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USFL 2022 Draft Recap: Birmingham Stallions

Ahh, the home team. Since the USFL hub is happening at Legion Field Stadium in Birmingham, I think every Stallions game is going to give them the home field advantage. Football fans in Alabama have been gunning for a pro team since the AAF and the Birmingham Iron shuttered their doors, so the Stallions should have a big following out of the gate when the USFL kicks off. Looks like they’ll be cheering on a great team as well, and I’m excited to be covering the team. Denver guy, guess I just like teams with horse mascots.

The Quarterbacks

With their first pick in the Draft, the Stallions selected former Seahawks QB Alex McGough. The Florida International product set the school’s record for career touchdowns in his time there, with 65 scores (plus another 16 on the ground) between 2014 and 2017. His time with the Panthers at FIU caught the attention of the Seattle Seahawks, who selected him in the 7th Round of the 2018 Draft.

The thing I like most about his game is he’s constantly proving doubters wrong. NFL Scouts didn’t even rank him in the draft process, saying he needed time in developmental leagues before NFL consideration, but he got picked in the draft, and now has 4 years of pro experience with Seattle, Jacksonville and Houston. The 26 year old passer brings good size, athleticism, and a quality touch ball to Birmingham, and I like this pick a lot.

His presumed QB2 is J’Mar Smith, who’ll be reuniting with Head Coach Skip Holtz. The two had great success together at Louisiana Tech, going 30-13, including J’Mar’s senior season where the Bulldogs went 10-1. Smith threw for 2977 Yards, 18 TD’s and just 5 picks while adding 264 rush yards and another 4 scores on the ground. He has a good arm and puts nice zip on this downfield throws, has a quick release and speed when he does break outside. There’s a lot to like here, and I wonder if his ties to Louisiana Tech and Skip Holtz could lead to a camp battle in Birmingham.

The Running Backs

Tony Brooks-James was the first back the Stallions took in the Draft, and he is electric. At 5’9″ 190 he possesses 4.45 speed, and brings value as a rusher, receiver and returner. Though he’ll be heavily involved in the offense, I’d wager he gets a lot of looks as the team’s return specialist as well. The former Oregon Duck has had stints with the Falcons, Bucs, Steelers and Vikings since signing in Atlanta as a UDFA in 2019. He strikes me as an X-Factor on offense, and they’ll be looking to him for some big chunk plays this year. More stuff like this.

C.J. Marable out of Coastal Carolina has all the makings of a 3 down back. At 5’10” 200 pounds he has 4.58 speed, and was highly productive in both phases of the offense. He finished his time in college with 2,691 rush yards and 29 TD’s, with another 703 receiving yards and another 17 TD’s through the air. Whether its a run or pass play, Marable has a nose for the end zone, and is a shifty, fluid cutback runner with good acceleration.

The Wideouts

Victor Bolden Jr. was the first receiver taken by the Stallions, and he’s already cut his teeth as a return specialist in the NFL, and made some big plays like this 92 yard punt return in San Francisco. He’s been with the 49ers, Bills and Lions, and will look to bring his speed to this offense. He’s used to being a home run threat after his time at Oregon State where he put up 2,590 yards from scrimmage and 10 TD’s, and could fit in as a deep threat outside or seam splitter from the slot.

Emmanuel Hall is a big, physical receiver out of Missouri, standing at 6’3″, 200 pounds. He’s had stints in the NFL in Chicago, Tampa Bay and Washington, and as a 2x Junior Olympic Gold Medal winner in track & field, he’s got 4.39 speed to match his size. I know those are just numbers on a page, but that is elite size and speed for a WR, and with good production during his time in the SEC, I’m very high on him as a potential X receiver here. He had 97 receptions for 2016 yards and 16 TD’s, at a whopping 20.8 yards/reception. I think he’s a hitter, can’t wait to see what he can do.

Osirus Mitchell out of Mississippi State is huge (6’5″, 210) and had good production over 4 years in the SEC with 107 rec, 1413 yards, and 14 TD. A young prospect who signed with the Cowboys as a UDFA for the course of the 2021 season, I think he’s got high upside as a boundary/red zone threat, and if they stack Mitchell across from Hall, that’s two huge targets outside for secondary’s to contend with. Sticky hands, good long speed and boxes out defenders well.

Peyton Ramzy is another solid young option out of Tuskeegee, and I’m happy to see the USFL is drawing from the HBCU talent pool here. The former Golden Bear had 65 receptions for 1337 yards and 14 TD’s in his time there, and has good size at 6’1. Looking at his senior campaign, it’s easy to see why Birmingham wanted to bring him in. High level footwork, an advanced route tree already and the ability to make contested catches makes me think he’ll be pushing for a starting role, and there is a lot to like here.

Manasseh Bailey out of Morgan State was a 2-time All-MEAC selection, and wowed his senior year with the Bears. He had 49 receptions for 944 yards and 10 TD’s in 2019, and has spent time with the Eagles, Chargers and Jets in recent years. At 6’1″, he brings 4.39 speed to the table, and it looks like the Stallions are going the Al Davis route, betting on speed outside. 2nd HBCU player on this roster, love to see it.

