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Each week, the UAB defensive coaching staff watches film of that week’s opponent and sees the best group of receivers they’ve seen all season.

It’s a recurring theme.

Bryant Vincent ran down the list of opponents during his weekly press conference on Monday. With each one, he commented the staff felt that was the best receiving corps they’d seen to that point of the season.

This week’s opponent is Charlotte, which comes to Protective Stadium on Saturday with kickoff slated for 2:30 p.m. What is Vincent’s opinion of the 49ers’ receivers?

“They may be the best group we’ve seen to this point,” Vincent said.

The numbers just might back up that claim.

*Sophomore Elijah Spencer has 28 catches for 538 yards, a gaudy 19.21 yards per catch, with three touchdowns. His receiving yards are eighth best in the nation. The 6-foot-1, 193-pound Irmo, South Carolina native had a pair of 100-yard receiving games, including a career best 160 yards against UTEP, and has at least 96 yards in four of six games this season. Spencer was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list this week and was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year last season.

*Junior Grant Dubose, who played in high school at Park Crossing in Montgomery and played his first college season at Miles College, has 35 catches for 429 yards with seven touchdowns. The seven touchdown receptions are tied for fourth in the country. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Dubose was honorable mention All-C-USA last season.

*Fifth-year senior Victor Tucker has 30 catches for 271 yards with five touchdowns. The 6-foot, 188-pound Miami native is the school’s second all-time receiver with 217 catches. He’s in his fifth season as a starter, a two-time All-C-USA selection and C-USA All-Freshman member.

Tying all that together is quarterback Chris Reynolds, who joined the 49ers program in 2017 and is in his fifth season on the field. The former walk-on entered this season with 7,726 passing yards, 62 passing touchdowns and 24 interceptions. He was hurt halfway through the season opener against Florida Atlantic but has been in the lineup for the past three games. Overall, in four games this season, he is 82 of 127 for 1,087 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.

“Our defensive secondary, they’re a very interesting group,” Vincent explained. “They’re very competitive, they welcome the challenge, they’re very confident in their skillset, they’re very confident in their play, they play extremely well together. They play with a lot of intensity and a lot of toughness. Time after time after time, they’ve been challenged with a game and a situation of a great receiver group and great quarterback. They’ve answered each week.”

UAB’s pass defense has held each of its four FBS opponents to below their season average in passing yards. Georgia Southern, which averages 322 passing yards per game, managed just 204 yards against the Blazers. Middle Tennessee was coming off games when the Blue Raiders had 408 yards against Miami, including touchdown passes of 71, 69 and 98 yards, and 368 yards against UTSA. The Blue Raiders threw for 196 yards against UAB.

The Blazers are second in the country in team pass efficiency defense, 13th in passing yards allowed and tied for 23rd with seven interceptions. Cornerback Mac McWilliams is tied for ninth in the country with eight pass breakups, Starling Thomas V has five pass breakups, while Devodric Bynum has four and Keondre Swoopes has three. Six of the seven interceptions have come from defensive backs with safety Jaylen Key leading the way with two.

“One thing we told them, the challenge is just going to grow,” Vincent said. “We got a big challenge this week with Reynolds and their receiving group. It’s kind of what our secondary lives for. They live for that moment, they live for that challenge and they want to be challenged. They’ve risen up time and time again. This will be no different this Saturday vs. Charlotte.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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