UAB WR Jamarcus Nelson (US Presswire)
To get you ready for LSU's home opener against UAB, TSD is breaking down the Blazers on both sides of the ball. Today, we'll take a look at former Arkansas OC Garrick McGee's offense, which accounted for 453 total yards against Troy last week.
To get you ready for Saturday’s home opener against UAB, we’re breaking down the Blazers on both sides of the ball. Today we start with the offense, which has shown great ability moving the ball both in the air and on the ground.
Before we get into the analysis, here’s how UAB’s starting lineup will look on Saturday:
QB: Austin Brown (6-1, 203, So.)
RB: Darrin Reaves (5-10, 201, Jr.)
FB: Santonio Jones (5-11, 225, Sr.)
W WR: Dequindre Adams (5-10, 193, So.)
Z WR: JaMarcus Nelson (5-11, 160, Jr.)
X WR: Jamari Staples (6-4, 190, Fr.)
TE: Kennard Backman (6-3, 252, Jr.)
LT: Kaycee Ike (6-5, 292, Sr.)
LG: Roscoe Byrd (6-3, 310, So.)
C: Billy Autrey (6-2, 299, Sr.)
RG: Brian O’Leary (6-2, 290, Jr.)
RT: Victor Salako (6-6, 332, R-Fr.)
Notable backups: QB Jonathan Perry (6-2, 218, Sr.), RB Greg Franklin (5-11, 208, Sr.), WR Nolen Smith (6-3, 211, Jr.)
When discussing the UAB Blazer offense, you have to start with the head coach. Garrick McGee enters his second season at the helm after spending the previous four as Arkansas’ QB coach and offensive coordinator (adding the OC title before the 2010 season). Spending four years in the SEC gives him familiarity with what LSU does defensively, something Les Miles noted in his press conference earlier this week.
But that’s also a doubled-edged sword in that McGee’s UAB offense shares a lot schematically with those Razorback teams led by Ryan Mallett. Miles said they’ve noticed a lot of similarities when watching film, particularly the QB-led offense that spreads it out to multiple receivers with a strong RB to carry the load.
The Blazers did have success in McGee’s first season, averaging 308.8 yards per game in the air, which placed them 19th nationally in that category. Now with a pair of more-experienced QBs in charge, there’s optimism that the Blazers can improve on those numbers.
Though UAB intends to use two quarterbacks on Saturday, sophomore Austin Brown will start and receive the majority of the snaps. Brown replaced Jonathan Perry last season as the starter in the fourth week of the season and finished on the Conference USA All-Freshman Team. Brown completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 2,633 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a freshman.
But with a year of improvement and experience under his belt, McGee has said he has more faith in his sophomore signal caller. Brown went 19-for-29 against Troy last week for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
Though both QBs share a similar drop-back style, Perry is expected to get his share of reps too. But the senior only completed two of his six attempts against Troy, so he’s not expected to play a large part against the Tigers unless Brown struggles or gets injured.
Both quarterbacks will have the benefit of throwing to a pair of WRs that were ultra-productive in the season opener.
Few in the nation had a game like Jamarcus Nelson, who accounted for 367 all-purpose yards against Troy. He set career highs with 10 receptions for 199 yards, including three touchdowns (two receiving of 26, 62 yards and a 97-yard kickoff return). Though only 5-11, 160 pounds, Nelson has drawn a lot of praise during the offseason for his ramped up physicality and he’s definitely the Blazers’ best all-around weapon.
But UAB also counted on freshman Jamari Staples in that opener. He accounted for 103 receiving yards on six receptions, and his first career reception converted a fourth down. His second went for a 42-yard touchdown. With prototypical outside size, Staples will probably see a lot of Jalen Collins on Saturday, while Nelson will likely line up against Jalen Mills and nickleback Micah Eugene.
UAB does look to get the TE involved in the passing game, but starter Kennard Backman received more press last week for being ejected as part of the new targeting rule. Backman was removed for a block in the second quarter thought to be too high. He missed the remainder of that contest but will not face a suspension against LSU.
Without Backman, who had two catches for 29 yards before his ejection, UAB turned to backup WR Nolen Smith, a 6-3, 205-pounder that hauled in a three-yard reception.
Backman will provide a good challenge for the LSU linebackers, who did struggle in pass coverage against TCU. As John Chavis continues to experiment with that unit in passing situations, Backman should test the LBs as a receiving threat.
The Blazers aren’t just a team that slings it around though. They do have some balance in the run game behind Darrin Reaves, who ran for 1,037 yards in 2012 and 110 in the opener last week. Reaves will certainly be UAB’s feature back on Saturday as he took 23 of the Blazers’ 31 rushing attempts against Troy. Backup Greg Franklin only had four carries for 14 yards in the opener.
UAB has a more-experienced offensive line from the unit that allowed 42 sacks a year ago. The Blazers return three starters from that team, Kaycee Ike, Brian O’Leary and Billy Autrey. They’re already much improved in the sacks category, only surrendering one to Troy, but LSU’s defensive line will surely be a much stiffer test. RT Victor Salako, who only made his first collegiate appearance last week, will experience a trial by fire against LSU’s speedy DEs, but he does have 332 pounds working in his favor.
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