Table of Contents

    2023 Michigan Panthers Season Preview

    Improvements at QB and OL help, but the Panthers secondary may struggle again in ‘23.

    The Michigan Panthers struggled to a record of 2-8 in 2022,  posting 211 points for and 236 against, to finish 3rd in the USFL’s North Division, missing the playoffs. 

    New Panthers Head Coach Mike Nolan, 63, was HC of the San Francisco 49ers from 2005-2008, and has held numerous coaching positions for 11 NFL franchises, mostly on defense. He’ll replace fellow NFL alumni, Jeff Fisher.

    QB Josh Love returns for another kick at the can after posting 30/58 for 2 TDs and 2 INTs in limited ‘22 action. He’ll have to compete with #8 overall draft pick, QB Tanner Morgan of Minnesota for the QB1 job. Last year’s team-leading rusher, RB Reggie Corbin returns in the backfield. He’ll be joined by short yardage man, Stevie Scott III.  

    In the receiving game, leading ‘22 WR Lance Lenoir Jr. has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. 6’3” Delaware product, Joe Walker, will return to try and claim the WR1 role. Seventh round selection, Eastern Michigan product, TE Gunnar Oakes, will be an inline blocker and short area option.

    The Panthers went heavy in two aspects during the 2023 USFL Draft: O-Line and LB. With the #1 overall pick, Michigan selected Jarrett Horst, OT, Michigan State, and followed that up with more O-Line picks in the fourth, ninth and tenth rounds.

    On D, the Panthers went LB in round 3, taking versatile Santrell Latham, LB, Southern Miss, and again in rounds five and eight. Michigan also took a DL pass rush threat, Levi Russo Bell, DT, Texas State. Surprisingly, the Panthers did not select a single DB to help improve their ‘22 league-worst pass D.

    On special teams, Cole Murphy returns at PK after a 42 point ‘22 season. P Kyle Kramer also returns after posting an impressive 46.3 average in 2022. WR Ishmael Hyman is the presumptive PR again in ‘23, while RB Reggie Corbin will likely also feature as a KR again this season.

    The 2023 Michigan Panthers are in a state of rebuilding. The franchise will look to control the ball with an improved running game this season but a lack of improvement in the defensive secondary may prove to be an off season fumble when it’s all said and done. That’s why the Panthers are a long shot at +650 to win it all in ‘23.

    RYP has you covered with all the info you need on the 2023 USFL season!

    2023 Pittsburgh Maulers Season Preview

    An unsettled squad looks to a defensive-minded HC to turn things around in 2023.

    The Pittsburgh Maulers finished at the bottom of the standings in 2022, going 1-9 while posting just 147 points for, versus 247 against. The ‘23 version of the Maulers will try to make the leap by building around a few core players, including All-USFL safety Bryce Torneden.

    New Panthers Head Coach, Ray Horton, was with the NFL’ers Steelers from 2004 through 2010 and later served as DC for the Cardinals, Browns and Titans. Horton’s son, Jarren, returns as Maulers DC after a better-than-it-looked ‘22 campaign.

    Uber productive Lindsey Scott, Jr., QB of the mighty Incarnate Word Cardinals was selected by the Maulers #2 overall but he doesn’t yet appear on the team’s official roster, indicating Scott may first take his chance as an UDFA in the NFL. That leaves wandering journeyman Chase Fourcade, formerly of Nicholls State, to compete with the trio of ‘21 NYJ fourth rounder James Morgan, Connor Sampson, and former CFL’er Troy Williams.

    In the receiving room, leading WR and KR man Tre Walker returns, as does 2022 team TD leader, Bailey Gather. They will be joined by #49 overall pick WR Taylor Grimes, also from Incarnate Word, who, like teammate Lindsey Scott, may get a shot in the NFL after posting 1,255 receiving yards and 15 TDs in 2022.

    The return of Torneden at safety along with running mate Tre Tarpley provides some comfort on the backend of the D. Fourth round pick Ferlando Jordan, CB, SE Louisiana hasn’t played since ‘21 due to injury, but had five pick-6s in his college career. 

    The defensive front 7 lost ‘22 sack leader Carlo Kemp, who left for the NFL’s Chargers, and tackles leader Kyahva Tezino, who has since signed with the Carolina Panthers. To backfill, the Maulers drafted the productive Malik Hamm, DE, Lafayette in round two (#9 overall), followed by Edge threat Isaiah Land of Florida A&M in the fifth.

    The Maulers will roll out on special teams with untested but strong-legged Nathan Hierlihy from the University of Redlands at PK. He’ll be joined in the kicker’s room by P Matt Mengel, who was with the Philadelphia Stars last season. Tre Walker will again feature at KR, while WR Isiah Hennie returns as PR after a solid 2022 season.

