USFL: Everything you need to know for kick off

No professional spring football league has had sustained success since the original USFL‘s short but lucrative run in the 1980s. This weekend, however, the league is back in full force, making a comeback after over 30 years in hiding.

Kicking off the rebirth starting April 16, will be four games featuring all eight teams in action. League officials are praying for good football, close games, and entertainment value as the look must make a good first impression in order to win over millions of curious football starved fans.

Let’s take a look at each team’s key personnel prior to kickoff.

Michigan Panthers

Led into the season by former Titans and Rams coach Jeff Fisher, the Panthers are seen as title favorites by Vegas oddsmakers. Headlining Michigan’s offense is a familiar face for many fans in former Michigan Wolverines quarterback Shea Patterson. The dual-threat passer was the league’s top draft pick and therefore has sky-high expectations this season. Former NFL first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch is another option for Fisher under center, as he picked up the 6’7″ passer in the 12th round of the draft.

Defensively, the Panthers signed former Maryland  defender Cavon Walker. Walker was a versatile defender in the XFL and seen as one of the league’s top players. Expect to hear his name often this season. 

Pittsburgh Maulers

After a short NFL career former Richmond Spiders quarterback Kyle Lauletta looks to revive his career with the USFL’s Maulers. The one-time 4th round NFL draft pick will have a chance to be top quarterback in the league as Pittsburgh has the potential to put up buckets of points in an exciting Kirby Wilson coached offense. Running back Madre London joins Lauletta in the backfield after an MVP and two thousand-yard season in the European League of Football.

Former CFL linebacker Dale Warren has the athletic ability to be a difference-maker for their Maulers on both defense and special teams. Defensive end Carlo Kemp is another dark hose player to keep an eye on. Kemp flashed elite potential as a collegiate player but flamed out of the NFL quickly. 

New Orleans Breakers

The Breaker’s offense may have the biggest boom or bust potential of any team in the USFL. Former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kyle Sloter is a relative unknown after barley playing in the NFL the past two seasons. However, he is an athletic specimen testing extremely well at the NFL Combine a few years ago. Now, he’ll team up with wide receiver Taywan Taylor and lineman Marquis Lucas for what should be one of the league’s best offenses.

Dartez Jacobs and Jarey Elder are two dynamic playmakers in the New Orleans secondary. Don’t be surprised to see Elder use his elite speed to take an interception to the house as a former All-American return man during his college days.

New Jersey Generals

The Generals have had a tumultuous start to the season losing starting quarterback Ben Holmes to an injury. However, management pulled the trigger on alternative pro football legend Luis Perez. Perez is a proven winner in the AAF, XFL, and Spring League and was a no brainer replacement for the Generals team. If the veteran is unable to go on short notice, New Jersey may trott out former ‘Last Chance U’ quarterback Deandre Johnson. After a fantastic season of juco football on Netflix, Johnson went on to play at Florida Atlantic and Texas Southern. Whoever is playing quarterback will certainly look for receiver Kavontae Turpin to make some plays as a speedy slot receiver and return man. 

De’Vante Bausby who spent time with the Denver Broncos should be the leader of the Generals defense with his impressive football pedigree. Bausvy played for five different teams in the NFL and was a well-polished special teamer. He and the rest of the Generals defense will need to play well as quarterback play could be rocky early on. 

Philadelphia Stars

Head coach Bart Andrus pulled the trigger on one of the USFL drafts greater unknowns picking up Bryan Scott as his quarterback. Scott and Andrus have had success together in The Spring League, where Scott was the MVP back in 2020. Expect Scott to target 6‘4″ former Clemson receiver Diondre Overton often in the redzone, as the former NCAA D3 quarterback is eager to prove his worth in pro football. 

Channing Striblng will be one of the Stars of A-list defenders. The former Michigan cornerback has the hips, speed, and ball skills to become the USFL‘s top defensive back. At the line of scrimmage, Kolin Hill (Texas Tech) has the length and strength to disrupt plays off the edge, after a outstanding season playing for the Berlin Thunder in Germany 

Tampa Bay Bandits

To the chagrin of many NFL fans, Todd Haley is back in pro football. After a less than ideal season as a high school offensive coordinator, the former Kansas City Chiefs head coach is eager to resuscitate his pro career in the USFL.

Haley drafted quarterback Jordan Ta‘amu with the second overall pick pumping excitement and expectations into the Tampa fan base. Ta‘amu aims to capitalize on a fantastic XFL season in 2020 and earn a permanent roster spot in the NFL after a journeyman season in 2021. The Ole Miss product has the athletic ability and arm to be the league star player. 

Former Alabama edge defender Mekhi Brown joins defensive tackle Reggie Howard in what could be the USFL’s most talented defensive line. In a league short on quality offensive lineman Brown, Howard, and the rest of the Bandits front seven could put Tampa Bay at a huge advantage.

Birmingham Stallions

Quarterbacks Alex Mcgough and Jmar Smith make for an intriguing duo for the USFL hometown team. Mcgough was a record-breaking passer at FIU, however, Smith was an all-conference quarterback for head coach Skip Holtz in college merely three years ago. Joining those two in the backfield is running back CJ Marable. The speedy tailback is another playmaker who is sure to see the endzone plenty of times this season

The Stallion’s defense is stacked with big names as linebacker Scooby Wright teams up with former Cleveland Browns defensive back Brian Allen. Expect the loud crowd noise to help out the hometown defense all season, as Birmingham expects to pack the stadium for their games.

Houston Gamblers

Country music superstar Kenny Rogers once said “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.“ Yet fans might be folding on Houston already as quarterback Clayton Thorson was a head scratching pick on the USFL draft. The 6‘4″ prototype passer showed potential in college but was consistently plagued by interceptions. One positive for the Gamblers comes in big bodied tight end Brandon Barnes, who played well in the XFL and is probably the USFL’s best tight end prospect. 

Defensively Chris Odom and Ahmad Gooden combine for a scary pass rushing duo. The two NFL veterans bring a speed and power off the edge in a poor man’s Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Houston will look to take advantage of inexperienced quarterbacks and win with a rough and tough defensive gameplan.

With four games this weekend the USFL will have a chance to quench the thirst of football fans around the world. League officials hope to settle the sports desert of April and do what no spring football league has done before.

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football