Noah Wilder – UAB football
Removing his helmet while walking off the practice field at Legacy Pavilion in Birmingham, UAB linebacker Noah Wilder is almost unrecognizable without a luscious mane of jet-black locks flowing off his shoulders.
Samson the Nazorean was deprived of his immaculate strength when Delilah betrayed his sacred covenant, shearing his tresses as he slumbered, but Wilder is not expecting a similar fate heading into his final season with the Blazers.
“I guess it was time to grow up and get a trim before heading out into the real world,” Wilder said. “Sometimes it gets crazy, falls in my eyes, so it was time.”
With two prime contributors on the mend from day-to-day, due to a few bumps and bruises, Wilder has taken to developing additional depth among a deep pool of talented linebackers, primarily focused on two quality transfers and a former top linebacker prospect ready to emerge.
“Obviously we got some guys returning,” UAB head coach Bill Clark said. “Noah has a lot of experience, Deshaun Oliver is a guy that’s stepped up, and we got a lot of new faces. It’s a good group and a talented group.”
Oliver, along with former Tyler Taylor, has been in and out of practice, Clark says, but has a proven track record of success following impressive performances throughout the 2021 season.
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Wilder was initially classified as a redshirt senior last year but decided to take advantage of his extra COVID year of eligibility. He has 34 starts in 36 appearances during the last three seasons, earning C-USA Second-Team honors in 2020 and honorable mention in 2021 while amassing 228 total tackles (20 for loss), 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble and recovery.
“Noah is the quarterback of our defense, at least the front side,” UAB defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach David Reeves said. “There are times when the safety is going to take charge of the backend but Noah runs the show up there. The leadership he provides on the field is a great example for all of our young guys and newcomers to see. My favorite thing is he’s passing the torch, getting these guys ready who don’t know the Blazer way — how it’s got to be done.”
Wilder was paired with former UAB standout Kris Moll in the middle of the defense for two seasons but assumed full duties at the position last year with Moll moved to safety and Oliver stepping up into a starting role.
UAB’s defensive front is a living organism that evolves throughout the course of a game and Wilder’s leadership and ability to mobilize interchangeable parts pre-snap is imperative for success on the defensive side.
“I try to take ownership of that,” he said. “If we have our front seven lined up correctly and ready to play, they can go. Those guys are some ballplayers that I’m playing around. I’m blessed to be around this group of guys.”
The main additions for UAB this offseason were Alabama transfer Jackson Bratton, a former 4-star prospect out of Muscle Shoals, according to the 247Sports Composite, Georgia Southern transfer Reynard Ellis and Coffeyville Community College (Kan.) transfer Reise Collier.
All three are making positive imprints on the linebacker unit with Wilder noting Ellis’ speed and instincts and Bratton’s commitment to film study.
“They’ve come in and done really well for us, they fit that picture of what UAB is supposed to be like,” Wilder said. “Came in with a good work ethic, really hard workers from what I’ve seen and I like their character and the way they play ball.”
While Bratton and Ellis have made immediate impressions on Wilder, redshirt sophomore Tamarious Brown has taken advantage of a full spring after being slowed by injuries the past two years. He appeared in two games last season and completes a deep six-man rotation on the inside.
“He’s really grown as a linebacker, I’m super proud of him,” Wilder said. “That’s my boy, right there.”
The obvious theme of any spring practice is depth development and Clark and Reeves are expounding that notion by refusing to pigeonhole any position this offseason.
“It’s hard for us to call this group Mike or this group Will,” Reeves said. “We’re really trying to mass-teach everything to make sure we can build some depth. It’s been a fun group to coach up to this point because it’s a great group of young talent or guys that just got here mixed in with some older guys that have been around us.”
Numerous losses along the defense line exacerbated the mass effect but it’s not exactly a novel idea for the program. The Blazers have utilized multiple formations in their defense since making a return five years ago, ranking as one of the top defenses in the nation during that span, but the current variety of talent creates an avenue of dangerous potential.
“There is no specific Mike or Will, we got a lot of guys mixing it up,” Wilder said. “Even our Jacks know the Mike and Will roles. That mass-teaching that coach speaks about is really important. It makes you a better ballplayer and makes for a better football team.
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Noah Wilder – UAB football