BIRMINGHAM – UAB offensive coordinator Alex Mortensen started at the beginning when assessing the performance of the Blazers offense in the program’s spring game.

“I think the first thing to talk about was what were the objectives going in,” Mortensen said on Monday about last Thursday’s spring game at Protective Stadium. “One we wanted to play a lot of players. Two, we wanted to evaluate the players. What that meant was be very simple scheme-wise, don’t do really much of anything to help our guys get open with formations and don’t do tell much to give your guys leverage and angles in the run game. Just let them play and evaluate.”

Mortensen said the game was “a really good evaluation day for us.”

The offense scored just one touchdown – on a 2-yard pass from backup quarterback Landry Lyddy to Auburn transfer Dazalin Worsham – and had a pair of Matt Quinn field goals. There were flashes of success, though.

“There are certainly, for us, areas that we need to play better than we did, play cleaner,” Mortensen said. “Some of that involves taking care of the football. Some of it involves communication up front, some of it involves technique outside and winning outside and, then, quarterback decision-making. It was really good because we were just able to evaluate how many guys can win on fundamentals and technique without help.”

As head coach Trent Dilfer did following the game, Mortensen pointed to the game’s opening drive as a prime teaching example. The offense strung together a few first downs and got near the goal line. On first down, however, quarterback Jacob Zeno was sacked for a big loss.

“That was kind of a microcosm on the whole thing,” Mortensen said. “We drive down, pretty easily, in the high red area or maybe the fringe. With the sack, that put us behind the sticks, like 2nd-and-21 or something like that. The drive lost momentum after that. I think there was a lot of teaching out of that. It wasn’t just the quarterback. There was an element of the quarterback taking a sack, there was an element of protecting properly. It shows you can have a lot of good things going but it takes one or two guys to make an error and it can put all 11 guys back. The consequences of your mistake are really something we can coach and teach after the scrimmage.”

Those lessons came a little less than a week after the Blazers went through a different style of learning experience. Mortensen said the offensive approach was much different during the team’s full full-scale scrimmage at Protective Stadium.

“The scrimmage was quite different, we actually ran our offense,” Mortensen emphasized. “We did more things to create more advantages for our players. We did things they’ve been practicing, to be frank. There was a challenge for some of them in the spring game because they did some things we (hadn’t been practicing). Even though it was more simple, in some ways, it was things they hadn’t practiced it as much.”

Put those two experiences together and where does Mortensen think the UAB is at this point in the progression?

“We’re still very much in this phase right now, where guys are learning what to do and we are bringing on the how as we go forward,” Mortensen said. “Right now, you are learning what to do and we’re certainly coaching on how to do it, but there’s an element of trying to create habits that show up under pressure, under stress, under speed. That’s what we’re trying to establish.”

Mortensen didn’t single out any offensive players but praised his group as a whole this spring.

“Collectively, I have been pleased with their willingness and ability to try to take on the information,” Mortensen said. “I think anytime you put in a new offense, our new system, that involves new verbiage, new communication. Just everything is different. They’ve all been very willing to learn and grow in everything we’re asking them to do. I’ve been pleased with that part.”

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