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San Antonio Brahmas

Breaking Down the San Antonio Brahmas’ Defense

San Antonio can rejoice in 2023 knowing they have both an Indoor and outdoor team representing their city. With the Addition of the Brahmas in San Antonio, the fan base for the area can finally prove they deserve a professional football team of this magnitude. Bringing the Brahmas to San Antonio was no accident, this city is hungry for football, and has a proven track record of hosting teams from other cities when needed.

The New Orleans Saints used it as a temporary home after Hurricane Katrina, and it took the AAF’s San Antonio to break the 14 year drought of outdoor football in the city. After the AAF folded in 2019, the Gunslingers of the National Arena League moved in to the market launching in 2020. However there was still a missing piece to sports in San Antonio, an outdoor football team. Something the city itself had campaigned for over the years. Thanks to the XFL, they now have added the final piece to the sporting scene in San Antonio.

A Defense is Only as Good as it’s Coach

First let’s take a look at the man running the show on defense for the Brahmas. Defensive Coordinator Jim Hermann is a coaching veteran. With years of experience at the college, NFL, and Spring Football levels. He has coached in a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense throughout his career. He is something of a linebacker expert having spent most of his career overseeing the position. This would stand to reason given his background playing the position at Michigan in the early eighties.

His coaching career began in 1985, he would spend the first twenty seasons of his career at his alma mater. The First ten as an assistant and the last ten as a defensive coordinator. After this he began to receive NFL interest, joining the Jets in 2006. He would spend the next twelve seasons in the NFL with the Jets, Giants, and Colts. Serving under Eric Mangini, Tom Coughlin, and Chuck Pagano all defensive minded coaches. In my opinion this shows you just how well respected he was as a linebackers coach, when some of the hotter defensive minds at the time sought out Hermann to coach their linebackers. After Pagano left the Colts in 2018, Hermann returned to the college level, this time as a defensive coordinator and associate head coach with Bowling Green for one season. This was the precursor to his first taste of the XFL in 2020.

He joined the New York Guardians in 2020 as their defensive coordinator, and seemingly enjoyed the experience given his return to the XFL in 2023, now under head coach Hines Ward. Hermann will likely have full autonomy on defense given Ward’s expertise. Given the coaches he has worked under, the way he has approached defense in his past, and the players he selected, it would appear we can expect to see varied fronts, shifting between 4 down and 3 down linemen sets. I personally believe this Brahmas’ defense could be an extremely dominant unit in 2023 leaving offenses on their toes at all times.

Defensive Front Seven

Justin Alexandre 6’5 256 lbs

Justin Alexandre is a former JUCO product attending ASA Brooklyn. The former ASA Avenger was listed as a tight end in 2015 when he first arrived at the school following in his family’s footsteps by attending the school.

He would end up seeing time in two games as a freshman on defense collecting 2 tackles and assisting with a tackle for a loss. This performance likely didn’t inspire many to believe Alexandre would excel as he did in the future. Eventually, Alexandre landed with Incarnate Ward an FCS division I program located in San Antonio, Texas.

During his two seasons at Incarnate Ward Alexandre gave teams a glimpse of what he could be as a pass rusher. In 2018 his senior season, he collected 55 tackles and 8.5 sacks. Following up his Junior campaign in which he had 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks in spot duty. After college, he would sign with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent. Ultimately he would end up released.

This led him to pursue the CFL in 2020, before the season was canceled he signed with Winnipeg, who were fresh off their first of two straight Grey Cup victories.  Given the interest he received before COVID it’s clear to me he would have found a home in an outdoor league before long. However, he kind of fell off the NFL/CFL map in 2021. He would ultimately end up playing in the National Arena League in 2022. Having played tight end and defensive end in college he was perfect for the Iron Man league.

He would suit up for the San Antonio Gunslingers of the NAL being named to the All-NAL team. It’s interesting to see him be selected by the Brahmas allowing him to stay in San Antonio. This is an underrated move for many reasons not least of which are its ties to the region.

Riko Jeffers 6’2 230 lbs

Riko Jeffers is another guy with Texas ties. His hometown is Garland, Texas. He would end up attending Texas Tech from 2017-2021. Five seasons at Texas Tech only helped make him a recognizable face in the community. This should in turn help the Brahmas draw fans to the stands right away in 2023.

In his five seasons with the school, he was a starter in four of them. Playing in 59 career games, he managed three seasons with 70 tackles or more. During his career with the Red Raiders, he displayed the traits to play inside or outside. He may have entered Texas Tech at 245 pounds, but by the time he graduated, he had dropped 15 pounds to increase his speed and agility, aiding him in coverage responsibilities.

Jeffers often found himself making tackles in the backfield collecting 26.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. His deficiencies have always been in his coverage abilities. Logging just 7 passes deflected, and 1 interception in five seasons. If I were the coach tasked with putting him in the best position to succeed I would want him to play as a rush linebacker.

