The 2017 Conference USA Preseason Football awards were announced on July 17, and to no one’s surprise there wasn’t a single UAB football player awarded.
It’s hard to give an award to someone on a team that hasn’t played in two seasons. No one knows what to expect from UAB football in 2017, and that includes the coaches.
Here is a link to the awards, which were voted on by the coaches.
So what UAB players have the best chance of flipping this script and winning a postseason award after the season?
I’ll go ahead and say that I don’t think a UAB quarterback will make the All-Conference team at the end of the year. It’s not that I don’t think A.J. Erdely will have a big year, I just think there are some really good quarterbacks in Conference USA this year.
I also don’t think a running back wins an award because I don’t think UAB will have a feature back to start the season. Most likely, the carries will be shared early in the year until someone emerges as the go-to guy.
Where I could see someone making an All-Conference team is at wide receiver and on the offensive line.
Collin Lisa and Brock McCoin each have a chance to breakout at wide receiver this year. Lisa led all wide receivers in the spring game with 5 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. His longest reception was a 58-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Johnston. He had one catch as a true freshman for UAB, and then had 31 catches for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns at Buffalo in 2015. As a slot guy, he is a possession receiver and could be a nice safety valve for Erdely.
As for McCoin, he had 61 catches for 747 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2015 for Tennessee Tech. In a game against Houston that year he had 9 catches for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns. He led Tennessee Tech in their first two games of 2016 before getting injured and missing the rest of the year. He’s proven that he’s an explosive receiver, and could be a big time threat at wideout for UAB in 2017.
On the offensive line, I think Chris Schleuger at 6-foot-4, 304 pounds could make an All-Conference team, as well as Malique Johnson at 6-foot-3, 323 pounds. If UAB’s running backs are as good as I think, the offensive line could get a lot of praise this year.
On defense, I think the obvious choice is Shaq Jones or Tevin Crews. They’ve both been with this team for a while now, and return as captains of this defense. And on top of that, they play linebacker where they can rack up a lot of tackles.
The key will be which linebacker gets in the back field more often. Jones had 12.5 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks in 2014. If he can add a few to those numbers this year I think he definitely wins some defensive awards for UAB after the season.
Anthony Rush will be a load in the middle of the defensive line at 6-foot-5, 340 pounds. He had 33 tackles and 4 tackles for a loss at Northeast Mississippi Community College last year. In 2015 he had 40 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks. If he can put it all together this year and get the sacks and the tackles for a loss, I could certainly see him making an All-Conference team.
Rush was listed as a second teamer in Phil Steele’s College Football preview magazine, while Jones was listed as a fourth teamer. So it’s not far off to think they could become first team conference players by the end of the year.
JJ Nelson was the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year in 2014 for UAB. Maybe Lisa becomes that guy in the return game for UAB this year and explodes on the scene.
It’s really hard to tell who could be a freshman of the year candidate. Coach Clark brought in a lot of JUCO talent the past couple of years so that he wouldn’t have to lean on freshman in year one of #theReturn.
Redshirt freshman running back Kalin Heath is the most obvious choice as he’ll likely get the most playing time. He also led all running backs in the spring game with 13 carries and 79 yards.
Unless something happens to Erdely and Johnston is thrown into action at quarterback, I don’t see any other freshman getting a lot of playing time this year for UAB football.
Demetrius Davis is another freshman who could see some playing time at wide receiver, but probably not enough to earn any postseason awards.
Either way, I think we will undoubtedly see at least one of these names next to some postseason awards at the end of the season. And since we know virtually nothing about this team going into the season, there is a good chance someone not in this article will become a first team All-Conference player. I can’t wait to find out who it will be.