    The Maulers will be challenged to compete for a playoff spot in ‘22, at least until they get the QB room settled. Ford Field will provide a great environment for the Maulers to test themselves to push beyond their projected last-place finish, facing odds of +750 to win the 2023 USFL Championship.

    2023 Philadelphia Stars Season Preview

    The USFL’s best offense in ‘22 needs the Stars defense to step-up in 2023.

    The Philadelphia Stars finished 6-4 in the 2022 regular season, losing to New Jersey in the playoffs. The Stars’ league-leading offense put up 262 points, but allowed 243, tied with the Maulers for worst in the USFL.

    Head Coach Bart Andrus returns for his second season. Andrus, an offensive specialist, previously held head coaching stints in the CFL, NFL Europe, and elsewhere in the USFL. He’s joined by fellow NFL alumni, Jeff Jagodzinski, who will focus on the running game.

    QB Case Cookus returns after posting 1,334 yards passing with 12 TDs and 5 INTs in ‘22. He’ll be challenged for the QB1 role by Kevin Thomson, and professional journeyman, Vad Lee. ‘22 leading rusher, RB Matt Colburn II, returns after posting 457 yards and 8 TD’s last season. Former Green Bay Packer Dexter Williams adds depth. Bug Howard is back at TE, while consistent WR Jordan Suell is scheduled to return, but may get a look in the NFL.

    The Stars went big on big guys in the 2023 USFL Draft with eight linemen taken consecutively in the first eight rounds: 5 on O, 3 on D. Alfred Edwards III, OT, Utah State was first off the board at #6 overall. Two more OTs followed in rounds 2 and 3. In the defensive trench, the Stars added Truman Jones, DE, Harvard in the fourth, and Jose Ramirez, DE, Eastern Michigan, who had 12 sacks in ‘22, in the sixth.

    INT leader Channing Stribbling is trying to find work in the NFL or CFL. ’22 sacks leader, Adam Rodriguez, will also get a look elsewhere. Draftees Ramirez and Jones, along with fellow newcomers, Destin Mack, CB, Citadel, and Dre Terry, LB, Alabama A&M will be called upon to inject some new life into the Stars D.

    The Stars don’t have a punter listed going into training camp but the club will return PK Luis Aguilar, who went 8 of 10 on field goal attempts in ‘22, with a long of 49 yards. Last year’s top notch return man, WR Maurice Alexander, has been bouncing on and off the Detroit Lions’ practice squad for months and may not return in ‘23. 

    With a fresh squadron of big men in town to compete in the trenches and a competent offense in place, it will be up to the new look Stars defense to get the team to the next level in 2023 and cash in on the +500 odds Philadelphia faces to win it all.

    New Jersey Generals Season Preview

    The Generals return the league’s best running game and a strong D — is it enough to win the ‘ship?

    The 2022 New Jersey Generals fell just short of their goal, losing to the Birmingham Stallions in the 2022 USFL Championship. The Generals return a strong running game and overall defense in 2023 but there are questions at the pivot on O.

    Head Coach Mike Riley is an icon, having been the head coach of teams in four different professional leagues and played QB for ‘Bama in the 1970s — all hail, seriously. Riley will look to overcome the instability at QB and the subpar passing game that kept the franchise from cashing out in 2022. 

    Fortunately, Darius Victor and Trey Williams (2022’s best RB duo by a margin) are both scheduled to return to the backfield in 2023. De’Andre Johnson from Texas Southern, Kyle Lauletta from Richmond, and Dakota Prukop from Oregon will compete at QB. Adrian Martinez, QB, Kansas State, was drafted but he may select other options.

    2022 receiving yards leader, Devonte Turpin, is gone, leaving Alonzo Moore from NEB as presumptive WR1. The O-line system is excellent, as witnessed by the rushing numbers and league-fewest sacks in 2022. Overall, the Generals look solid on O.

    In the USFL Draft, New Jersey took Martinez in round 2, J.J. Holloman, WR, Tennessee State in round 3, and Grant Dubose, WR, Charlotte to shore up the passing game. To add to an already strong defense and deal with some off-season attrition on defense, the Generals also selected a DE and 2 CBs.

    Earning the Seabass award, the Generals selected a punter in round 8: Adam Korsak from Rutgers. Korsak was the 2022 Ray Guy Award winner, the award given to the nation’s best punter. Cam Echols-Luper from Western Kentucky is as good as you get at the KR. PR KaVontae Turpin signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys after the ‘22 season, so he will need to be replaced.