Despite dropping the weight that he did, he still ran a 4.95 40-yard dash displaying his lack of top-end speed to run with the receivers and tight ends in the modern game. To aid him in his career you simply play to his strengths and remove his responsibilities in areas he isn’t as strong. Let him return to where he found the most success at Texas Tech and allow him to focus on living in the opposing backfield.

Denzel Chukwukelu 6’4 290 pounds

With the third pick in the 2023 XFL Draft, the San Antonio Brahmas select Denzel Chukwukelu out of the University of Texas El Paso. The former Miner played all four years for the school, but was never a full-time starter, bouncing in and out of the lineup.

Yet another Texas native on the roster, San Antonio is playing heavily in their region in an attempt to build a fan base. In his first two seasons at UTEP, he didn’t play often but still managed to rank 4th on the team in quarterback hurries as a freshman. By his Junior season, he had found his groove on the field.

During his final two seasons, he appeared in 24 games, collecting 65 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and 5 sacks. He added 3 tipped passes, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, and even blocked 2 kicks as a Junior.

Eventually, he would land in the IFL with the Iowa Barnstormers. Playing in 7 games he would collect 14 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 tipped passes, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 sack.

Denzel would return to the IFL in 2022 with the Tucson Sugar Skulls. He would have a dominant performance collecting 8 tackles of which 5 went for a loss, 2 tipped passes, and a sack in 6 games.

Youhanna Ghaifan 6’4 290 pounds

One thing is for certain the Brahmas understand the importance of a solid front four. Drafting Ghaifan formerly of Wyoming will be a huge boon to the roster in 2023. Ghaifan is another player who lived in opposing backfields but at an even higher rate than Jeffers at linebacker.

Ghaifan redshirted in Wyoming as a freshman. Over the next three seasons, he played in 20 career games in which he collected 27 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. He also managed 4 passes deflected and 4 forced fumbles. He would declare for the NFL Draft in 2019. This came after Ghaifan was suspended for actions that took place during the week of the “Border War” a game between the Colorado Buffaloes, and Wyoming Cowboys.

This led to him missing the rest of the year and deciding it was in his best interests to leave the program with one year of eligibility left. By the time Ghaifan took part in the combine, he had dropped 8 pounds off his frame. Ultimately this wouldn’t help him in his pursuit of an outdoor football career at the time.

He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. It wasn’t until he went on to play for the IFL’s Massachusetts Pirates before the 2020 season, that it appeared like he would be a major contributor once again. That was until COVID ripped the season away from him. Luckily Mass wanted him back in 2021.

He would return to play 3 games collecting 6 tackles, 3 for a loss, .5 for a sack, 1 pass deflection, and 1 fumble recovery on the year. In 2022 Ghaifan decided to accept an offer to play in Mexico for the Jefes. By all accounts he played well which helped his case to get drafted by the XFL, having recent outdoor film was crucial for the one-time stud defensive tackle. When asked about his feelings on being selected “just excited and ready to prove myself”. It sounds like Ghaifan understands the task at hand in 2023, and isn’t shying away from this new challenge.

Owen Carney, 6’3 275 pounds

Listed as a linebacker I think where Carney lines up will vary on a play-by-play basis. At 6’3 275 pounds, he is a better fit for a true 4-3 defensive end position with the size and speed to play the position. He has played linebacker in a 3-4 as well, although in my mind he is about 15-20 pounds heavier than most 3-4 outside backers, or those that play the 4-3 over front. The Brahmas could run multiple fronts in 2023.

Defensive coordinator Jim Hermann has worked in both schemes, and it’s clear he was selecting players with some scheme versatility to allow him some room to get creative with his position groupings. With several different types of pass rushers available, this defense could be one of the tougher units to face in 2023. What’s ironic about this is that Carney was listed as a defensive lineman at 260 pounds or below, until his senior season when he is listed at 275 pounds, as an outside linebacker.

Carney attended Illinois University all five seasons of college. Playing in a collective 55 games Carney was a productive player despite not starting until his senior year. He produced 116 tackles, 16 sacks, 21.5 tackles for a loss, 3 passes tipped, 1 forced fumble, and 1 recovery. Graduating after the 2021 season he would enter the NFL Draft. He would go unselected ultimately landing with Miami. In three preseason games for the Dolphins, he would collect 4 tackles, and 1.5 sacks, a solid performance for an undrafted rookie. He later would also work out with the Bengals. I am personally excited about Carney, and the role he will play.

Omari Cobb 6’4 223 lbs

Omari Cobb is another Division I FBS player. Having attended Marshall for his entire college career, Cobb had a solid if not spectacular career for the program. He would play in a collective 47 games for the school. The thing Brahma’s fans will come to learn about Cobb is despite standing 223 pounds as a linebacker, he isn’t just strictly a coverage specialist.

