers are battling for the open spots.
The starting defense was lights out against the run game throughout the contest. The secondary was rarely tested and played well in run support. Gang tackles were common as the defense flew to the ball and limited open field tackles. Safety Marc Jonassaint was all over the field and showcased his field vision behind the linebackers. It’s worth noting the glaring lack of depth as the Gold team was eviscerated early on.
On several occasions, the quarterback-center exchange didn’t go so well. While both offenses played primarily from the shotgun, this will need to be cleaned up in fall camp before the September 2nd kickoff.
As mentioned earlier, the pass defense was rarely challenged. Its first test will come in week two against Ball State’s balanced attack. UAB’s ground approach on offense will work for its defense, keeping them rested for prolonged periods.
The Return is just 154 days away and the excitement is building in Birmingham. Blazer fans turned out in droves for UAB’s final scrimmage in a strong display of support. Dear Lord, have mercy on Alabama A&M on September 2nd, 2017.