    The Generals return a dominant running game on O, a strong overall D, and an excellent ST in ‘23, but will that be enough to get over the hump and win the ‘ship? At +300 they are a good bet to be in the mix. 

    New Orleans Breakers Season Preview

    Can the Breakers survive an off-season reshuffle to again field the league’s best defense?

    The 2022 version of the New Orleans Breakers finished second in the south division at 6-4. The league’s leading defense allowed just 148 points all season, while also yielding the fewest passing yards per game. The Breakers offense finished the season ranked 4th, with a -1 turnover margin.

    New Head Coach John DeFilippo, a long-time NFL offensive coordinator, won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles as their QB Coach. DeFiillipo will need those positional coaching skills to develop a consistent starting quarterback in 2023.

    The Breakers passing game was pretty good last year, but 2022 USFL Draft first-rounder Kyle Sloter has departed for the XFL, and former Michigan Wolverines and Panthers QB Shea Patterson is new to town. Whoever gets the nod will inherit a capable O-line as the Breakers allowed the second-fewest sacks in the league last season. That said, run blocking must get more assertive to improve upon the Breakers’ 3.8 yards per rush average of ‘23.

    In the USFL Draft, New Orleans spread out their 10 picks, going WR, Edge, then DB 1-2-3, before snagging Keaton Mitchell, the productive RB from East Carolina in round 4. The Breakers picked up another offensive weapon in the eighth round in the form of Jake Bobo, TE/WR, UCLA’s leading ‘22 receiver. 9th-round pick Alex Palczewski, OT, Illinois, didn’t give up a sack at Illinois in all of 2022.

    2022’s lead sack artist, David Bellamy has left the building and much of the defensive front 7 will be re-tooled in ‘23. Newly drafted Noah Taylor, Edge, Virginia, will be expected to bring pressure from the outside, while Isaiah Moore, LB, NC State should collect tackles in the middle. INTs were tough to come by in ‘22 with no DB recording more than two picks. With 17 passes defended and six interceptions while playing for the Miami Hurricanes, the Breakers hope DJ Ivey, CB can help.

    PK Taylor Bertolet left for the NFL after last season; Matt Coghlin from MSU is the new guy. Matt White returns as punter after posting a 38.7 net yards per punt average in 2022. Former NFL WR Taywan Taylor will face competition for the KR/PR role after a pedestrian ‘22 season returning the ball.

    There are a lot of new faces in town and it will take a while to build chemistry in the building, but the New Orleans Breakers have enough left from their ‘22 squad, and good talent acquired through the draft and free agency. If they can find a way to replace the talent lost, the Breakers have a decent chance to live up to their contender’s +500 odds to win it all.

    Memphis Showboats Season Preview

    The Showboat’s hopes in 2023 rest on an offensive reload and a more productive D.

    2023’s reincarnation of last season’s Tampa Bay Bandits will make its debut in Memphis to great anticipation. The Showboats need to replace the league’s top QB, rebuild their O-line, and find a way to generate turnovers on defense in order to improve this season.

    Todd Haley, who led the Bandits to a 4-6 record last spring as coach and GM, will coach Memphis this season. A former head coach and OC in the NFL, Haley is well-known for his fiery personal style and desire to attack with his offensive game plans. Job #1 in training camp is to find his new offensive pivot.

    QB Jordan Ta’amu led the 2022 USFL season in passing yardage and touchdowns but has since moved on. Memphis grad and local fan favorite Brady White will step up to compete for QB1 against former Spring League Mega Bowl champ, Ryan Willis of Virginia Tech, and 6’7” Cole Kelley of SE Louisiana, who signed with the NFL’s Washington Commanders as a UDFA in 2022, but was released prior to the season.

    The returning squad’s passing game was middling, despite Ta’amu’s personal numbers in ‘22 — 186 yards per game passing for 14 TDs and 13 INTs, and an ugly, league-worst 29 sacks allowed. That was backed by a poor rushing game, #6 overall, gaining just 838 yards on 3.5 per carry. The pass protection struggles and low yards per carry both points to a suspect O-line, something the Showboats focused on in the USFL Draft.

    Memphis drafted the sturdy Mason Brooks, OT, Mississippi #4 overall and backed that up at #43 with Jerome Carvin, OG, Tennessee, who allowed just 2 sacks in the last two years. To shore up their pass D, the Showboats selected Nehemiah Shelton, CB, San Jose State in the second round, and Antonio Fletcher, S, Southern Illinois in the 10th. Shelton and Fletcher will be expected to help improve on the six INTs the secondary generated last season.

