On a perfectly sunny day in Birmingham, coach Bill Clark stood on the newly-trimmed grass of Legion Field and watched with pride as a group of green, white, and black jerseys conducted their first drills since 2014.
The practice, while ultimately a very symbolic one, was extremely important. It signaled that #TheReturn is only beginning, and that UAB must return to their roots in order to build upon the success of 2014's 6-6 season. That first step was taken this past Tuesday.
UAB's head coach Bill Clark stuck to a message that Tuesday's practice was "just...football," but at the same time, the significance was not lost on Coach Clark, who told assembled media, including AL.com:
We don't want to forget this. We wouldn't want to go through it again, but it's going to make this program probably be what it could have and should have been. Hopefully it's going to to make this community proud. Hopefully it's a national story. That is 100 percent our goal, to be a national team.
Shaq Jones, the new (old) face of UAB football, who received plenty of offers but remained in Birmingham, summed up the emotion of the moment to local media, saying
UAB is where I started. I made a commitment here in 2012. This is where I started and this is where I was going to finish.
The 65 current members of the UAB Blazers assembled for a two-hour practice that included position drills and 11-on-11 drills. There were a couple of key plays, but media seems to agree that linebacker Zach Williams had the best performance out of all the prospects. UAB signed a record 45 players in this past recruiting class thanks to an NCAA exception granted to the program this year after their temporary shutdown, and also snagged a few transfers from Power Five institutions after an additional provision that grants an eligibility waiver for the 2016 season. UAB can still sign 20 more recruits to the roster before the 2017 season.
~Speaking of recruiting, UAB announced on Monday that Junior Day will be held on February 27th via Twitter. The Class of 2018 has a couple of promising recruits targeted by UAB, including five-star prospect Tank Jenkins, an offensive lineman out of Park Crossing High School in Montogomery, AL.
We'll have to look and see who shows up to the event before gauging what sorts of recruits Coach Clark is targeting with a much more limited amount of 2017 and 2018 class ahead. In the 2017 class, 247Sports has identified four-star running back Cordarrian Richardson, and three-star linebacker Thomas Johnson as "high choices," with four three-star prospects (three of whom are on defense) labeled as "interested" prospects.
~The 2017 out-of-conference opponents are set, but UAB still needs some 2018 opponents, especially with the news that newly-promoted Georgia State has already grasped a home-and-home series with North Carolina for 2021 and 2022. For UAB to become a national brand, they'll have to schedule big name opponents, and soon. In 2017, they'll face Alabama A&M, Ball State, and Coastal Carolina Weeks 1-3, with a trip to Florida in Week 11. Earlier this week, Underdog Dynasty tried to fill a few of those vacancies.