BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) UAB coach Garrick McGee figures familiarity with both his team and Conference USA will make for a smoother ride in his second season.
The Blazers won just three games in McGee's debut season and went 2-6 in the league.
"I think if you are a very fast learner, and I pride myself in being a very fast learner, that if you run around the track once, you are supposed to know where all the curves are and where the straightaway is," McGee said. "I understand our conference, what schemes other coaches are running, our program and its positives and deficiencies, and I know our staff and players better.
"So I am in a better position personally going into the second year, which is going to force our team to be in a better position."
UAB returns seven starters on offense, including quarterback Austin Brown and 1,000-yard rusher Darrin Reaves. However, McGee dismissed leading receiver Jackie Williams during preseason camp, a move he later said was part of his efforts to change the program's culture.
Defensive end Connor Boyett is among eight returning starters on defense. Boyett returns to his initial position after spending most of last season at tackle.
The newcomers include Arkansas transfer receiver Maudrecus Humphrey and former Arkansas Baptist cornerback Jimmy Jean.
UAB has nonconference road games against LSU and Vanderbilt. Linebacker Patrick Bastien said a big difference has been the attitude.
"I think the team enthusiasm is at an all-time high," Bastien said. "I've been here for five years and the optimism and how everybody is feeling great, and we have really bought in. We have put in the hard work and now we are waiting to see the results."