    Overall, the defense in ‘22 was average, ranked 4th, allowing 295 yards and 19 points per game, while generating a middling 26 sacks. In the defensive front 7, the Showboats look to newly drafted Brevin Allen, DE, Campbell, who led the Big South in sacks in 2021, to generate edge pressure, and returning T. Feeney to improve on his 4.5 sack / 7 TFL 2022 campaign performance.

    Brandan Wright is the league’s best punter and may get an NFL look. Rashard Davis, (9.7 yards per punt return) can be improved upon. The 2022 KR game was also middling, at about 23 yards per. Field goal percentage led the league (78%), but the team placed just 5th in kicking points due to a lack of opportunities in the red zone.

    The young guys on the O-Line and in the defensive secondary will need to step up, but with improvements to the running game and greater red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball, the Showboats could be on course for a playoff run in 2023 at +500 odds to win it all.

    Birmingham Stallions Season Preview

    Victor Bolden is gone but J’Mar Smith is back. Can the Stallions repeat?

    The Birmingham Stallions enter the 2023 USFL season as the odds-on favorite to repeat as champions. 

    The flagship franchise of the Birmingham-based USFL, the Stallions boast a balanced roster led by a proven leader, Skip Holtz, the former head coach of Louisiana Tech and son of Hall of Famer, Lou Holtz.

    In the 2023 USFL draft, the Stallions went big on the O-line, despite the narrative being they need top WR talent (I think that’s nonsense; see below). Birmingham went OT in rounds one and two, before picking diminutive but speedy TCU standout WR Derius Davis in the fourth. The Stallions took Louisville Cardinals, QB Malik Cunningham, in the third, but he says his focus is elsewhere.

    That means that the Stallions will return starting QB J’mar Smith and presumptive QB2 Alex McGough. Smith came in when McGough got injured in Week 1 of the ‘22 season and held onto the starter’s job the rest of the way. McGough still wants to start and he may be trade bait.

    NFL alumni Bo Scarborough returns at RB, along with versatile third-down back C.J. Marable. At WR, Birmingham lost their best player in USFL Championship MVP Victor Bolden, who has since left for the NFL. That may not matter much as Birmingham returns both Marlon Williams and under-the-radar Adrian Hardy — a former teammate of J’mar Smith at  Louisiana Tech, where both also played for current Head Coach, Skip Holtz. See why I’m not worried about WR?

    On defense, Birmingham looks to hold on to its #2 overall and #2 against the run 2022 defensive rankings, when the club led the league in sacks (27), but was middling in interceptions (9). PK Brandon Aubrey from Notre Dame returns after a strong ‘22 season. Victor Bolden is gone as a return man, but I like newly drafted Derius Davis just fine in that role.

    It’s difficult to see anyone challenging the Stallions in the south division in 2023 unless the New Orleans Breakers can find a way to immediately upgrade their offensive production. At +300 to open the season as a championship favorite, the Birmingham Stallions are a pretty good play.

    Houston Gamblers Season Preview

    Can a changing of the guard lift the Gamblers in 2023?

    The Houston Gamblers enter 2023 as a rebuilding dark horse.

    First-year Gamblers Head Coach Curtis Johnson is focused on establishing a new vibe for last season’s 3-7 squad. Johnson is the former head coach at the University of Tulane and former receivers coach with the New Orleans Saints, under Sean Payton. 

    In the 2023 USFL draft, the Gamblers wisely went QB in round one, taking Appalachian State’s Chase Brice who led an upset of #6 ranked Texas A&M early in the ‘22 season. He’ll have a chance to start in year one. The Gamblers were a running back by committee for most of the ‘22 season. New OC Eric Price wants to air it out, so pass-catching and pass-blocking ability may tell the tale. Devwah Winney will get a long look at RB1.

    At WR, Houston has eight receivers scheduled for camp, thus no need to draft one. Free agent Justin Hall is worth watching for his ability to make plays from the Slot. Anthony Ratliff-Williams will be expected to step up. Don’t be shocked if you see another free agent signing or trade to shore up the veteran presence in the WR room by the time the season starts.

    On defense, the Gamblers were middling in 2022, allowing far too many yards per game (~322), despite finishing third in sacks and tied for second in interceptions. That smacks of poor tackling. The LBs and defensive secondary will get a major overhaul for 2023 — six of the Gamblers’ draft picks were spent on defense.

    The league’s #1 pick from the ‘22 season, Nick Vogel, is scheduled to return, while Isiah Zuber and JoJo Ward make a quality pair of kick returners for 2023. 

    The Gamblers will have their work cut out for them to make the playoffs this year. A new HC, a presumptive new QB, and a lot of turnover in the defensive skills positions may mean more frustration for Houston fans in 2023. At +600 to win it all, the Gamblers are a true longshot.

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