The key to building a championship team in the IFL is to have the ability to recruit and sign the best talent available. To sustain a championship team, a team has to understand that there are three types of IFL players. Some players come to the IFL with the hopes to get exposure and move on to a higher level of professional football, there are new players to the league that is looking for an opportunity to prove themselves, and there are veteran players that want to enjoy the game and be a part of building a great franchise.
For a successful team to maintain its position as a championship contender they have to learn to manage all three types these players on an ongoing basis. The top teams in the IFL can make good decisions consistently concerning the interests of these players.
The Massachusetts Pirates have shown the ability to acquire and develop all of these types of players consistently. This week the Pirates have moved players to the XFL, acquired new talent, and re-signed one of their best all-time players by re-signing wide receiver Thomas Owens. The 6’1″ 205-pound receiver averages 9.1 points/game and 14 yards/catch. Owens scored 22 touchdowns in 2022 and has decided to return to the Massachusetts Pirates franchise rather than move on.
The ability to retain the services of Owens is evidence that not only are the Pirates a successful team on the field, but they are also successful at creating an environment that players enjoy being a part of for their professional careers in football. The ability to manage the team well and manage their roster well is a key to their sustained success in the temporary world of indoor football.
The Pirates announced this week that seven of their players moved on to opportunities in the XFL. Four of those players were offensive linemen, and offensive linemen are the most difficult athletes to identify and acquire at all levels of football.
Many teams would be in a difficult position with their roster if they were to lose that many offensive linemen at one time. But the Pirate’s response is to continue to acquire high-level talent in that area, and they have done so by acquiring 6’4″ 345-pound Johncarlo Valentin. Valentin is a product of Baylor University and participated in a mini-camp with the New Orleans Saints in 2022.
Northern Arizona Wranglers
The NAZ Wranglers produced a huge two-season turnaround going from being a 1-win team to an IFL National Championship team in one off-season. The Wranglers now face the challenge of replacing lost talent to maintain the ability to play at a championship level in 2023. Offensively, the Wranglers added running back Jarrod Ware, veteran offensive lineman Anthony McMeans, quarterback Garrett Kettle, former CIF offensive lineman Brandon Grady, and wide receiver Jacob Moss.
On defense, NAZ acquired veteran defensive back Komotay Koffie, former Troy University linebacker Justin Whisenhunt, and defensive end Nate Breeson. NAZ’s ability to attract high-quality talent is an impressive feat in the IFL.
The Frisco Fighters are another team that has set a standard that they will be one of the best teams in the IFL every season. Like all other IFL teams, they have significant roster movement, which is a sign of a healthy IFL team. As they lose the talent they are also losing to add talent to maintain the competitive equilibrium of their franchise.
On offense, the Fighters have re-signed 6’0″ 190-pound wide receiver Jerminic Smith, 6’4″ 330-pound offensive lineman Jaden Salley, wide receiver Elisha Peat, IFL veteran running back Ramses Owens, and offensive lineman Donell Paster. Defensively, Frisco has acquired 6’0″ 190-pound defensive back Shaq Bond who made the All-Moutain West team in 2019, 2020, and 2021 while playing at Utah State.
Quad City Steamwheelers
The Quad City Steamwheelers was a surprise championship team from the East division and were an example that gets into the playoffs hot and healthy. The Steamwheeler’s momentum took them to the IFL National Championship game where they lost by only two points. It will be interesting to see if Quad City can build off of that playoff run or fall back to the pack.
To keep it going, the Steamwheelers added a lot of talent to their defense this week. Defensively, Quad City have acquired defensive back Tyree Bostick, defensive back Roosevelt Lawrence, and defensive back Rishad Goode, and they have re-signed defensive end, Jaylin Swan. In addition, the Steamwheelers re-signed one of the top leaders on the roster defensive back Malik Duncan.
