UAB and defense go together like … Alabama and defense
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Bill Clark can't help but smile when he talks about defense. He's been a college head coach for six years and four seasons now, but that side of the ball is his specialty.
The UAB head coach tries "to be balanced" in the time he spends with his offensive and defensive units, but "I always seem to matriculate over there (to the defense) a little bit more as the season goes," Clark said after UAB's second scrimmage of preseason camp. "As the season goes, it's a time when you've got to ask more of those guys. I always talk about how hard it is to play defense nowadays. So you've gotta ask more."
A year ago, the UAB defense delivered more than any other defense in the state, statistically speaking. The Blazers finished in the top 10 in the nation in 2018 in three major categories, in the top 20 in two others. To put that elite performance in perspective, Conference USA champion UAB ranked higher than SEC champion Alabama in every one of those categories.
3. UAB 48
5. Alabama 45
7. UAB 17 points per game
12. Alabama 18.1 ppg
9. UAB 299.2 yards per game
16. Alabama 319.5 ypg
14. UAB 181.1 yards per game
33. Alabama 198.3 yards per game
17. UAB 118.1 yards per game
19. Alabama 121.3 ypg
Anytime you get mentioned in the same breath as the Alabama defense, which has been the foundation of a remarkable five national championships in the last 10 years under Nick Saban, you've accomplished something special.
There are some new faces stepping up at Legacy Pavilion this preseason for Clark and defensive coordinator David Reeves, but the high standard remains the same. For this program, that standard goes all the way back to Watson Brown and the Steel Shield. Those new-look UAB defenders did some special things Saturday. They wreaked more havoc and created more turnovers - four during the actual scrimmage - than they had the week before.
Outside linebacker Kyle Harrell, who's worked his way toward a starting role, had one of those takeaways with an interception as the Blazers worked in some first offense vs. first defense in their final full-scale scrimmage. He said those big plays always give the defenders a jolt of energy.
"Every time we get a turnover, we're all turnt up," Harrell said. "You know what I'm saying? No matter who it is or what the circumstances are, when we get a turnover, we're turnt up."
As UAB turns the page toward the start of a new season Thursday Aug. 29th against Alabama State at Legion Field, as the 2019 defense begins to establish its own identity, one thing seems certain. The Blazers will take pride in that defense. Clark will make sure of it.