Building a roster from scratch is not something unfamiliar to UAB head coach Bill Clark.
However, the circumstance in which he finds himself doing so now is unchartered territory.
When Clark teamed up with Joey Jones and signed on as South Alabama's defensive coordinator in 2008, they were starting a program that had never played a football game; building from nothing. Today, Clark is the head man at a school that he has already coached to a 6-6 record in 2014, but has only a handful of players to speak of.
Time and time again, the story of the dismantling and the resurrection of the UAB football program has been documented. In just six months, the program went from alive to dead to alive again. But six months was plenty of time to leave the cupboard virtually empty.
Guys like Tajh Lowe, Kingsley Ejike, and Shaq Jones, along with a few others, remained at UAB after playing last season. Some, such as Lee Dufour and Nick Vogel, have decided to return to UAB since the school's reinstatement of the football program, after leaving to join other programs. Clark has even snagged a couple of recruits along the way, but a generous estimate leaves the Blazers with about 70 of the 85 scholarships available left to fill.
Student-athletes were not the only personnel losses for UAB. Most of the assistant coaches left to pursue other opportunities as well. Most notably, offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent took the same position at South Alabama. But defensive coordinator Duwan Walker and offensive line coach Mike Bennefield were among a few coaches that stuck it out on the Southside.
All in all, it is apparent that Clark and his staff have a long road ahead of them in rebuilding the talent pool of the program. How do they go about achieving this?
"We want to set goals," Clark said on Birmingham's WJOX-FM on Monday morning as part of the Opening Drive show. "Every morning that we're all here together with the guys that I have, we ask 'What can we do right now?'"
With his team not playing this season, Clark has a built-in advantage that no other Football Bowl Subdivison coach can boast. He can focus solely on recruiting throughout the fall.
"On September 1, we can get out and recruit," he said. "That's such a huge time to get across the country."
While other coaching staffs are dealing with practices, walkthroughs, gameplans, and gamedays, the UAB staff has the opportunity to spend time building relationships with players and coaches all over, far beyond the arm's length of campus that most coaches have to stay within during the season.
Though it has not been made official, it seems that one of UAB's primary recruiting tools is the ability to offer players the opportunity to slow down or freeze his collegiate eligibility clock. Paired with having two years to build a team, these advantages give Clark the chance to be patient and picky while looking for players.
"For us, it's like the NFL Draft," Clark said. "Who are the best available guys that are ready now?"
Even with so many spots to fill, Clark has not lost focus of his objective since he was hired at UAB. He has harped on bringing in the right guys for UAB since his initial recruiting class last February, not just the ones with the most talent (although that helps).
"Who are the best players that we can go out and get that also fit us right down the road?" he said.
It seems he is well on his way to finding those players.