‘Bringing life’: Former walk-on Lee Beebe leads thin RB unit in UAB spring practice

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A coaching change can raise a lot of questions for anyone, especially a freshman walk-on who made only a single appearance in a season-opening blowout.

Rather than abscond and face uncertainty in the vastness of the transfer portal, UAB running back Lee Beebe got to work answering his own demands and eventually earned the ultimate compliment from a brand new coaching staff, albeit with a holdover in his position coach.

“It was really a process because I didn’t know if I was going to stay until I got the offer my second year coming back,” Beebe said. “It was a blessing being able to get that scholarship and keep playing.”

Beebe closed out last season on a tear and now leads a small but talented running back group as the Blazers prepare for their annual spring game and showcase, Saturday, April 6, at the UAB Football Operations Complex in Birmingham.

“He took the momentum of how he finished the season and carried it into the offseason,” UAB head coach Trent Dilfer said. “He had a dominant winter program. He’s been tremendous and his attitude is awesome. I talk about bringing life to the group, bringing energy, and Lee is a guy that does it all the time.”

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The 5-foot-10, 215-pound running back opened the 2023 season as the third option in the running game, saddled behind UAB all-purpose yardage record-holder Jermaine Brown Jr. and coveted junior college transfer Isaiah Jacobs, but ascended the depth chart after a season-ending injury to Jacobs in the fifth game of the season.

In the first five games, before Jacobs’ injury, Beebe has only seven carries for 37 yards and a score, along with five catches for 30 yards, but finished the season with 52 attempts for 360 yards and four touchdowns, along with 14 receptions for 98 yards.

In his final performance of the season, a 45-42 loss to North Texas, Beebe had seven carries for a career-high 101 yards and two scores, including a career-long 66-yard touchdown.

“He has the physical skill set to do everything we do at running back,” running backs coach Hindley Brigham said. “He has a background as a receiver, so he understands that phase of the game, but he’s tough and can move laterally and accelerate on a dime.”

A Montgomery native, Beebe primarily played receiver during his prep career at Park Crossing, but earned a spot as a walk-on running back during a UAB summer camp, immediately enrolling for the fall semester and appearing in the first game of the 2022 season.

Along with a few lessons pulled from DeWayne McBride, during his record-setting 2022 season, Beebe built a mutual kinship with Brown and eventually Jacobs after he joined the fold last summer.

“One thing in particular I’ve learned (from them) was not being afraid to hit or block,” Beebe said. “Skull taught me a lot about that, and watching Isaiah power his way through tacklers motivates me to be tough.”

As many pointers that Beebe has received directly, or by some environmental factor, his journey as a walk-on is motivating enough not only for himself, but for the rest of a running back room that includes Jacobs, Lee Witherspoon, LSU transfer Armoni Goodwin and walk-on Dylan Peterson.

“Of all the guys that are in my room, they’re all special to me in some way, Lee embraces all challenges with an unbelievable attitude,” Brigham said. “He’s got an infectious way about him and is super competitive without being edgy, which is hard to do. He lays it all on the line and gives maximum effort every day, but does it with a smile on his face. That’s an unusual person.”

Jacobs and Goodwin are expected back for fall camp, solidifying a dangerous quartet of running backs, and Beebe should have no worries retaining an impactful role in the rotation.

Only two years removed from a leadership position on his high school team, Beebe has imprinted a positive assertiveness on his teammates in a professional manner usually reserved for more seasoned players.

“It resonated into college but it’s different, I have people older than me and veterans but it feels good to lead on and off the field as a player and a person too,” he said. “We’re all able to get a lot of reps to learn and be the best that we can be. We’re just waiting for Isaiah and Armoni to get back healthy and once they do, we’re going to dominate and lead this offense.”

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