“All this”: the UAB pays tribute to 20 seniors who shape the program during the season finale
For the first time in four years, the UAB football team is not competing for a division title and appearance in a league championship game before the final week of the regular season.
A loss to divisional and unbeaten rival UTSA last week was nothing but heartbreaking, but there is still much to celebrate as we honor 20 seniors who have left an indelible impression on the current and future state of the program. .
The Blazers have come a long way this season, overcoming dangers and many obstacles, and the inevitable conclusion is near as they close the regular season against UTEP on Friday, November 26, at the Protective Stadium in Birmingham. Kick-off is set for 1:00 p.m. CST on ESPN +.
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âWe were sitting here last year when we called off game after game after game, hurting,â said UAB head coach Bill Clark. âThen we went up the steps at the back of Protective (Stadium) and I think they saw that they could play in this stadium, stay together and have a chance to win. was just as much about playing with each other – and they enjoy that. It’s a special group. It’s going to be hard to lose these guys, so we want to send them the right way.
More than two-thirds of the senior class have chosen to use the additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a handful have even been part of the program since returning in 2017. Testify and participating, in the rise of the UAB program firsthand, the senior statesmen on the team have earned the admiration and respect of their peers and underclassmen.
“These guys who came back are real leaders in the team,” said junior defensive back Keondre Swoopes. âSo whatever they say, we listen to them. They’ve been here for four or five years, so I admire them and want to send them out with victory. “
Among the seniors present during the 2017 season are three players who signed with UAB during the 2016 recruiting cycle: Lucious Stanley and his high school teammates Tyler Johnston III and Hayden Pittman.
âThis guy (Pittman), he’s just such a warrior,â Clark said. âHe’s a guy that people love to watch play because he plays so hard and that’s important to him. He is one of the faces of this program and always will be. Since coming back himself, through the championships and throughout this year he has done a great job.
Johnston took over as a starting quarterback at the end of the 2018 season, following an injury to former caller AJ Erdely, but suffered several injuries throughout his tenure at the helm of the UAB offensive. The Spanish Fort native led the Blazers to a 15-6 record before sustaining another injury this season and threw for 4,838 yards with 37 touchdowns and 28 interceptions over his career, including 665 rushing yards and five. scores.
Stanley played an important role for most of his UAB career and lost in compatriot DeWayne McBride’s stellar season, the first to become the 14th player to accumulate more than 1,000 career rushing yards (1 022) in the history of UAB.
Pittman, on the other hand, has been an absolute rock for the Blazers throughout his career, amassing 74 receptions for 752 yards and five touchdowns and playing all 61 games since the first game of the 2017 season. The only other players close to longevity de Pittman are Stanley (48 games), Dy’jonn Turner (48 games) and Kris Moll (51 games).
âIt definitely took its toll on my body, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,â Pittman said. âI got to play with so many different guys – guys in 2017 like Tevin Crews and Shaq Jones and all these boys and I got to play with these young bloods. I have a lot of brothers over the past six years and I am just happy to be here.
Although a junior college transfer, who arrived for the 2018 season, other senior tight end Gerrit Prince has become an integral part of the offense at the end of the 2020 season. Prince has appeared in 37 games with 16 starts, catching 44 catches for 762 yards and 12 points, and leading all tight ends this season averaging 21.1 yards per reception.
âGerrit and Hayden, I love these boys,â said junior quarterback Dylan Hopkins. “These boys mean everything to me and we’re probably the closest to the offense.”
Along with two tight ends, Hopkins and Johnston benefited from the protection offered by senior offensive linemen Colby Ragland, Andrew Smith Jr., Sidney Wells and Jakoby Jones.
Ragland has started 31 games in his career, recording starts at every position except center, and Smith has 29 starts to his name. Similar to Ragland, Jones has played several positions along the offensive line and Sidney Wells started all 27 games of his UAB career until he was injured this season in the game against Tulane.
âThese boys meant everything to me,â Hopkins said. âI’ve been here since 2018, so I’ve been living around them for four years. I’m just super proud of them and this game means everything to them on Friday.
The UAB defense has 11 seniors, including two players, Dy’Jonn Turner and Kris Moll, who joined the program as true freshmen in 2017.
âPoppie (Turner) has been a leader,â Clark said. âWe played it like a star, we played it safe, we moved it. He was assaulted and fought. Another face of the program.
The defensive front includes four recent additions, led by Mi’Cario Stanley, who transferred to the program in 2019, and Tyree Turner, a graduate transfer from southern Alabama who joined the program last season. Former LSU outside linebacker Justin Thomas also transferred to UAB last year but had to be absent for the season, and Jacob Batts did not play after joining the program as a junior. Last year.
Noah Wilder transferred from Gardner Webb in 2018 and has been a sure tackle for the Blazers throughout his career, registering 32 starts in 33 games and amassing 207 tackles (19.5 loss), 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, four assists and a fumble and recovery. West Virginia transfer linebacker Charlie Benton has joined the program this season while Arizona safety Troy Young has transferred to the program in 2020.
Local preparation stars TD Marshall and CD Daniels arrived in 2018, Marshall transferred from Samford and appeared in 64 games combined. Daniels started the last three games as UAB cornerback following a season-ending injury to Marshall, who had a fantastic career with 55 tackles (2.5 for loss), 15 assists, two fumble recoveries and a 6-winning pick that carried the Blazers to their second straight division title in 2019.
Of the 11 senior defenders, Moll and Turner are the deans of the unit with 99 appearances combined between them.
Moll hasn’t seen the action since injuring his wrist in Tulane’s win, but has had a stellar career in the Southside. He’s the team’s best active tackle, totaling 235 tackles (27.5 for losses) and 13 sacks, in addition to adding 10 pass stoppages, two interceptions and six forced fumbles and one recovery.
Turner missed a few games after sustaining a minor foot injury during pre-game warm-ups at North Texas, but returned to make an instant impact on the home stretch of his senior season. For his career, Turner produced 120 tackles (4.5 loss), one sack, 20 broken passes and two interceptions.
The regular season finale marks the last time the 20 seniors have graced the pitch at Protective Stadium, barring an invitation to the Birmingham Bowl, and they leave the UAB with an impeccable record and an impressive list of accomplishments. The 2021 senior class amassed a 41-20 record, recorded at least eight wins each season outside of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and won three consecutive C-USA West Division titles and two conference championships.
âIt’s amazing to see this program growing every year,â said Turner. âWin three consecutive division championships? Go to the championship game three times in a row? It’s incredible. My trip here has been remarkable and I will remember every part of it. Every moment that we have had. All the laughs, all the downtime, all of that.