- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - UAB’s Bill Clark knows the challenges of entering spring with a team he’s never coached on the practice field, much less in a game.

The Blazers‘ new coach holds his first spring practice on Wednesday, a year after successfully handling the same task some 80 miles away at Jacksonville State in his first time leading a college program.

“It’s been a big help,” Clark said on Tuesday. “That has maybe helped me sleep a little bit better, to know that we did go through this last year.”

He’s embracing the challenge of taking over a program that is coming off a 2-10 season under Garrick McGee and hasn’t had a winning record since 2004. Clark also is trying to bring a demanding yet positive approach where players know they’re expected to work hard “but we’re going to treat you right.”

That means finding a new starting quarterback to handle the switch to a fast-paced, spread offense. The former South Alabama defensive coordinator also must try to improve a defense that was one of the nation’s worst last season, giving up 43.8 points and 497.8 yards per game.

Clark started the task without a fully healthy roster. He said nearly 30 players were limited by injuries when he took the job in January, but only three are completely out for the spring.

Clark expects to give his players a crash course on the system offensively and defensively, especially when it comes to playing with a fast pace.

“We throw a lot of things at them,” he said. “It’s kind of one of those things were you throw it against the wall and if it falls off, you throw some more.

“It’s really kind of an overload situation for them. You’re also looking for what we can do.”

Clark’s approach worked at Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks had their best seasons since 1992, going 11-4 and finishing with a No. 10 ranking in the Football Championship Subdivision.

He had led Prattville High School to two straight Class 6A state championships and posted a 107-11 record in nine seasons.

Clark’s hoping that track record helps convince Blazers players he can win at UAB, too.

“A player wants to hear if I do these certain things, success is going to follow,” he said. “When you’ve got a pretty good track record, that helps. It’s no guarantee you’re going to do it again, but I think it helps our guys have confidence that what we’re telling them is correct.”

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