The Tight End

Birmingham only took one tight end, but I think they got a good one in Cary Angeline. A basketball convert who stands at 6’6″ 250, he’s a mismatch waiting to happen already, but pairs his size with good hands and separation ability. Tools aside, he’s had fantastic production for a college tight end, whom often come a long slowly in that regard. He logged 61 Receptions for 960 yards and 12 TD’s in 3 campaigns with the Wolfpack at NC State, which is significant. Scouts have said his blocking game needs work, as with many young TE prospects but Angeline already could be a deadly threat over the middle. After stints with the Eagles and Cardinals, he stands poised to make an impact early in this passing game.

The Offensive Line

Darius Harper is another basketball convert who bulked up to 6’7″ 300 pounds to play OT at Cincinnati for two years, before signing with the Chargers as a UDFA. He is highly athletic, and with his size/speed is an intriguing prospect, though he is new to the OL, two years in. Interested to see how his development goes, great tools

O’Shea Dugas, a mauling RT if I’ve ever seen one. He stands 6’5″ 330 pounds tall, and was a 3x All-Conference USA and 3x All-Louisiana player at Louisiana Tech. He landed with the Bengals in 2019 and 2020, and NFL experience on the line is crucial here.

Justice Powers was a regular starter at RT at UAB, after transferring from JUCO Trinity Valley CC. At 6’3″ 295 I could see a natural transition inside to RG, especially as the Stallions only selected one OL as a “Guard” in the draft.

Matthew Snow was a longtime starter at RT as well, with 36 starts at Pace under his belt. A long prospect at 6’6″ 300 pounds, he could well push for a starting spot in Birmingham with his extensive experience on the line.

Cameron Hunt is a former Oregon Duck who’s been in the NFL since 2017, spending time with the Broncos, 49ers and Raiders. Since he was the only guard drafted by the team, it’s safe to say he’ll be starting, most likely at LG, if Powers transitions inside.

The Stallions got a bonafide veteran Center in Jordan McCray, who’s been around the NFL since 2014. He’s been with the Packers, Vikings, Panthers and Bears at IOL. As the only center on the roster, he’ll project as starter as well. The Stallions have just 6 linemen at the present, and though we are dealing with just 45 man rosters here, I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought in another IOL behind Hunt and McCray.

Edge Rusher

Alt league fans in Birmingham may remember Aaron Adeoye from the Birmingham Iron days of the AAF, where he made 6 QB Hits, 13 tackles, a forced fumble and half a sack in his time there. The 6’6″ 250 pound edge rusher played basketball at Southeast Missouri before switching to football in his last year of eligibility. He went on to play Champions Indoor Football and with TSL before jumping to the AAF and eventually NFL with stints on the Ravens, Jets and Packers. He’s had an impressive rise in the football world for having just gotten into the game, and I can’t wait to see what he can do.

Chauncey Haney played well as in his first three years at North Greenville University, but exploded in his senior year with 9.5 sacks, 16 TFL and 2 forced fumbles. The 6’5″ 245 pounder has the length coaches like to see around the edge, and played with the Blues in The Spring League. Looking at his college tape, he defends with a high motor through the whistle, and utilizes his length well, reaching out to snag ballcarriers who might otherwise get away from him.

The Stallions continued to go tall on the Edge, and Seth Thomas fits the bill at 6’6″ ~270 pounds. He may end up fitting as more of a interior pass rusher depending on the package, but brings good pressure, having made 98 tackles and 8 sacks in his career at Northern Iowa. He also played with the Blues in TSL, and his gritty power shines through on tape. Though I think he’ll likely kick inside, it’s good to have interior pressure guys like this.

A proven football veteran who’s sure to boost this unit, Jonathan Newsome has 7.5 sacks in the NFL, and 11 sacks in the CFL. At 31, he’s played for Indianapolis, Saskatchewan, Ottawa and BC, and brings a great history of production in the pros to this young team.

Defensive Line

Willie Yarbary was a destructive force on the interior of Wake Forest’s defense for years, racking up 12 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in his time there. The 6’2″ 290 pound lineman has since played with the Conquerors in TSL and Chargers in the NFL, and should anchor the trenches here.

Haston Adams dominated the competition at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor with the CRU, and finished his time there with eye popping stats, including 21 sacks and 58.5 tackles for loss, largely over his sophomore, junior and senior campaigns. He got a shot with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 as a UDFA, but is laced back up and ready to go in the USFL. At 6’5″ 295 he’s well built and should be a strong force next to Yarbary.

Linebacker

Scooby Wright III has been around, and for good reason. He was an impact defender at the University of Arizona, and has been with the Browns, Cardinals and Patriots in the NFL. He’s no stranger to the Alt Football world, as he’s been with the DC Defenders of the XFL and the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF. Wright is a solid veteran linebacker who should quickly become a central force in this defense.

