This is the post where I would usually analyze some of the things to watch with our opponent's defense. However, other than the question of whether UAB will choose to sell out against the run after watching how that strategy worked for ECU last weekend, there's not a whole lot to ponder about UAB's defense. Whether Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson start, the Blazers are going to have a hard time stopping us unless we hurt ourselves. So, instead of examining the UAB defense, let's do an offensive stock report.
Dylan Thompson. This one's a bit of a no-brainer. Thompson looked very solid in his first-ever start. He looked down his receivers at times and was slightly off-target on a few throws, but all in all, it was about as much as you could hope for from a guy who wasn't expected to be asked to contribute much this season.
That said, it's worth pointing out again that as soon as Connor Shaw's is healthy, the starting job is his. I've seen a lot of people questioning whether that should be the case or not, but we have to realize that there has been absolutely no indication from the coaching staff that they believe that Thompson is a QB of a comparable caliber to Shaw. Considering that this is Steve Spurrier we're talking about, one would have to assume that we'd know by now if our coaches thought Thompson was up to the task of taking Shaw's job for good. It's fair to be excited by what Thompson brought to the table last week, and what he might bring against this weekend if asked to start, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. His performance was against a team with a bad secondary, and a team that put that secondary on the spot by selling its linebackers out against the run. It's one good performance against a bad team in a long history of Shaw being perceived by the coaches as being the better option. Take it for what it is. The best thing about Thompson's performance is that it will hopefully build his confidence to the point where he's capable of coming in and playing his best football is he has to play against a tougher opponent. I'll feel much better, though, if that doesn't have to happen. I trust the guy who has won a lot of those sorts of games for us, and that's Shaw.
Bruce Ellington. After not doing much against Vanderbilt, Ellington made some big plays against ECU. More so than any other player on this team, Ellington is a guy who is a threat to take it to the house anytime he gets the ball in this hands. In fact, I'm having trouble remembering plays that went wrong when Ellington was targeted or got a carry. He has rare instincts and athleticism, and he needs the ball in his hands. A lot.
Rory Anderson. There was a lot of talk about Jerrell Adams in the preseason, but so far it's been Anderson who has been the best receiver of our tight ends. Anderson has also bulked up and has improved in the blocking game. I'm looking for a very big season out of this guy, whose combination of size and speed will make him a major matchup problem for opposing defenses.
Corey Robinson. Robinson wasn't a player who was on anyone's radar coming into the season, but the coaches have apparently been really impressed with his play in practice and are giving him a close look for playing time in the tackle rotation. He got into the game against ECU and held his own. At 6'8 / 340, this guy has all the physical tools one could possibly want in a tackle. He now appears to be living up to his potential, which gives Shawn Elliott another weapon.
Shaq Roland. Needless to say, the coaching staff was making a concerted effort to get Roland the ball downfield against ECU. Roland didn't haul any long balls in, but he did make a couple of nice catches for medium yardage late in the game. I'm wondering if he was simply a bit nervous with this being his first opportunity in front of a packed house. The coaching staff needs the light to come on for Roland as soon as possible, as we lack serious jump-ball threats for the time being. Hopefully we'll have more success getting him involved this weekend.
Marcus Lattimore. Sacrilege, I know. Don't take this the wrong way. I actually believe Lattimore had a good game against ECU. His lack of yardage wasn't his fault, really, as there weren't a lot of running lanes open because ECU was crowding the box. (Maybe things would have gone better if we had ran off-tackle.) Moreover, Lattimore did good work in the blocking game and made a nice reception for 11 yards. But you have to wonder if his Heisman campaign can withstand another game with only 40 yards rushing. It would be nice to see Lattimore get more opportunities this weekend.