It is anyone's guess what UAB will look like when they take the field against Troy on August 30th. That's because, after only five wins in two seasons, the Blazers fired head coach Garrick McGee and replaced him with Bill Clark, an Alabama football man if there was ever one.
In only his second year as a head coach, Clark wears the headset for his second program. He's had a meteoric rise from back-to-back high school championships to leading his first FBS team, but Clark has his work cut out for him in Birmingham.
The good news is that the Blazers return the majority of their starters on defense. The bad news is that they were statistically the worst defense in UAB history. That moniker is in large part due to widespread injuries, but last year's curse could be this year's blessing. With so many players receiving solid playing time in 2013, UAB might not be the most talented defense, but they are deep.
The Blazers will also be without stud running back Darrin Reaves. For a team that leaned so heavily on their run game last year, this should be a huge loss, but Jordan Howard, who earned freshman all-conference honors last year, should be more than capable of filling the hole in the backfield.
Outside of a select few positions, this year's UAB team will be more of a rebuild than a remodel. Coach Clark brought in 14 JUCO transfers to sure up his numbers, and get some talent on the field in a hurry.
But talent won't do you any good if you can't get the ball to it. That's what makes this year's UAB quarterback battle so interesting. Gone from last year are the two-headed threat of Austin Brown and Jonathan Perry. This year there will be fresh faces under center for the Blazers.
Cody Clements transfers in as a junior from Cerritos College (CA) where he earned MVP honors in the Western States Bowl. Clements seemed to take the lead earlier this month, but in the last few weeks has been bumped to second team snaps. Apart from being an adept passer, he can also be a run threat, but Coach Clark has lauded the junior's ability as a leader. During last week's scrimmage, Clements sustained a brush burn on his throwing arm. It may not slow him down, but may make him appreciate forearm sleeves more.
The redshirt freshman was a two star recruit coming out of high school in Texas, but he's made his presence known very quickly on campus. By all accounts Briscoe is every bit as efficient and athletic as Clements. Leading up to last week's scrimmage, Briscoe was taking first team snaps, before being sidelined with minor bumps and nicks.
Who has the advantage?
If I were to believe that UAB would only play one quarterback this year, my money would be on Briscoe. Though Clark would never admit it, Briscoe has taken the number one spot, and was only demoted when injuries slowed him down.
That being said, UAB will once again be running a two-quarterback system. To most Blazers fans, this seems like more of the same, but under Bill Clark I expect progress.
Unlike the duo of Brown and Perry, these two QBs are built nearly identical. You don't have a pocket passer and a dual-threat. You have two athletic guys who can toss the ball up field. Where this makes the biggest difference is the offensive line. To the big guys up front, it doesn't matter who is taking the snaps. They run the same plays. They block the same.
And keep in mind, Bill Clark ran a two-QB system last year at Jacksonville State, and it took them to the FCS Playoff quarterfinals. This team will be run oriented, relying on ball control over all else, but I expect the quarterback play to open things up greatly.
They say when you have two quarterbacks, you don't have any. But UAB has two quarterbacks that are remarkably similar in both talent and style. In my eyes, that makes them 50% less likely to have a bad day.