Sunday, April 10, 2011

UAB Blazers 2010 Review

2010 Record: 4-8 (3-5), 5th Conference USA
2010 Bowl Game: None
2010 Schedule/Results: Florida Atlantic, L 32-31; @ SMU, L 28-7; Troy, W 34-33; @ Tennessee, L 32-29; @ UCF, L 42-7; UTEP, W 21-6; @ Mississippi State; L 29-24; @ Southern Miss, W 50-49; Marshall, L 31-17; East Carolina, L 54-42; Memphis, W 31-15; @ Rice, L 28-23


     UAB stumbled their way to another losing season during the Neil Callaway era. Callaway spent a majority of the season bouncing from my hot seat to the dead pool and back again, and he definately is in the dead pool to start the 2011 season. Much like Todd Dodge at North Texas last season, Callaway has some weighty expectations that I am not sure that he can live up to. Dodge failed, and I feel that Callaway is going down in flames to follow. Nothing short of a winning record and a bowl bid will save him after 2011, and the only reason that he's coming back is the fact that UAB felt that it was not financially beneficial to pay the buyout after last season, otherwise there'd be a new man in charge now.
     Callaway is plaing a whole lot of eggs in the basket of QB Bryan Ellis. Ellis had an up and down season in 2010, but at the end, it was a better season than you would expect out of a QB on a 4-8 team. Ellis passed for 2937 yards and 25 TDs, and tossed 12 picks. the number that would be worrisome was his completion percentage, as he only completed 56.1% of his passes. David Isabelle is waiting in the wings, and is a solid athlete, but barring injuries, he won't puch Ellis out of a job just yet. Isabelle's passing was suspect, but he did manage to finish second on the team with 396 yards rushing.
     Pat Shedd was an underheralded RB in CUSA play in 2010, as the junior rushed for 847 and 3 TDs. Shedd basically just needs more carries to become a force as a senior in 2011, as he only averaged 13.08 carries per game. He did manage to average 5.39 yards per carry. If Callaway is smart, he'll make Shedd a more pertinent part of this offensive gameplan. There is very little depth behind Shedd, as Greg Franklin is the most experienced returning back with just 11 carries in 2010.
     There was very little stardem in the receiving corps, and the first share of bad news comes on the heels that Frantrell Forrest (38-555-4), Mike Jones (38-531-7), and Jefferey Anderson (32-407-4) all graduate. Only Patrick Hearn and Jackie Williams return from the receiving corps leaders. This will put a major dent into the gameplan for 2011, putting more pressure on the run game to develop.
      UAB had collective issues on defense. They gave up over 150 yards per game on the ground, and just under 250 yards per game through the air. That's not getting it done, and the receiving and RB depth aside, the defense may be the final nail in Callaway's UAB coffin.
     The productivity outside of the top two tacklers was putrid. Marvin Burdette (114 tackles) and Jamie Bender (94) were the only players to step up and perform big. It then fell to Daniel White (55) and Elliott Henigan (55) were the only other Blazer defenders that surpassed 50 tackles on the season. Not good when you need major production and improvement to meet some lofty and necessary goals in 2011.
      Henigan was a major player when it came to making plays behind the line, as he collected 15.5 TFLs on the season, and he'll be trying to bring that energy back to the field as a senior in 2011. Bryant Turner, a senior, joined him in double digits with 12 on the season. Burdette, who also returns in 2010, had 8, and looks to improve as a junior. Turner led the team in sacks in 2010 with only 6.5.
     The secondary had a few performers, but overall, UAB lacked the depth of athletes making plays against the pass. Luckily, the top three performers will return in 2011. Jamie Bender, second on the team in tackles, led the team in passes defended in 2010 with 9. TJ Ballou finished second with 8, while Marquis Coleman was third with 7. Henigan, a lineman, finished 4th on the team with 5 passes defended. Balou led the team with 3 picks, but not one other Blazer had more than 1 all season long, as the Blazers only picked off 9 passes all season as a team ,which is the most glaring number on the field.
     Josh Zahn may have been a freshman PK for the Blazers in 2010, but he kicked more like a 3rd grader. He only managed to connect on 7 of 17 FG attempts on the season. He had better rapidly improve as a sophomore, or you can bet that a replacement will be found to move him out of his job. The Blazers were involved in 4 games that were decided by a FG or less, and UAB went 2-2 in those games. You can bet that there will be a focus on improving that mark. Trey Ragland was solid as a punter, averaging 41.98 yards per punt on 55 punts. UAB would love to see Ragland less busy as a senior next fall.


There are too many variables to have me come out and say that Callaway will survive beyond 2011. An experienced QB and RB return, but the receiving corps is in tatters, leaving some huge issues in the skill postions. There was such little overall productivity on defense, that one wonders if the Blazers have anyone on the roster that can step up and make a basic tackle. The defense gave up 30 or more points 7 times, so the answer has to be shaky at best. With so many very important questions, and a schedule that includes 7 bowl teams from 2010, it would seem like a difficult task to win over. Not hopeful.

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