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A Q&A with The Daily Dragon: Ball State vs. UAB

We preview Ball State’s next opponent with The Daily Dragon’s Dave West.

NCAA Football: Alabama A&M at Alabama-Birmingham Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

THe out-of-conference season rolls on and Ball State will be welcoming a pretty unique opponent in UAB, a school that did not exist in the FBS the last two seasons.

Most everyone knows the story behind UAB football by now: the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and UAB president Ray Watts shut down the program, citing financial concerns.

The community rallied around it and managed not only to bring the program back, but secure enough private and public donations to finance a new practice facility and stadium for the Blazers.

Saturday’s game against Alabama A&M was the first game for the Blazers since 2014 and their game vs. Ball State will be the first FBS match as a road opponent in just as many years.

For some insight on the Blazers, we talked to Dave West, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Dragon, a UAB-centric blog which was central in UAB football coverage during the hiatus.

Hustle Belt: It was a fantastic scene to see UAB back on the football field for the first time since its shutdown on Saturday afternoon. How do you think they'll react to going on the road for a home opener in Indiana?

Dave West: I wondered myself how the team would react going from such a exciting, emotional atmosphere to what will likely be a underwhelming environment in Muncie. I predict they'll be as focus and prepared as Bill Clark's teams have been in the past on the road. Clark won at Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss, and led Mississippi State at the half in 2014. Clark always gets the best out of his guys and with a roster heavy on upperclassmen I believe they'll be ready.

What was the most positive reaction you have about how UAB performed against Alabama A&M last week? What are you most concerned about?

I'd point to the defense's overall performance and their surprising depth. We knew so little going in to the game beyond the 2-deep roster. What I saw Saturday was a defense arguably more skilled and deeper than the one he had in 2014 that featured Jake Ganus (now in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings) and T.J. McCollum (now at Purdue). Specifically the defensive line surprised me. Their size and game speed was like nothing I've ever seen in recent history at UAB.

Who is/are the player(s) to watch on offense for UAB and why?

This is a tough one and the easy answer would be quarterback A.J. Erdely, formerly of Middle Tennessee State. However, I'd keep an eye on our outside receivers Xavier Ubosi and Ronnie Turner, who are sboth six-foot-five. The combination of vanilla play calling and poor line play didn't give us much information on them Saturday, but I'm here to tell you they are special and dangerous.

What about on defense?

Stacy freaking Keely. He runs like a deer at 6-foot-7 and has the chance to be first team C-USA defense if he stays healthy. He looks like a defensive end you'd see at LSU. The other would be Anthony Rush at nose tackle. At 6-foot-5 and 340 lbs, he is a run stopper and surprisingly quick moving from east to west. UAB's defensive line is big, fast, and deep.

As a UAB fan, what about Ball State makes you the most nervous?

Definitely quarterback Riley Neal. He's a three year guy who can beat you with his arms and legs. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes either. I haven't spoke about UAB's defensive backs but they are very solid and experienced as well. If we can make Ball State a run first team I really like our chances. Both Darious and D.A. Williams are upperclassmen that have been fixtures in UAB's starting defense since the first scrimmages last spring. D.A. did not play against Alabama A&M and I've been told he's one of the best corners Clark has ever had.

Besides a win, what marks of progress do you want to see out of UAB and how does Ball State provide that opportunity?

The offensive line pass protection has to improve or Erdely is going to leave on a stretcher. Simple as that. I think he maybe had four or five opportunities to set his feet and throw Saturday against a FCS defense. He took a lot of hits and scrambled for his life often. If we can take some strides in our passing game and spread it around to more than just Collin Lisa (who had a brief stint with MAC member Buffalo,) I'll be thrilled.

How do you predict the game will go?

I'm high on Ball State's defense particularly their defensive line. I'm leaning on this being a defensive battle where the first one to 20 wins.

Thank you to Dave West for taking the time to sit down with the Belt. You can follow his work with TDD on Twitter @The_DailyDragon and his personal account @GodSaveTheHam.

If you’re curious for more analysis from the other side, check out TDD’s in-depth preview of the upcoming matchup.