BIRMINGHAM — Three more spring practices remain for the UAB football team. They've completed one scrimmage and the Spring Football Game, in addition to 10 practices.
With all that in the rearview mirror, UAB defensive coordinator Sione Ta'ufo'ou was asked on Monday where his defense team is with 12 sessions in the books.
"Let's say the scale is at 100, we started at zero, and we're trying to get to 100," Ta'ufo'ou said. "I'd say, 28 percent of the way, and we got time, we got time to work."
UAB's defense put in some good work last Thursday in the UAB Spring Game. They had five interceptions, at least four sacks, a fourth-and-short stop by freshman linebacker Everett Roussaw Jr. and only allowed a touchdown and a pair of field goals, with none of the offensive scoring coming in the second half.
Ta'ufo'ou saw plenty of things to build off, either though neither side was particularly interested in showing much of the playbook.
"I'm happy with the effort," Ta'ufo'ou said. "Biggest thing for me is talking about effort, being relentless, running to the ball, getting off blocks. We're on our way. We're getting there. I think the kids did a great job when the ball was in the air throughout the scrimmage. It's nice to see guys stepping and communicating. I think we're building. We're moving the right way. Constant growth is the big thing. There's going to be mistakes. Sometimes you make mistakes. But, hopefully, those mistakes, they learn from them real quick and bounce right back up."
Ta'ufo'ou said the opportunity to be in Protective Stadium – twice in less than a week – was a huge step in the progression.
"There's a little anxiety that goes with playing in the stadium," Ta'ufo'ou said. "Getting dressed in the locker room, letting them practice that, letting them feel that. And, then, after that, can they trust their technique, can they trust their eyes, can they still communicate with each other."
While there is still plenty of work ahead, Ta'ufo'ou likes where his group is headed. He was asked what individuals stood out this spring. His answer came off the top of his head, and he admitted he's probably missing some players who have stood out.
Beginning up front, he started with interior lineman Fish McWilliams, who Ta'ufo'ou said "does a great job, just his energy, his constant work ethic. He also mentioned nose tackles Tyrique Howard and Kevin Penn and said Drew Tuazama "flashes, in general, just his athleticism."
On the edge, Ta'ufo'ou mentioned Tennessee State transfer Kendall Johnson, redshirt senior Michael Moore, who played in just two games last season, and returnee Nikia Eason. He added that Moore has done "great things" fighting back from injury. At the inside linebacker, the UAB defensive coordinator said Charlie Goode "has had a great spring so far" and "it's great to see Jackson Bratton running around." He's also liked the play of Roussaw, Reise Collier and Tamarious Brown.
Ta'ufo'ou said, "On the back end, we're strong." It begins with cornerbacks Mac McWilliams and Colby Dempsey, and Ta'ufo'ou also mentioned safeties Jalen Key and the Miller twins.
Again, that's just the start of what could end up being a strong defensive unit. Some key players, like senior Keondre Swoopes, have missed time during the spring because of injuries. There is still a lot of work ahead for this group to be the defense that Ta'ufo'ou and the defensive coaches want to see.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819News.com.
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