Ohio State closes out its four-game non-conference schedule against Alabama-Birmingham. The Blazers shouldn't give the Buckeyes much trouble, but they do have a new head coach in former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee.
At Arkansas, McGee helped turn the Razorbacks into one of the most potent offenses in college football. When he was introduced as UAB's new head coach, McGee said his team will mix up its personnel on offense to put pressure on opposing defenses. At Arkansas, he often did that with a quick tempo and four receiver sets. Although the Blazers may not have the roster talent to challenge Ohio State's defense, the scheme could give them some issues.
The Blazers return seven starters, including quarterback Jonathan Perry and wide receiver Jackie Williams. McGee has to hope Perry, a junior, will improve on his 10 touchdown passes from a season ago. Perry did well against Central Florida last season when he completed nearly 74 percent of his throws for 327 yards. In a win over Memphis, he threw for 410 yards and four scores. But as the Birmingham News points out, Perry could be unseated by redshirt freshman Austin Brown.
At wide receiver, Williams is developing into a solid No. 1 wide receiver following a year of 58 catches for 607 yards. Although he never topped 100 yards receiving in a game last season, he did catch five or more passes in six games. Senior Patrick Hearn had 31 receptions for 364 yards and sophomore Jamarcus Nelson had 17 for 358 yards. There is some depth for the Blazers at wide receiver and McGee will likely try to work more tight ends into the offense.
The running game for UAB isn't quite as developed. At Arkansas, McGee could rely on stronger running back like Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson. He doesn't have those type of runners at UAB, but will make due with junior Greg Franklin and sophomore Darrin Reeves.
On defense, the Blazers are an even bigger question. The team finished last in the nation a season ago in sacks. So if there's a game where Braxton Miller should look good throwing from the pocket, it could be this one. Even worse for UAB, seven starters are gone from last year's defense.
The Blazers do return to two linebackers in middle man Marvin Burdette and Greg Irvin outside. They combined for more than 150 tackles a year ago. Players are being moved around on the defensive line. Most notably, Connor Boyett is moving from end to tackle. The Blazers could see a breakthrough from end Diaheem Watkins, who is coming off a three-sack performance in the team's spring game.
The secondary should be settled by the time UAB plays OSU, but it's currently a mishmash of inexperience. Cornerback Cornelius Richards is seasoned, but the senior only started one game last season. Junior college transfer Cortez Webb is expected to start in his first season at free safety.