Jason Ferris was wildly productive in his time at Montana Western, notching 345 tackles, 29 for loss, 8.5 sacks, 26 pass breakups and 7 interceptions. Clearly capable on all fronts, he can be a true 3-down linebacker for the team, and is an asset in all phases of defense from the run, to coverage and pass rush. After a stint with the Carolina Panthers, he’ll look to make an impact in the USFL.

Demarquis Gates is a known commodity to XFL fans after his impact role with the Houston Roughnecks in 2020. A centerpiece of their undefeated defense, Gates has also played in the NFL with Cleveland, Washington and Minnesota, the CFL in Saskatchewan and the AAF with the Memphis Express. Another veteran linebacker, will likely start or see significant snaps, and offers experience and serious talent in 4-3 or Nickel alignments.

Terrill Hanks spent 2019 and 2020 with the Miami Dolphins, and its not hard to see why they were interested. At New Mexico State he posted 391 tackles, 43.5 for loss, 11 sacks, 8 interceptions and 7 forced fumbles. A force to be reckoned with over 4 seasons with the Aggies, his draft stock was hurt because he pulled a hamstring while running the 40 yard dash, but is coming into a perfect opportunity to prove himself in the USFL.

Brody Buck is coming off a solid senior campaign at Northwest Missouri, and the thing that jumps out immediately is how he shows up in big games. Whenever the team needs someone to step up, Buck is there. In the 2019 NCAA playoffs, he posted 14 tackles vs Ferris State, and 13 the next week versus Harding. He did so again this year, posting 14 tackles vs Harding, and 9 vs Ferris State in the 2021 playoffs. Having the clutch gene in this linebacking corps is a great bonus.

Safety

Christian McFarland played at Idaho State, and has been involved with TSL and HUB recently. Per Sports Illustrated’s HUB Camp report it looks like he’ll be a valuable defender on the back end.

“On TSL film, he proved to be a solid forum tackler in the open filed, to compliment his capable pass coverage ability. At HUB, he demonstrated a high motor, quick acceleration and was extremely fast covering ground from sideline-to-sideline; swift to diagnose a play, read and react. Possesses nice movement skills; adequate hips and change of direction, along with smooth backpedal”

Tyree Robinson was a prolific member of Oregon’s defense in the PAC-12, making 201 stops, 17 passes defensed and 6 interceptions in his time there. He went on to stops with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers before heading to the CFL, where he’s been with the Hamilton Tiger Cats the past two years. He was set to play with the Edmonton Elks next year, but will be bringing his talents to Birmingham come spring.

Cornerback

Brian Allen has it all. The Utah product is 6’3″ 200 pounds and possesses 4.48 speed. If I was making a corner in Madden, those would be the numbers, and Allen has 5 years of NFL experience with the Steelers, Seahawks, Bills, 49ers, Bengals and Browns. A prototypically built DB who has the speed and size to run with bigger receivers and tight ends that are rising in the football world, his talents will be crucial to holding down the pass defense here.

Tae Hayes is another corner with NFL experience, having played with the Jaguars, Vikings, Dolphins, Cardinals and Panthers from 2019-2021. In very limited playing time he’s been able to make an impact, with 2 pass deflections and a fumble return on his resume in the pros. A scrappy corner with good instincts, he’s a good pairing across from Allen.

Bryan Mills took the JUCO route to North Carolina Central, and eventually the NFL. He’s played with the Browns, Vikings, Saints and Seahawks, and will bring a physicality to this secondary. He’s a big corner at 6’1″ who plays well at the point of attack and could fit in well as the team’s Nickel here.

Lorenzo Burns is a certified ballhawk. In his 2017 and 2019 campaigns at Arizona, he had 5 and 4 interceptions respectively, and finished his time there with 35 pass breakups to boot. With solid measurables at 5’11 with ~4.5 speed, he’s spend time with the Jaguars and is looking to make plays here in the USFL. A player with ball skills like his is incredibly valuable to any secondary.

Special Teams

Kicker Brandon Aubrey is a Futbol convert who played for Notre Dame and Toronto FC in the MLS before making the jump to Gridiron Football. He’s been working with 23 year NFL veteran kicker John Carney to get his leg honed in, and churns out 60 yarders on his instagram regularly.

Punter Colby Wadman has two seasons of starting experience in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, and put up a sterling 44.5 Yards/Punt in his time here. He’s also had stints with the 49ers and Raiders, and is as steady as you’ll find in the league.

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Matt Nagashima has been covering the XFL since before the 2019 Draft, and has witnessed history being made as a Credentialed Reporter for the Dallas Renegades. While he is engrossed with the X's and O's, the roster building and more, it has always been his goal to keep the players first in mind in coverage, showing the human aspect of this sport behind all the action on the field. With Dany Garcia and Dwayne The Rock Johnson now at the helm, he's excited to see all the opportunities that this league will create for players to showcase their talent and make their dreams come true.

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