UAB Football: 2022 Blazers Season Preview and Prediction – Athlon Sports

DeWayne McBride and the Blazers are ranked No. 64 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season
UAB Athletics
UAB came within seconds of a Conference USA West Division title last season and should be positioned for another run at a league championship thanks to the return of a strong defense and running back DeWayne McBride to lead 12 returning starters. However, there was unexpected news from Birmingham this June, as coach Bill Clark retired due to health issues with his back. Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent will work as the team's interim coach for '22.
Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022
Last season, Dylan Hopkins put up perhaps the best season of any UAB quarterback since the school's return to action in 2017. However, he missed spring due to injury recovery, and Baylor transfer Jacob Zeno had a chance to shine. Bryson Lucero also has starting experience, and the Blazers are high on freshman Dylan Mehrotra. UAB quarterbacks are asked to run in this offense, so having depth at the position is crucial.
The run game will be strong with leading returning rushers DeWayne "Debo" McBride and Jermaine Brown Jr. back, along with Lee Witherspoon (missed 2021 due to injury) and junior college transfer Zeus Perryman.
Trea Shropshire was UAB's big-play receiver last year and will lead an experienced group, but one that needs more explosiveness. Tejhaun Palmer stepped up late last season and could be a breakout performer. The tight end position is crucial for this offense, and UAB expects a breakout season from Terrell McDonald. Bryce Damous, Maleak Bryant and some signees will also contribute.
UAB returns three starters on the O-line, and Eli Richey should slot in at left guard on a formidable front.
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Noah Wilder returns to lead an experienced group at inside linebacker. Deshaun Oliver and Tyler Taylor will get competition from the speedy Reynard Ellis after his productive career at Georgia Southern. Alabama transfer Jackson Bratton will be a factor too.
The back end is loaded, especially at STAR and safety with Keondre Swoopes, Grayson Cash and Will Boler. Cornerback Mac McWilliams is healthy after battling injuries, and he'll join Starling Thomas V, CD Daniels, Colby Dempsey and Devodric Bynum to form one of C-USA's best groups.
UAB has several questions up front, though. Kelle Sanders showed flashes at JACK but could really break out with more playing time opening up following Alex Wright's move to the NFL. Sanders will battle sixth-year senior Kyle Harrell for main snaps there. Veterans Isaiah Forte and Fish McWilliams will be called on to raise their games, along with rush end Michael Fairbanks. Late juco signee Drew Tuazama should be an impact transfer, and the Blazers need Jalen Mayala to step up in his second season following his transfer from Indiana.
Related: Conference USA Football 2022 Predictions
Matt Quinn made 49-of-50 extra points, but the Blazers would like to see him improve his accuracy (11-of-16) on field goals. Kyle Greenwell returns for his fifth season as the punter. Reese Burkhardt is back to handle kickoffs, and Brown and Thomas are strong in the return game.
UAB is at the point where it is competing for a conference championship every year. Clark's departure and Vincent's move into the head-coaching role is an x-factor in what should be a tight battle with UTSA for the top spot in the conference. For another title run to happen, Hopkins must build on a strong season as a starter, and some tight ends have to step up. Games are won on the line of scrimmage, and UAB has an edge on the offensive line. If the D-line can hold its ground, another division championship is a possibility.

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