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The Dragon's Lair: Talking UAB Football with Steve Irvine of the Birmingham News

Steve Irvine of the Birmingham News was kind enough to share his thoughts on the 2010 Blazers.  When I want to get the UAB perspective I head over to Off the Vine, Steve's blog.  Check it out.

Miner Rush:  Obviously, everyone around the league is anxious to see who will step up and replace Joe Webb at quarterback.  Is David Isabelle the guy?  How tight was the quarterback competition between Isabelle and Bryan Ellis this spring?

Steve Irvine:  David Isabelle appears to be the guy at quarterback but there isn't much separation between the top two. Isabelle emerged as the leader in spring because he can beat you with his arm and feet. Bryan Ellis is the best pure passer on the roster but UAB's offense requires the quarterback to run and pass. Isabelle is an excellent runner but he needs more work as a passer. I wouldn't be surprised to see both quarterbacks get playing time this fall.

MR:  Last season, Webb led UAB in rushing by a mile and helped UAB finish 7th nationally in rushing offense.  Can Isabelle help pick up the load there?  Or will offensive coordinator Kim Helton look to get the running backs more involved?  Who steps in for Rashaud Slaughter at RB?

SI:   UAB appears to be well stocked at running back with returnees Justin Brooks and Daniel Borne and junior college transfers Pat Shed and Chad Winbush. Shed enrolled in January and looked to be a dynamic playmaker during spring practice. Now the big question. Will the running backs get the ball enough to make an impact? If they do, then life will be easier on Isabelle in his first year as a starter.


MR:  UAB also lost 4 year starter at center Jake Seitz.  Who's stepped up to become the new leader up front?

SI:  Good question. UAB is strong up front with just about everybody but Seitz returning. None of them, however, have the proven leadership ability that Seitz brought to the offensive line. It will be interesting to see who steps up in fall practice.

MR:  All-Conference USA 2nd team safety Hiram Atwater came in from a JC last year and had a huge season for the Blazers.  Who's the newcomer that you expect to have a breakout season in 2010?  Any signee's, transfers, or maybe someone who's been waiting in the wings who's primed for a big season?

SI:  Pat Shed jumps out right away after watching him this spring. I expect the Blazers will get plenty of help from newcomers this season. Junior college safety Jamie Bender might have been the team's best defender in the spring. Look for him to make a huge impact on defense.

MR:  Writing up these reviews, I think UAB might be the first school I've come across that is returning its head coach and both coordinators.  How has that stability helped the program this off-season?

SI:  Neil Callaway has kept his coaching staff intact since he took the job in 2007. I think it's helped the program become more stable. Now the Blazers need to win more games. If the Blazers don't reach bowl eligibility this season then it might be time to make some coaching staff changes.

MR:  What are reasonable expectation for UAB fans to have going into 2010?  What do you think it will take for this season to be considered a success?

SI:  It's pretty simply, anything short of becoming bowl eligible is a failure. Obviously, it will be hard to replace Joe Webb but the Blazers appear to be solid throughout the rest of the lineup.

Thanks again, Steve.  The full UAB preview will be up soon.