It’s all change at the UAB Blazers for the 2023 college football season as the program jumps from CUSA to the AAC. But that might not even be the biggest shakeup the Blazers faced this offseason, as new head coach Trent Dilfer comes in, to the surprise of many. As a result, there’s an almost entirely new UAB coaching staff leading them into uncharted waters.
UAB Blazers Coaching Staff
Head Coach, Trent Dilfer
For those who only know Dilfer as the 1993 WAC Offensive Player of the Year at Fresno State or the sixth overall selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1994 NFL Draft, or as the Super Bowl XXXV winning quarterback, Trent Dilfer’s appointment as the head of the UAB coaching staff may have come as a complete and utter surprise to you.
However, there’s more to Dilfer’s coaching résumé than being a former collegiate and professional player and long-time television analyst. His coaching career really began with the formulation of the Elite 11 quarterback training camp that has housed some of the biggest names in college football in recent years. Of the 64 starting Power Five QBs last fall, 60 attended an Elite 11 event.
MORE: AAC RB Rankings 2023
So, Dilfer has had his fingers in some very successful college football pies.
Yet, his coaching résumé is ultimately bolstered by the four-year high school stint that led him to the head coach role at UAB. Under Dilfer, Nashville-based Lipscomb Academy won consecutive state championship titles while compiling a 44-10 record across the last four seasons. Remarkably, his team lost just one game in the last two seasons.
Offensive Coordinator, Alex Mortensen
In shaping his UAB coaching staff for the 2023 college football season, Dilfer turned to Alex Mortensen to fill the role of offensive coordinator. Mortensen comes to Birmingham after spending nine years working as part of Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide staff.
Arriving as a graduate assistant in 2014, Mortensen has been an offensive analyst since 2017, where the majority of his work has been mentoring the program’s quarterbacks, including now-NFL starters Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and Mac Jones. In his final season in Tuscaloosa, he worked alongside Bryce Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and the first overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Mortensen’s familiarity with the QB position stems from his high school career at Landmark Christian, where he was named the 2003 AJC Offensive Player of the Year. He was considered the best quarterback in Georgia at the time and spent time in the 2009 NFL preseason with the Tennessee Titans, despite throwing just 84 passes at Arkansas and Samford.
In addition to his coaching experience at Alabama, Mortensen spent time as an assistant with the now-Los Angeles Rams in 2013 and worked with the wide receivers at the Alliance of American Football’s Birmingham Iron in 2019. His only other full-time appointment was as the QB coach and passing game coordinator at New Mexico Highlands in 2012.
Defensive Coordinator, Sione Ta’ufo’ou
As he sought to put his stamp on this Blazers team, Dilfer enlisted the services of a defensive coordinator who helped him engineer the transformation of Lipscomb Academy into a powerhouse of Tennessee high school football. Sione Ta’ufo’ou joins the UAB coaching staff for the 2023 college football season, his first coaching at this level.
At Lipscomb, Ta’ufo’ou produced an extremely dominant defense to complement the offensive firepower of the program. During the 2022 season, which saw the Academy win back-to-back state titles, his defense allowed just 5.5 points per game. While we’re not comparing apples to apples, the UAB defense allowed 23.2 points per game last season.
Ta’ufo’ou hasn’t limited his coaching exposure to purely defense, despite his origins as an all-state linebacker at San Mateo Community College. The former linebacker, who also played at the University of Mary, worked as a quarterback coach alongside Dilfer at Elite 11 events, and the majority of his coaching career has been spent as a high school head coach in California. During an eight-year spell, he was named Coach of the Year on three separate occasions.
Special Teams Coordinator, Kenneth Gilstrap
A 30-game starter at cornerback for Middle Tennessee, Kenneth Gilstrap has spent the majority of his coaching career with his alma mater, making the Blue Raiders’ defensive backs among the most productive in the nation. He added special teams responsibilities to his duties last fall, and he’ll be responsible for the secondary and special teams in his first year with UAB.
Quarterback Coach, Nick Coleman
Another Middle Tennessee alum, Nick Coleman played QB for the Blue Raiders from 2006-2009 before beginning his coaching career there in 2010. While Coleman has spent a substantial chunk of his time at the JUCO level, he’s been developing his skills as an offensive analyst at South Carolina for the past two seasons, where he worked with standout QB Spencer Rattler.
Running Back Coach, Hindley Brigham
While the UAB coaching staff features several new faces, Hindley Brigham returns for his eighth season as the Blazers’ RB coach. His retention is hardly surprising. Why wouldn’t you want to keep the man who helped produce two of the best running backs to play for UAB in the building?
A standout rusher himself at Furman after beginning his college career at Baylor, Brigham could have another 1,000-yard rusher on his hands in the 2023 college football season in the form of Jermaine Brown Jr.
Tight End Coach, Reilly Jeffers
New Blazers’ tight end coach Reilly Jeffers reunites with head coach Dilfer on the UAB coaching staff after the two worked together at Lipscomb during the 2020 season. Jeffers comes to Birmingham having spent the past two seasons in Columbus as an offensive assistant at Ohio State. He also worked with the O-line at FAU and was a long snapper at Kansas from 2012-2015.
Offensive Line Coach, Eddie Gordon
In his quest to bring success to UAB, head coach Dilfer hired an offensive line coach who has spent the last two seasons around a national title-winning unit. Eddie Gordon joins the UAB coaching staff having spent the past four seasons working with the Georgia Bulldogs. A Louisiana alum, he worked with the Ragin’ Cajuns’ offensive line for two years at the end of his playing time.
Wide Receiver Coach, Austin Appleby
A former QB at Purdue and Florida, Austin Appleby began his career coaching the position at DIII Mount Union, where he also served as the pass game coordinator. However, he spent the past three years coaching pass catchers at Missouri State, where his guidance saw Ty Scott receive All-American honors. His appointment to the UAB coaching staff is his first full FBS role.
Defensive Line Coach, Miguel Patrick
A renowned figure in the Georgia high school realm, Miguel Patrick got his first FBS experience last season when he spent the season as a defensive quality control coach for Ohio State. Patrick played linebacker at Alabama State, and his appointment as the defensive line coach on the UAB coaching staff continues a mainly defensive coaching résumé.
Star/Nickel Coach, Earnest Hill
Another holdover from the previous UAB coaching staff, Earnest Hill arrived in Birmingham in 2022 and helped the Blazers to have one of the most efficient pass defenses in the nation. His only previous college coaching experience was as the RB coach at South Alabama, but Hill has been an extremely successful and well-thought-of high school coach in the Alabama area for years.