Spring Preview: Outside/Jack Linebackers
Updated: Mar 7, 2022
We took a day off from our football spring preview to give the basketball preview it's time in the spot light. After all it is Senior Day against our rival LaTech, but now it is back to the grind.
Our next group to preview: Outside Linebackers/Jack
UAB has 7 outside linebackers listed on the roster at this moment during spring training. Four Seniors, one Sophomore, and two freshman. All but the two freshman have played in a Division One football game. Tallest Outside Linebacker goes to Kelle Sanders as he stands at 6'6". Farthest away from home is Kelle Sanders as he hails from Lacey, Washington. Closest to home goes to Nikia Eason Jr. who is from Bessemer, Alabama. Lets take a quick look at all of the Outside/Jack Linebackers.
Kelle Sanders #2 - 6'6" 255lbs - Redshirt Senior
Kelle comes to UAB from the state of Washington. Sanders has played in 20 games for the Blazers, starting in 10 of those games. Kelle has 38 tackles total, 6 of those are tackles for loss, while also recording 2 sacks. Kelle Sanders' road to UAB was a tough one. He was originally from Mississippi before Hurricane Katrina sent him and his family across the country to Washington. While in high school Kelle was a standout quarterback and tight end. Out of high school Kelle signed with Washington State as a defensive end before having to take the JUCO route at Snow College and then at Independence Community College. Look for Kelle to get a lot of play this year as he will need to fill some big shoes with the departure of Alex Wright. Could Kelle be the next UAB NFL prospect from that Jack/Outside linebacker spot?
Kyle Harrell #9 - 6'1" 210lbs - Redshirt Senior
Not going to spend a lot of time talking about Kyle Harrell. The kid has been with UAB since he left Calera High School (AL) and has been a nightmare for quarterbacks off the edge. He brings some big speed that finds a lot of offensive lineman reeling to keep up with him. UAB recently put out a great story on Kyle. Make sure to check it out to find everything you need to know about the Redshirt Senior.
Michael Fairbanks II - 6'3" 265lbs - Redshirt Senior
It was around the middle of 2017 when I remember UAB getting a commitment from a Georgia high school 3 star. That Georgia kid was Michael Fairbanks. Our recruiting mole and I were very excited to get him on the Southside and he remains one of our favorite recruits. Michael has appeared in 37 games as a Blazer recording 29 tackles. Expect this year to be the best year yet for Fairbanks as he will likely be a starter. Each year we have seen Michael get bigger, stronger, and faster. He has a high football IQ. All of these attributes mixed together should propel Fairbanks to some personal best in tackles and pass rush this year. Again I am probably biased because I like Michael a lot but I believe this will be his year!
Nikia Eason Jr. #10 - 6'4" 220lbs - Redshirt Senior
Looking for another speed guy off the edge? The Blazers got you covered. Nikia Eason is another edge guy that, like Kyle Harrell, brings speed off the edge from that outside/Jack linebacker spot. The Bessemer City High School (AL) alumni was a terror for quarterbacks who don't have good mobility. In his career at UAB he has appeared in 28 games recording 31 tackles and 3 sacks. When the Blazers want to get to the quarterback, Nikia is usually the player they put in. He creates so many problems for offensive lineman especially if they can't get their hands on him. We are definitely expecting an up-tic in his production and sacks this year.
Jalen Mayala #22 - 6'5" 250lbs - Redshirt Sophomore
Someone that I know the coaches are probably looking to have a bigger impact this year is, Jalen Mayala. The University of Indiana transfer came to UAB last year and played in 3 games not recording a stat. Out of high school Jalen was heavily recruited by a lot of schools, some power programs. Jalen was ranked as one of the better defensive ends in the state of Georgia. 2020 saw him commit and enroll at the University of Indiana. Shortly after the end of the 2020 season Jalen hit the transfer portal and found his way to UAB. There are some big expectations for Mayala from people like me. Will be interesting to watch him this spring and see if he has turned that switch on. Will he be the player many expect him to be?
Brennan Blake #56 - 6'3" 235lbs - Redshirt Freshman
Brennan Blake is from Bessemer, Alabama and played high school ball at West Blocton(AL). He has not appeared in a game as a Blazer. But UAB has had a lot of success with players that have long, flowing hair. (See Noah Wilder) Keep an eye on this Freshman to see if we have another wild man on our team.
Bryce Littleton #59 - 6'2" 235lbs - Redshirt Freshman
Bryce comes to the Southside from right over Red Mountain in Vestavia Hills. Littleton was a standout at Vestavia High School and was first team All-Region. He is also a State Champion wrestler. Bryce has not appeared in a game for the green and gold. He will be another young player to keep an eye on.
Not on the roster but expected in the summer is Drew Tuazama. Check out our thoughts on him at the link: https://www.southsidedragonrpt.com/post/know-your-blazer-andrew-drew-tuazama
With the departure of Alex Wright (NFL) UAB will be looking to fill some mighty big holes that the Elba, Alabama star is leaving. Alex Wright was good for a double team most games and when he was not double teamed he was sacking, hurrying, or tackling. He recorded 91 tackles with 12.5 sacks in 3 years playing for UAB. That is a lot of production lost. Thankfully for the Blazers I believe we have some guys that can step into that void. The big question is, will they step in to the void? Will they accept that challenge? Its worth a note that I don't believe the coaches are done adding to this position. Look for a new face or two to come in over the summer. The coaches are recruiting the defensive line and Jack linebacker spot hard. Make sure to watch this group and see who becomes the next star edge rusher for the Blazers.