BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- UAB's football team is just past the halfway point of camp, but with more than a week remaining before the Blazers reach game week for the opener against Troy, head coach Bill Clark said his team has to continue to fight through the grind of preseason drills.
"I think this was a day we all pointed to as a day we had to fight through," Clark said following his team's Thursday morning workout in full pads. "We came off a night practice and you've still got a couple weeks before the game. I always talk to them about `when can you see the light at the end of the tunnel?' It's getting close. You can faintly see it out there, but we're still fighting through it.
Clark emphasized that taking care of injuries and keeping his players healthy is a priority, even more so at this point of camp.
"The thing we've got to do is be great at treating our injuries," "And you make sure you are keeping a minor bump and bruise from becoming a major injury. That's why nutrition, treatment and rest are all critical to an athlete, especially one who has been working like ours have."
The Blazers have only had one scrimmage thus far. They will scrimmage for the second time Saturday. The team's depth chart is ever-evolving and Clark said he and his staff enjoy the competition and position battles they see taking place on the field each day.
"I think we've got some real fights out there," Clark said "That's not all bad to have. Of course, we'd all like to have some superstars, but I think when you've got a bunch of guys who work hard and come to work every day, they are going to battle.
"And that's going to help us. That's going to help us in the heat. That's going to help to make us better. That's going to help us with injuries. And it helps with team camaraderie. When you've got more guys playing, I think you've got happier players."
Despite the departure of Reaves, Clark feels good about his group of running backs entering the 2014 campaign. Jordan Howard ran for 881 yards and averaged a team-best 6.1 yards as a true freshman last season. D.J. Vinson has had to battle some injuries throughout most of his career, but now is back at his natural position at running back and is ready to make a significant contribution to the Blazers' offense. Ja'Won Arrington sat out last season after transferring from Alabama A&M, but he saw a lot of action in the spring and appears to be another viable option in the backfield.
So, how does Clark feel about his team's running back depth heading into the season?
"We think we've got three guys that are really solid," he said. "We have Howard, who we saved some the other day (in the scrimmage), and Vinson, and Arrington has carried a lot for us. And we've got some young guys that are doing a good job. And with us being a one-back offense, I think we're okay."
Howard and Arrington provide the Blazers a bigger look at running back while Vinson offers versatility, especially with his experience at receiver.
"I think through the years, you take what you could get," Clark said when asked if he has a preference on what kind of back he covets as a coach. "Of course, I love a big guy that can run. That's always good. We've had small guys that could run. We've had small, quick guys. But I sure like our guys. I think we've got some change-up guys. It's good having big guys that can run who have quick feet.
"We say we want the defense to have to defend every part of the field. We want them to defend the width and length. We want them to defend every player. I know the things that are hard for us to defend, and that's what we try to do. So, we're constantly finding ways to get the ball to everybody."
Arrington said he and his fellow running backs are starting to click as they've gotten comfortable with the offense.
"It's real intense and the tempo is picking up," Arrington said. "Everybody is catching on to the flow now. We're starting to get the feel of the new offense and hitting on all cylinders. Everything is going as well as we hoped it would go.
"I'm another one of the power backs. We have Jordan Howard, D.J. Vinson and Marcus Reaves and I'm just another weapon they can add to the skill set. So, hopefully I'll be able to contribute a lot this year."
"Jordan Howard is a remarkable athlete. To be here and be on the field with these athletes is wonderful. Playing with him and being able to see the things he does and learn from them is another opportunity and skill within itself."
While characterized primarily as a power back, Arrington said he's worked on improving all areas of his game.
"I put myself in the situation to be a balanced back to where I can be power or be fast at times or come out of the backfield to catch passes," said Arrington. "I'm just wherever my offense, or the offensive coordinator, needs me to be at that time or whatever role they need me to fill."
UAB kicks off the 2014 season against Troy on Aug. 30 at home. Game time is set for 11 a.m. CT at Legion Field. Ticket information for UAB's six home games can be found at www.UABsports.com or by calling the UAB ticket office at 205-975-8221.
For more information on the UAB football team, follow the Blazers on Twitter (@UAB_Football). For more on all Blazer sports teams follow the official Twitter account of UAB Athletics (@UABAthletics).