2022 UAB running backs
For the UAB football program, life without all-time leading rusher Spencer Brown has been successful.
Debo and Skull are the proof in the pudding.
The Blazers return 16 starters, seven on offense and nine on defense, and will have one of the best rushing attacks in the nation as they return their top two running backs from a year ago.
DeWayne McBride and Jermaine Brown Jr., affectionately known as Debo and Skull, respectively, combined for 2,002 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground last season and are expected to lead the UAB offense with interim head coach and offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent calling the shots.
Departed: Lucious Stanley — Larry Wooden
Returning starter(s): DeWayne McBride, Jr — Jermaine Brown, Jr
Other returning players: Lee Witherspoon, So* — A.J. Gates, Jr* — Jarrett Crockett, Fr* — Tyetus Smith-Lindsey, So*
Spring/Summer arrivals: Zeus Perryman, Jr* — Taven Curry, Fr — Tyjuan Able, Fr — Cam’Ron Williams, Fr
2021 position preview: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL| OLB | LB | CB | S | ST
Outlook: If there was ever a certainty to the UAB football program, besides its suffocating defense, it’s a dominant rushing attack capable of wearing down opponents and controlling the flow of the game.
McBride had a breakout true freshman season on the Southside, accumulating 439 yards and 4 touchdowns in the truncated 2020 season, including a 71-yard touchdown run against Western Kentucky and a school-record 75-yard touchdown run at Louisiana Tech. He expanded on that last season with 1,371 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, and was named to the C-USA second team.
Brown followed a similar path to that of McBride, arriving a year earlier and amassing 696 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first two seasons, along with 12 receptions for 53 yards. As McBride took the lead on the ground most times, Brown contributed in the passing game as well as in the rushing game. He ran for 631 yards and 7 touchdowns while hauling in 23 receptions for 200 yards, amassing 1,031 all-purpose yards when combing his contributions in the return game.
It’s no secret that the Blazers will utilize Debo and Skull in a similar fashion this season, establishing the foundation of what could be one of the best offenses UAB has deployed since its return to the field.
A.J. Gates and Tyetus Smith-Lindsey are the only other running backs on the roster with playing experience for the Blazers last season. Gates appeared in three games, rushing for 24 yards on 7 carries, and Smith-Lindsey played in two games with only one rushing attempt. Unfortunately, Smith-Lindsey suffered an ACL tear during spring drills and will miss the 2022 season.
Gates, along with former Mississippi State transfer Lee Witherspoon, an Alabama native who set the AHSAA single-season record for rushing touchdowns (53) and total touchdowns (59) in his senior season at North Jackson, are expected to serve as the third options behind McBride and Brown.
Jarrett Crockett redshirted last season after signing as a walk-on from Thompson (Ala.) and Zeus Perryman signed with the 2022 recruiting class. Both players were impressive in the spring game and round out a deep running back group.
Aside from Perryman, a JUCO transfer, UAB added Tavin Curry (Robertsdale) and two walk-on running backs — Tyjuan Able (St. Paul’s) and Cam’Ron Williams (Clay-Chalkville) — to the roster this summer.
Battle to Watch: Taking into account the departures of Lucious Stanley and Larry Wooden, UAB needs viable third and fourth options to support McBride and Brown in the running game. Lee Witherspoon and A.J. Gates are set to take on those contributing roles considering their experience in the program but Jarrett Crockett and Zeus Perryman have the talent to compete as well.
Keep an Eye on: Speaking of Perryman, the East Mississippi Community College transfer had a solid performance in the spring game, scoring the only touchdown, and could compete for additional reps during fall camp. He appeared in 10 games in his final JUCO season, amassing 597 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Projected depth chart:
DeWayne McBride, Jr AND Jermaine Brown, Jr
A.J. Gates, Jr* OR Lee Witherspoon, So*
Zeus Perryman, Jr* OR Jarrett Crockett, Fr*
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2022 UAB running backs