2017 UAB Blazers Preview: Ladies Love Cool Blazers

It’s a tagline from an LL Cool J song you might know, called “Mama Said Knock You Out”, but it was the inspiration for the website, as was the team contained within this preview, so I consider it very appropriate that this is the last stand-alone team season preview before football officially kicks off.

Matter of fact, perhaps I should just sprinkle the song in question across this preview since it feels so appropriate in 2017.

Don’t call it a comeback/I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers/Puttin’ suckers in fear

The UAB football program turned 26 years old this fall, but it will be only the 20th season of FBS football for a program that will have the ignominy of placing asterisks on the last two seasons. But don’t get it twisted, because this is now a program with two years worth of pent up demons and aggression that it will now be looking to unleash on the football world at large.

I almost feel bad for Alabama A&M, as they will spend September 2nd, 2017 becoming “that team that UAB beat the hell out of for four quarters to announce that they are, indeed, returned.” Not that there’s anything wrong with becoming a historically significant footnote, that’s just how it’s going to be.

Many things are new; most of the roster, the day-to-day football facilities, the emotional and financial support of the Birmingham community. Many others are not; Legion Field, head coach Bill Clark, and lynchpin defensive players like Shaq Jones.

Most of the things on both of these lists mean that we don’t really know what to expect from the latest iteration of the Blazers, but they also give us no reason to be anything other than optimistic.

Don’t you call this a regular jam
I’m gonna rock this land
I’m gonna take this itty-bitty world by storm
And I’m just gettin’ warm

This season is most certainly no regular jam. The hallmark of any season preview is to take a look at what a team did last season, take a glance at what both they and their opponents gained and lost last season, and then use that to take a guess at what the coming season will be like.

We can’t do that with the Blazers. Sure, we know that their opponents are working with. Alabama A&M, UTEP, Charlotte, and Rice are going to struggle offensively and also perhaps defensively as they were poor teams last year with a fair amount of turnover in talent.

USM, La Tech, MTSU, and Florida will all have better top-end talent on the field and possibly also more experienced depth than the Blazers, so those games will be a struggle (especially in Hattiesburg and Gainesville).

Ball State, UTSA, Coastal Carolina and North Texas are toss-up games against opponents that are comparable with regards to depth, experience, returning talent or all of those.

We can say with certainty that if UAB can be above .500 against that first group and avoid going winless against the rest, they’ve got a great start towards a bowl game. What we cannot say with any certainty is how likely any of those outcomes are.

Why do you riff with me/The maniac psycho
And when I pull out my jammy get ready
Cause I might go BLAOW!/How you like me now?

This is a team that will most certainly explode onto the scene in their season opener. They are at home against a very beatable FCS opponent, they will be in front of an absolute ton of fans, national media, and others who are thrilled to have college football back in Birmingham, curious to see what the Blazers are capable of, and to spend their Saturday proudly not watching anything about Alabama or Auburn for a while.

This team has a ton of talent. Shaq Jones is back, has put on 40 pounds, and is good enough to lead most FBS defenses, let alone one in Conference USA. Let’s remember that he passed on transferring to WMU, WKU, Marshall and others.

Collin Lisa is back, and I hear he’s pretty good at catching a football – and that was at Buffalo, with a roster full of guys pretending to be quarterbacks. AJ Erdely is likely going to be starting at quarterback – he would be the starter at MTSU already if his competition wasn’t named Stockstill.

It gets even better at running back. Kalin Heath, who chose Kansas State over about 10 other more prestigious P5 schools in his initial recruitment, isn’t even the best running back on the roster. That probably goes to James Noble, who busted his ass from walk-on to scholarship this spring. And let’s not forget converted DB Donnie Lee who at minimum is a depth option who has shown some pop out of the backfield. Lucious Stanley too, he’s for real.

What made you forget that I was raw/But now I gotta new tour
I’m going insane/Startin’ the hurricane
Releasin’ pain/Lettin’ you know
You can’t gain or maintain/Unless you say my name
Rippin’/Killin’/Diggin’ and drillin’ a hole/Pass the Old Gold

This team is most certainly raw, at least in the sense that when the ball kicks off at 2:30 PM CST on September 2nd, it will be the first time ever that this roster of players has played 100% full-blown live game action with each other. That being said, you’ve seen athletes come together and play pick-up before.

When players are talented, they figure out ways to work together, they learn what works and what doesn’t and eventually, their talent shines through no matter who they are up against or how great the challenge is. That’s what players do who are tough, who are talented, and who want to win.And I can assure you, this team wants to win.

The man of the hour, tower of power/I’ll devour
I’m gonna tie you up and let you understand/That I’m not your average man

I can appreciate that when I sit here and predict the Blazers to go 6-6 most people will look at me like I am most certainly not your average man, and not in a good way. However, I am certain that most of those people are simply too terrified to predict a team to go better than 4-8 without the crutch of past performance to lean on.

The Blazers have multiple extremely winnable home games against Rice, UTEP and Alabama A&M and road games against the likes of Charlotte, Coastal Carolina and Ball State, none of whom are more talented than the Blazers and none of whom were good enough last year or are returning enough talent this year to even be a definite favorite to win.

The Blazers may be a collection of unknowns, but even for that type of group it’s not much of a stretch to say “they will win six winnable games.” If things break right for the Blazers, their matchups against North Texas and UTSA become very winnable as well.

Oh, what the hell.

PREDICTION: DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK WHEN THE BLAZERS GO 7-5

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