The UAB defense knows that LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels likes to run the football when given a chance.
Knowing that and stopping that, however, are two distinctly different things.
"He's a playmaker, like earlier this season when we played [Kaidon] Salter at Liberty," said edge defender Kyle Harrell. "Those guys, they are kind of unpredictable. We know he wants to run, but he is a wild card. Those guys want to move that ball with whatever they have to do."
Daniels, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound Arizona State transfer, has 629 net yards rushing with 10 touchdowns. He also has 2,080 yards passing with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. LSU has plenty of other skill players who can give a defense trouble. But it's obvious where the defensive focus begins.
"I think Daniels is an experienced quarterback. He's an electric quarterback," said UAB interim head coach Bryant Vincent. "He's kind of led them to all their big wins this year. He's accurate. He can make all the throws, he can beat you with his arm, he can beat you with his legs. This is a challenge our defense is looking forward to."
UAB is missing a pivotal piece to defending Daniels. Outside linebacker Kelle Sanders tore a groin muscle during last Saturday's win over North Texas at Protective Stadium. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound senior is scheduled for surgery next week, and his playing career at UAB is finished. In 10 games this season, Sanders had 36 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, a pass breakup, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.
His experience, especially against a playmaking quarterback, will be missed.
"He was a big part of our defense. It hurts to lose him, but we've got guys who have played a lot of football, ready to step up. We're ready to step up and fill a void that he leaves. We're prepared to not lose a step," said Vincent.
Inside linebacker Jackson Bratton, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound sophomore, moved to the outside to help with depth. Bratton worked on the edge during practice this week.
"Jackson is a guy who can do that, physically, athletically and IQ-wise," Vincent said. "He's a guy who can play a role there and help us win."
Bratton joins a rotation that also includes Harrell, Michael Fairbanks and Nikia Eason. Drew Tuazama also is capable of playing inside and outside.
Harrell, who is one of three UAB players who have been with the program since 2017, will probably get the start opposite from Fairbanks. An early season ankle injury limited his success in his final season. Harrell has just nine tackles with 2.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Speed on the edge is what the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder relies on for his success. In this game, Harrell said he might have to slow down a bit.
"We've got a lot of speed rushers on our team," Harrell said. "Sometimes speed doesn't work. He's kind of waiting for you to run past him. You just got to stay disciplined and keep him in the pocket. You have to mix up your pass-rush moves. As a d-line, we just have to make sure we keep him in that cage as many times as possible."
The discipline also carries over to the UAB secondary.
"For the [defensive backs], I know we maintain on scramble drill, plastering our guys because if we come off trying to stop the run, he can hit us over the top," said cornerback Starling Thomas. "Everybody just has to stay disciplined and play inside the scheme and play as a team."
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