This week the Arizona Rattlers have been relatively quiet, but they are historically one of the most successfully managed franchises not only in the IFL but in the history of indoor football. Earlier in the off-season, the Rattlers were very active concerning building their roster.
So the slow week of adding players is most likely a sign that they are feeling comfortable and confident about the roster they have built so far. The Rattlers did add defensive back, Simeon Gatling. It will be interesting to see how a more conservative approach performs compared to some of the most aggressive roster-building teams in the IFL.
Duke City Gladiators
The Duke City Gladiators are another team that has slowed their rate of acquiring players this off-season. Duke City has shown the ability to consistently build a team that can qualify for the playoffs. This week the Gladiators acquired defensive tackle, Zackary Reynoso.
Last year the Gladiators brought a great passing offense but struggled to get defensive stops. This was evident in their 2022 playoff loss to the Arizona Rattlers when they could not find a consistent way to get stops against the Rattler offense.
Bay Area Panthers
The Bay Area Panther’s strategy for being the next team to go from one 1-win to a championship in one season is closely linked to the NAZ Wrangler’s ability to accomplish this task. The Panthers have acquired several players from the Wranglers 2022 roster. We will see if the Panthers can take those players and re-created the Wranglers championship run for themselves in 2023.
This week the Panthers added former Wranglers defensive back Marquise Bridges who comes to the IFL after being a part of four national championship teams with North Dakota State. Also on defense, the Panthers have added former Wrangler defensive back Bill Atkins who also brings additional indoor football experience. This season Bay Area has also added kicker Kevin Goessling who comes to the Bay Area via the Duke City Gladiators.
San Diego Strike Force
The San Diego Strike Force was a 3-13 team in 2022 and had the 10th-ranked offense and 13th-ranked defense. It does not seem so far in the off-season that the Strike Force has any sense of urgency concerning improving their roster. San Diego did add defensive players this week when they acquired former Bay Area Panthers defensive lineman Jeremiah Caine, and defensive lineman Michael Badejo. Depth on the defensive is in a high-need area for the Strike Force, so these are significant additions to their roster. It will be interesting to see if San Diego shows more urgency to build their roster as we get closer to the start of the 2023 season.
Green Bay Blizzard
The Green Bay Blizzard finished the 2022 season 6-10 and in 6th place in the East division. The Blizzard has been active concerning roster building this off-season. This week they lost offensive lineman Jovaun Woolford to the XFL’s Saint Louis Battlehawks. They added running back Chawntez Moss, and offensive lineman Damien Britt to their offense. Blizzard also added defensive lineman Corey Brown Jr., and defensive lineman Dishawn Ray to their defensive unit.
The Iowa Barnstormers were a playoff team in 2022 as the 4th-place team in the East division. The Barnstormers have recently made roster moves to improve their standing in the East. This week, the Barnstormers re-signed defensive lineman Christopher Robinson which produced 38 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks in 15 games in 2022. They have also re-signed defensive back Tyrell Pearson for the 2023 season. The Barnstormers have also added offensive lineman Joe Bastante who played collegiately at Stonehill College.
Tucson Sugar Skulls
The Tucson Sugar Skulls are another team that has been a middle-of-the-pack IFL team that has been able to qualify for the playoffs. The Sugar Skulls have made efforts this week to improve their roster to sustain their success. Defensively, the Sugar Skulls added defensive back JJ Dallas who comes with experience from the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, and they added defensive lineman Eddie Zinn Turner which played college football at Vanderbilt. On offense, Tucson has added wide receiver MJ Harris III who joins the Sugar Skulls after playing his college football at Arizona State.
The first-year IFL team, the Tulsa Oilers continue to face the challenge of building their first IFL roster. On offense, Tulsa added veteran running back Josh Robinson, which has professional indoor football experience in the FCF and the CIF. The 5’8″ 210-pound running back had 58 rushing yards with 15 carries for the Zappers of the FCF. The Oilers have also added defensive back, Kelvin Jenkins.
Follow me on Twitter: @AaronSauter7
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