McGee Aims To Turn UAB Around
By Dan Harralson
DALLAS — Football.com went to Conference USA media day. Here are some questions and answers with UAB head coach Garrick McGee:
Is this year's UAB team a team that can compete for the conference championship?
Yes. The team chemistry, first. The depth, the athleticism, the speed, the fact that we have two quarterbacks that can start for a lot of teams, the fact that we have a kicker and punter that could be all-Americans, and we have a really fast and aggressive defense.
Talk about Memphis leaving and maybe replacing the Battle for the Bones with MTSU.
Well I think that seven days before we play, we'll play a game a week before, then we'll come back Sunday and evaluate that game and we'll head into the Middle Tennessee week. That week, we will be rivals for sure, that's kind of how we do it at our place. Each week you go 1-0, that's the rivalry.
Do you like the fast-pace, up-tempo style of play?
We have a philosophy that works for us and we're going to stick to what we've always done on offense. It tends to work for us. We understand how to coach it. What people need to do on offense is buy into something, believe in it and make it work, and that's where we are just going to stick to our guns offensively.
What about safety concern defending the spread offense?
I know that most teams in our conference are spread fast break offenses. I've really just spent my time trying to defend them and studying different ball clubs that can defend them. I haven't spent much time thinking it should not be part of football.
What about the new target rules?
It's one of those rules that we're going to have to wait and see. It's going to be an interesting rule throughout the season, to see how it impacts a game because things happen in a brilliant flash and to make a decision based on that, if a kid is going to be eliminated from a game or not, it can effect some games especially if it is a snapshot type collision.
How do you feel about the offensive line this year?
I thought they did a pretty good job last year. We gave up a lot of sacks, but to me sacks (are) an 11-man operation. Everyone is part of it. No. 1 the quarterback has to get you in the right protections. If we have a protection called in one direction and something happens in another place, then the quarterback has to change it. So he has to get himself protected, he's got to take the proper drop, he's got to set and get the ball off at a certain time, and the receivers have to hit the landmark at a certain time. The offensive lineman have to deal with 1-on-1 battles. I'm really happy how Coach Peterson has developed our guys.
What is key for UAB to reach its potential this season?
Mentality. It's not at all personnel. We have a very good football team and very good players. We're a very fast ball club and at this point we have a lot of depth. And we have coaches. That's a good start, but now we have to mentally and emotionally go out on the field and produce. Make decisions, execute on offense, defense, and in the kicking game.
How has Richard Owens adapted to being offensive coordinator?
Richard Owens is my guy. He's a stud. I'm really fortunate to have him with me. He worked for me at Arkansas.He's a stud and (a) very detailed, disciplined football coach. He understands our system and how we implement our system. I never have to go into the offensive meeting rooms and coordinate ever. He knows what I want.
What are your thoughts on the new-look C-USA?
I think it's good for us because I think we've brought in very good teams. You bring in Larry Coker, it brings instant credibility. You bring in Middle Tennessee State, those two in south Florida, you're going to bring in very talented kids into our conference.
What is Darrin Reaves' role this season?
I expect us to play a team style of ball and everyone has a role, but Darrin is a leading back in the conference right now. He's the first-team all-conference running back. There's something that comes along with that. He's going to get to carry the ball and we expect him to play like he is one of the top players in our conference. I talked to him about this sophomore slump thing. I read in Coach Saban's book about his philosophy on the sophomore slump and Darrin and I had long conversations about that. There were no numbers (statistics) involved last year, he just wants to win.
What separates Darrin Reaves from the other running backs on the team?
He's just very competitive. They're all good players. Bashr Coles and Greg Franklin, those guys are really good players. I think something to do with Darrin's dad being a UAB Blazers player, one of the original UAB Blazers, Darrin has a lot of pride in our program because he grew up on this team. UAB is important to him and there's pride that goes along with that. But that's what I keep talking about: We finally have good depth on our team now.
How good are your wide receivers this year?
Jackie Williams has a record going in college football right now (Williams has caught a pass in 35 consecutive games, which is tops among returning receivers) and you have JJ Nelson, who in a footrace could be the fastest I've ever coached. We were able to get Maudrecus Humphrey to transfer in from Arkansas. The 100-meter times coming out of high school say that Maudrecus ran a faster time than JJ did in the 100. So that changes everything.
What about your defense this year?
I think we have a very good coaching staff, we have a very good strength and conditioning staff. Our kids are bigger, faster, and we have a lot more speed and depth on defense. It gives us a chance to really attack the ball and be aggressive. Our strength and conditioning coach, Dwayne Chandler, really gets our players to understand that to get where you want to go, you have to work for it.
How is it that you have adapted to Birmingham so well and understand UAB?
When you take a job, you have evaluate the current situation. Where are we right now? And what is the reason that this program has not had success? A lot of times it takes a year to figure it all out and I am a people person. I believe in connecting people, so I'm out in the city creating relationships. I really like the city.