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March 25, 2013

Blazers hit the practice field for spring practice on Wednesday

The UAB Blazers are getting ready to open spring football drills on Wednesday.

The goal for this spring is the same that has been spring goals for too many spring practices - improve on the losing record from last season when the Blazers went 3-9. Of course it will be the fall when you can adequately assess if that improvement is actually happening, but coach Garrick McGee and his staff will get an idea in the next few weeks.

The Blazers will practice on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday schedule each week. The UAB Spring Game will be April 27 at the West Campus Field.

The Blazers suffered pivotal graduation losses of wide receiver Nick Adams, fullback Sam Accurso, offensive linemen Chris Hubbard and Cody Payne on offense. The defense loses the all-time leading tackler in linebacker Marvin Burdette along with linebacker Greg Irvin and cornerback Cornelius Richards as well as special team's long snapper Taylor Klein.

But while there were some key losses UAB returns a ton of experience, which is encouraging. Leading rushers Darrin Reaves, Bashr Coles and Greg Franklin all return along with quarterback Austin Brown and receiver Jackie Williams is back to pick up the offense while the defense returns the third and fourth leading tacklers Calvin Jones and Jake Ganus and Lamar Johnson, the team's interception leader.

On Monday, McGee talked about the Blazers with the media about what the Blazers accomplished in the offseason and what he hopes for in his second season.

"What we talk about as a program is planting a seed in the ground, which is what we did last season," McGee said. "You nurture that seed with the right stuff. There is no evidence that the seed is growing; you just have to have faith because of the nurturing of that seed. Our players are bigger, faster, and stronger, they are going to class, the team GPA is up. They understand the standard of excellence that I have. You plant that seed, you give it time, and you harvest it."

One huge key for the hope of success this season is how well the Blazers replace Burdette, the nation's leading tackler a season ago.

"What we need is to play a better overall team defense," McGee said. "We're not necessarily thinking about replacing Marvin and what he did individually, we're talking about playing a better brand of team defense, a faster brand of defense, a more competitive defense."

Several Blazers will have several position changes going into the spring drills. Sophomore Roscoe Byrd, who played defensive tackle in 2012, will move to the offensive line, while junior Jay Davis will move over from his wide receiver spot to play safety in the UAB defensive backfield.

Other Blazers who will move positions this spring will be sophomore Nyiakki White, who will transition from safety to wide receiver, and redshirt freshman Steve Pickern, who will move from tight end to defensive end.

Returning from injury this spring will be junior tight end Nolen Smith and senior linebacker Daniel White.

Several players will see limited work in the spring because of injury. That list includes sophomore running back Coles, sophomore cornerback Darius Powell, sophomore linebacker Shaquille Roberson, senior safety Cortez Webb, junior defensive end Diaheem Watkins and senior linebacker Jesse Parrish.



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