University of West England Bullets take recruitment to next level for 2023/24 season

For better or for worse, the University of West England Bullets have changed the landscape of University American football in the United Kingdom.

Head coach Dan Maher has played a huge part in this in recent years, recruiting top athletes from the US and around Europe on postgraduate degrees in an effort to elevate the level of the team. In the last two seasons under coach Maher, the Bullets, who compete in the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Premier South Division, have been unbeaten and achieved back-to-back National Championships.

Karekin Brooks

Ex-NCAA DI RB Karekin Brooks after scoring for the Bristol Aztecs this summer.

Key pieces to the Bullets’ championship winning team last year include MVP Dante Sparaco (WR/DB, Colorado, NCAA DI), Hamish McClure (QB, Nevada, NCAA DI) and Karekin Brooks (RB, University of Pennsylvania, NCAA DI).

While McClure didn’t see much game time in their collegiate careers, Brooks had a prolific career at UPenn, with his final season seeing him rack up just north of 1,000 yards on the ground, while Sparaco played as a defensive lineman and linebacker for the Buffaloes.

Sparaco was arguably the most versatile player in the country last season, seeing snaps at receiver, quarterback, defensive back, linebacker and many more positions.

Not only did Maher’s international recruitment have a huge impact on UWE’s success, but it had a huge domino effect on many other teams.

Last season saw Ex-Cal Golden Bear (NCAA DI) Robby Rowell lead the University of Nottingham to their second straight finals appearance where they fell just shy of the Bullets in one of the most exciting, broadcasted games in British American football history. Rowell has since gone on to be one of, if not the best dual-threat quarterback in the German Football League, recording 4,451 total yards in just 12 games for the Saarland Hurricanes, ranking top five in passing yards, rushing yards and passing touchdowns while leading the league in rushing touchdowns.

Ex-Cal Golden Bear Robby Rowell playing for UoN against SGS

Providing competition to UoN in the North was a very strong Leeds Beckett Carnegie squad, which featured names such as Matt Mariota (Yes, that Mariota) and Zahir Wilder (Montclair State, NCAA DIII).

UWE’s 2022-23 campaign saw them rack up points effortlessly, even beating UEA Pirates 106-0 on one occasion, yet Maher and the Bullets have decided to take their recruitment a step further for the 2023-24 season.

With notable names such as Karekin Brooks sticking around for this season, UWE have further boosted their roster with a recruiting class for the ages. Both UWE’s first and second team, who play in BUCS Division 2, are littered with international and local talent, making life very hard for every team scheduled to face either one of the Bullets’ teams.

Jadrian Clark playing for Rhein Fire this summer. Photo: @jderondeau_photography

Most notably, the reigning champions have picked up European League of Football MVP Jadrian Clark, who recorded a mind-boggling 53 touchdown passes for the Rhein Fire in his 12 regular season games.

While it has become somewhat of a norm in the Premier division to sign American quarterbacks, UWE have taken it to the extreme, picking up not one, not two but three American passers. Presumably at least one will see time on the second team, picking apart 18 year-old defensive backs who picked up their first set of pads at freshers’ fair last month.

Another notable name on the Bullets’ offense is Hawaii (NCAA DI) wideout Jason Matthew-Sharsh, who racked up 87 receptions for 913 yards and five touchdowns in his last season for the Rainbow Warriors. Matthew-Sharsh will be lining up alongside fellow American Isaiah Amaechi, who tallied nine scores for the Dresden Monarchs in 2022.

If one were to truly dive into the plethora of talent on the Bullets’ roster this article would very quickly turn to a small novel, but you will be able to catch the defending champions in action on Sunday November 4th as they take on SGS Pride, a young academy team littered with European talent. The Pride are coming off a dominant 43-6 win over the Cardiff Cobras and will be looking to reverse last year’s two blowout losses against the Bullets.

A current student at Bournemouth University as well as a quarterback with eight years of playing experience. Brad's goal is to be a part of the growth of the game around the world through journalism and media.