UAB's Spencer Brown bounces back with - yikes - 'a little wiggle'
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
The second-best thing I heard after UAB's first scrimmage of fall camp at Legacy Pavilion came from a Blazer staffer. Describing the sensational sophomore season of running back Spencer Brown, the staffer said, "He limped to 1,200 yards."
True fact. It wasn't always evident to the outside world, but inside the walls, the Blazers knew. After his fantastic freshman year, the workhorse from Mortimer Jordan High School played through a painful foot injury in 2018 that would've sidelined a lesser young man, carrying the ball 272 times, the second-highest total in school history, for 1,227 yards, the fourth-highest total in school history.
Brown carried 56 times for 234 yards combined in the C-USA Championship Game thriller over Middle Tennessee and the Boca Raton Bowl rout of Northern Illinois, then sat out spring practice to rest and rehab his foot.
The best thing I heard after UAB's first scrimmage of fall camp came from Brown himself.
"I definitely got a little wiggle to myself now," he said. "I can move and cut and my foot is better so it feels way better planting on it than it used to."
That was obvious to anyone who watched Saturday as Brown sidestepped through tight spaces, planted and cut upfield to daylight and powered through would-be tacklers. He ripped off long runs and scored two touchdowns behind an offensive line with four new starters who aren't newcomers around veteran anchor Lee Dufour at center.
UAB Head Coach Bill Clark seemed to like what he saw from his first-team offense, which went against the second-team defense, and his junior running back in particular. Brown bounced around with an agility uncommon among power backs listed at 6 foot and 230 pounds.
"It's just fun to watch him right now," Clark said. "He's just so much lighter on his feet. From a fitness standpoint, we think he's in great shape. He made some runs that reminded me of when we first got him except he's just so much stronger and bigger. Now we're trying to get him to that first game, but he looked good."
As did starting quarterback Tyler Johnston, who's rapidly developing a rapport with a talented group of wide receivers led by Austin Watkins, Kendall Parham and Myron Mitchell, who caught several balls Saturday, one of them for a touchdown.
"I thought Tyler had a really good day," Clark said. "Two-minute (drill), with no timeouts left and 10 seconds, he decided to hold it to the last second and throw a touchdown. Probably would've gotten him in real trouble in a game, but he's just a playmaker, a winner."
With less than three weeks left until the Thursday Aug. 29 opener against Alabama State, Clark and his staff continue to identify playmakers on both sides of the ball to step up in place of last year's crowded and special senior class. He hopes the next scrimmage in that process will take place at Legion Field, which was unavailable Saturday because much-needed new artificial turf is being installed there.
"I think if you look at us from the top to the bottom, we're better," Clark said. "Now, we lost some really good top guys so we're going to see. I do think we've got some guys who have worked themselves into a chance to play."
Then there's Brown, already one of the best running backs to wear the green and gold, who's worked himself into a chance to be better than ever. He needs only 262 yards to break UAB's career rushing record.
After sitting out the spring, Brown said Saturday, "it gives me goosebumps every time I come out here."
Expect UAB fans to get that same feeling every time he touches the ball.