Just like in the offensive version of this article, these are the three players that I believe will have a breakout season in 2017. The defensive side of the ball should be the Blazers’ strong suit this season as there are many question marks for the offense still.
- This one should be obvious, Shaq Jones at linebacker. Shaq is one of the few players who remained at UAB after the program was shut down in 2014. He is listed as a Redshirt-Senior and will be one of the captains of the defense for the Blazers. During the 2014 season at linebacker, he recorded 50 tackles (good enough for third on the team), 12.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 pass breakups, an interception, and a fumble recovery. As a returning veteran of the program, Coach Clark will be looking to him to be a leader on and off the field for the defense.
- This name is one that will, in my opinion, hold many defensive records at UAB when he leaves — Thomas Johnston, brother of quarterback Tyler Johnston, is a true freshman at the linebacker position. He is one of, if not, the highest rated recruit in UAB Football history, and chose UAB over several Power 5 schools such as Auburn, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Iowa. He holds the Alabama state record for tackles in a career with 675 tackles. His senior season he recorded 195 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. I expect him to start at linebacker almost immediately and contribute in some way on every down.
- I cheated in the last article, so I’m going to cheat again. The defensive line as a whole unit will be, in my opinion, the strongest unit the Blazers have. There are 15 players listed as defensive linemen with five of them weighing in at more than 300 pounds. Teko Powell transferred from Power 5 school Illinois. The defensive line should be a formidable run stopping and pass rushing force that can rotate many fresh guys in and out like the school in Tuscaloosa. I expect at least one, at a minimum, of these guys to be named to the all-conference teams at the end of the season.
The Blazers’ defense should be the strongest side of the ball for UAB this season. I expect them to keep opponents’ scores relatively low, which will keep games close for the offense.
September 2 is fast approaching! Ever faithful, ever loyal.