‘We figured it out’: UAB signs 33 players in Trent Dilfer’s first draft class

When UAB’s Trent Dilfer was introduced as the Blazers’ sixth head football coach in program history, the former Super Bowl championship quarterback wanted to address concerns about his recruiting prowess after only coaching at the high school level.

He made a promise and fulfilled it with zeal and joy.

“I said we’d figure it out,” Dilfer said. “Well, we figured it out.”

The Blazers lost 21 seniors from the final team of the Bill Clark era, including a handful of walk-ons, early graduates and the nation’s leading rusher DeWayne McBride to the 2023 NFL Draft, but recovered those losses in the first Dilfer’s official signing class for UAB.

“This is a great class,” Dilfer said. “I don’t want to get into superlatives, but it would be hard to argue that it’s not the best class in the history of UAB football and I deserve very little credit for it. It starts with Tristan (Henderson), Connor (Koch) and Abbye (Brunson), on top of that, were invaluable assets.”

“The three of them jointly running this (recruitment) department, along with their interns and support staff, allowed this to happen,” he added. “I’m more impressed with the people in the building and I really believe that’s what the kids saw. They love the fact that a strong foundation has been laid here. We have beautiful facilities. We have great resources, but more importantly than any of that, they all talked about how they saw the staff really getting along and how it felt like a family.”

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As of this article’s publication, UAB is 95th in the 247Sports Composite and 83rd in the On3 Composite. However, neither recruiting service has fully updated UAB’s class nor made estimates on a handful of signees.

With a partial staff, Dilfer signed 16 players during the early signing period and added 17 on National Signing Day with a full staff, including 9 through the transfer portal.

On the day he was formally introduced as UAB’s head coach, Dilfer was adamant about recruiting from the trenches and made good on his promise by signing eight defensive linemen and six offensive linemen.

“The mindset of this program is going to be built on our defensive mindset,” Dilfer said. “We have really good defensive linemen here. We brought all these new cool toys and we forgot about the toys we have. I don’t want to forget about the guys here. We love the veteran defense that we have. We don’t like them, we love them. But they’re all getting older, so the priority was to make sure we added, not just depth, but become difference makers with really good development. We also had to find a handful of true freshmen who can contribute from a depth standpoint.”

Along with big bodies, the coaching staff is heavy on offensive playmakers, signing eight quarterbacks, two quarterbacks and a running back, and has earned the services of four linebackers and three defensive backs.

The majority of UAB’s signees are high school prospects (19) and the Blazers have supplemented transfer portal losses with their own gains in college football’s version of free agency. Of its 33 signatories, only three were junior college players.

Arguably two of the most important transfers were Louisiana Tech quarterback Landry Lyddy and Ole Miss tight end Trace Campbell, the latter of whom will play quarterback for the Blazers. With both Dylan Hopkins and Mehrotra finding new homes on the other side of the portal, the acquisitions of Lyddy and Campbell were most important with a room that had only two scholarship receivers in Jacob Zeno and Damon Stewart.

“There’s a lot of competition in that room,” he added. “We like all their features and the personalities there as well. You want a certain character, you want people who are very competitive, who try to chase their best but can also be cheerleaders. They have to be cheerleaders for the team, and be cheerleaders for the other guys in the room.”

Among the portal signatories were six players who played in their high school careers in the state of Alabama: Malachi Holt-Bennett of Fairfield (Indiana), James Smyre of Central-Phenix (Marshall), Demetrius Battle of John Carroll (West Alabama), Armani of Blount “.AD” Diamond (Auburn), Desmond Little of Vigor (LSU) and Dazalin Worsham of Hewitt-Trussville (Auburn).

“The energy in town is great,” Dilfer said. “People want to live in Birmingham. They want to get back to their families. They want to be a part of this great city. Because of that, we’re going to have really great opportunities around the portal because of bouncing kids.”

Overall, Dilfer and his first coaching and recruiting staff focused on in-state prospects and regional talent, as well as reaching across the country for some players to expand their national scope. Of UAB’s 33 signees, 14 are from Alabama, 14 from the Southeast region and the remaining five come from California, Arizona, Michigan and Maryland.

“We want to recruit Alabama really well,” Dilfer said. “You don’t have to go far to get really good people in players. Now saying all that, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas are places — Tennessee, obviously, where we’re from — we’re going to have a presence. People are looking for us. When you look at some these states, I think they like the atmosphere that’s going on. We’ve done a really good job and the excitement around the program with the staff has become a national conversation. I don’t want to give away all our secrets, but that’s also a strategy.”

Landry Lyddy, QB (6-0/198) Louisiana Tech | Shreveport, La.

Trace Campbell, QB (6-5 / 235) Ole Miss | Ellicott City, Md.

Demetrius Battle, RB (6-2/240) West Alabama | Birmingham, Ala.

Dazalin Worsham, WR (6-1/177) Auburn | Birmingham, Ala.

Malachi Holt-Bennett, WR (6-3/190) Indiana | Birmingham, Ala.

Brandon Hawkins, WR (6-0/185) Navarro College | Waxahachie, Texas

Jamarcus Jones, WR (6-4/220) Mississippi Gulf Coast | Union, miss.

Jaylyn Ferguson, WR (6-3/160) Southwest | Fort Worth, Texas

Amare Thomas, WR (5-10/180) Pinson Valley | Pinson, Ala.

Kameran Shanks, WR (5-9/175) Prattville | Prattville, Ala.

Corri Milliner, WR (6-2/170) Benjamin Russell | Alexander City, Ala.

William Parker, OL (6-5 / 310) Tennessee | Nashville, Tenn.

Jalen Nettles, OL (6-4/300) Northeast Mississippi | Canton, miss.

Mason Chorak, OL (6-5 / 265) Saguaro | Scottsdale, Arizona.

Delano Townsend, OL (6-4 / 300) Hamady Community | Flint, Mich.

Logan Moore, OL (6-7 / 255) Lincoln | San Diego, California.

Alfonzo Leomiti, OL (6-4 / 310) Los Alamitos | Los Alamitos, California.

Emmanuel Waller, DL (6-4/250) Oak Mountain | Birmingham, Ala.

Conner Knight, DL (6-3/285) Hewitt-Trussville | Trussville, Ala.

Eamon Smalls, DL (6-2/295) Beaufort | Ladys Island, S.C.

Daniel Harris, DL (6-6 / 190) Palm Bay | Melbourne, Fla.

Jonathan Allen, DL (6-1/270) Jackson-Olin | Birmingham, Ala.

Tyler Thomas, DL (6-4/230) Cottage Hill Christian | Mobile, Ala.

Guerlens Milfort, DL (6-1/275) Lakeland | Lakeland, Fla.

Miquan Merriweather, DL (6-1/295) Carver | Columbus, Ga.

Kendall Johnson, OLB (6-6/237) Tennessee State | Jackson, Tenn.

Desmond Little, OLB (6-5/230) LSU | Prichard, Ala.

Everett Roussaw, LB (6-2/215) Cedar Grove | Ellenwood, Ga.

James Smyre, LB (6-2 / 220) Marshall | Columbus, Ga.

Armani (AD) Diamond, CB (5-11 / 171) Auburn | Mobile, Ala.

Brian (BJ) Mayes, CB (6-1 / 183) Incarnate Word | Houston, Texas

Ricky Lee, CB (5-11/170) Cedar Grove | Ellenwood, Ga.

Christopher Bracy, S (6-1 / 185) St. Paul’s Episcopal | Mobile, Ala.

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