USFL Edge Rushers and Run Stuffers: The Defensive Linemen Ready to Dominate the USFL

We’re in the home stretch before the USFL draft scheduled for February 22, and a number of defensive linemen with a range of experiences in professional football have declared.

Here are some of the main pass rushers and run stuffers who could well define the first season of USFL play. 

Kalani Vakameilalo heads off this list. A 6’3”, 325-pound behemoth, Vakameilalo has played in the NFL, the XFL, and, most recently, The Spring League. Despite not playing football until high school, he was an instant success, likely due to the rare quickness he has at his size. In college, the Hawaii native played for Oregon State. Though he red-shirted several years, he played in 46 college games, logged a number of sacks, and even tallied a forced fumble and recovery. Since then, he has had stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars and DC Defenders and will be a force in the USFL

Continuing with this theme of massive players with experience at major college programs, Darrius Moragne is a beast at 6’7” and 300 pounds. He was an edge rusher at the University of Kansas, where he started in his senior year. Previously, he was evaluated by the Chicago Bears, a team with famed defensive linemen. Moragne projects as a prolific pass-rusher based on his measurables alone. His length can force opposing tackles to give up ground while also making quarterbacks reconsider throwing over him. 

Toby Johnson, another draft declaree, has had one of the most interesting career arcs of all these prospects. Johnson’s football career took off in high school when he played tight end and defensive end. He then dominated football playing for Hutchinson Community College, where he caught the eye of Georgia’s recruiters. He started several games for Georgia but was undrafted and unable to break past the practice squad level in the NFL. Most recently, he played for the New York Guardians and Massachusetts Pirates in the Indoor Football League. He disrupts passes and runs alike, having finished second in sacks and tackles for loss for the pirates. 

Toby Johnson returning interception with the New York Guardians

Freedom Akinmoladun is one of countless defensive linemen who made the transition from tight end. Though he joined the Nebraska Cornhuskers to catch and block, he spent most of his college career as an end. In 2019, he played a couple games for a Cincinnati Bengals team that was far away from its status as a contender now. He recently signed to the Jets’ practice squad, and unless he makes it to the active roster, you can expect to see him taken in the USFL draft. 

Freedom Akinmoladun #92 Photo: Getty Images

One of the players with more international experience, Reggie Howard started his career playing college football at the University of Toledo. After that, however, he ended up in Canada with the Edmonton Elks. He was a 3-star recruit; his college coach said he offered positional flexibility, as he could stop the run and get after the quarterback. 

Photo: University of Toledo Athletics

Rounding out the list, Adewale Adeoye may be less experienced than most of his competitors, but he brings a lot to the table. While at Utah State, he was Pro Football Focus’s highest-graded interior defender in the Mountain West Conference due to his 24 stops. He most recently played in The Spring League, and the USFL offers him a fresh start to show the world his talents.