In fact, during his time with Marshall, he was regularly used to rush the passer. Producing 12.5 sacks in four seasons, Cobb had 3 or more sacks in 3 seasons of his career. He also added value in the coverage department where he collected 2 interceptions for 30 yards and 1 touchdown, as well as 3 passes tipped. He also would produce 2 forced fumbles and 1 recovery. Somehow he was involved in a punt return as a freshman as well. Cobb would graduate after the 2019 season and watch as covid demolished any chance he had of making a name for himself in the combine circuit.

Regarded as a 4.6-4.7 guy in the forty-yard dash, Cobb may not have changed his draft status with the ability to participate in the combine, but it couldn’t have hurt his stock. Especially if he had been able to display his power. With 21 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, Cobb is a strong player despite his relative lack of size at the position. He could easily play a rush linebacker role if asked. Collecting an 8.43 relative athletic score, Cobb found his way onto the Chiefs.

Cobb originally latched on with the Chiefs playing in one game as a rookie. He would sign with the Giants practice squad during the 2021 season. He would later work out with the Patriots, Raiders, Browns, and Bears attempting to find a home in the NFL, but ultimately didn’t latch on with a team for the 2022 season leaving him available for the XFL Draft Class.

Prince Emili, 6’2 300 lbs

Prince Emili will add another big body to the rotation. Whether they choose to run a 3-4 and put Emili in as a defensive end, or a 4-3 and slide him in at defensive tackle, he is another scheme versatile player looking to make an impact wherever they place him. A Penn Alum, Emili was an extremely active defensive tackle in college.

In the mold of a Fletcher Cox, Emili was often found in the opposing backfield. Despite playing in just 37 games over four seasons, he collected 30.5 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. Both are impressive numbers for a 300-pound defensive tackle. His motor is relentless, and his burst off the line is surprising, to say the least.

I believe he would be an ideal fit as a 3-4 defensive end. His ability to two-gap, or provide pressure would be crucial in this role. Regardless, Emili is just another solid piece to this incredibly talented front seven for the Brahmas so far. Originally latching on with the Saints, he would appear in his first regular season game with Buffalo. Playing in two games for the Bills he collected 3 tackles and 1 pass deflection. Playing in three preseason games he also managed 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pass deflection. Something tells me Jim Hermann, is going to love the young lineman.

Andrzej Hughes-Murray, 6’2 247 lbs

Hughes-Murray played his entire career for the Oregon State Beavers, which spanned six years. Beginning at the school back in 2016 he would play immediately, although not as a starter. He would play in a collective 50 games in college. In 2019 he suffered an injury that resulted in a medical redshirt allowing him a 5th year of eligibility just before the covid pandemic afforded players another extra year of eligibility. This allowed Hughes-Murray to attend the school up until the 2021 season.

During college, he wasn’t a full-time starter for the school. Collecting 157 tackles total, with 22 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, 4 passes tipped, 1 forced fumble, 2 recoveries, and 2 blocked kicks. He holds value on special teams which makes him a great pick here for the Brahmas. It doesn’t hurt that he can play inside or outside, and can produce pressure on the quarterback when called upon as well.

After college, he would latch on with the Rams, but end up being released before he could appear in a game for the team. Hughes-Murray is one of those players at linebacker whose value can’t be oversold. He may not end up a starter, but anytime you can add a depth piece that can truly play all three linebacker spots, and nearly every special team’s unit, you have to jump at that player in my opinion. The difference between good teams, and great teams, is guys like Hughes-Murray who fill in the gaps on defense, and special teams when asked.

Joel Dublanko, 6’3 240 lbs

Dublanko was a highly productive college player that bloomed late in his college career. Having one of the longest college careers I have ever seen, Dublanko first joined the program in 2015 but would redshirt in 2016 and not see the field for the first time until the 2017 season. DUB as his teammates call him would go on to work his way into the lineup over the next five seasons.

In 2017 he would play in 12 games but produced just 8 tackles. In 2018 he played a little bit more this time collecting 27 tackles. By 2019 he was often in the line-up but still not yet a starter. He would have his best season yet collecting 34 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and his first sack and forced fumble. By 2020 he was finally taking over as a regular starter. He would reward his team with his best season to date. Playing in 10 games he had 51 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.

If his teammates thought this was his breakout season, they were wrong. As a senior, Dublanko seemed to know he wasn’t getting the recognition he needed to make it in the NFL as of yet. With that in mind, he played like a man possessed in 2021. Playing in 14 games he collected 113 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 5.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 tipped passes. He suddenly put himself on the NFL radar. Signing with the Seahawks for the 2022 season, he played in all three preseason games.

During these appearances, he cemented a future in professional football. He would play significant time in all three games, being given a chance to prove himself at the NFL level. By the end of those three games, he had put up 22 tackles, .5 sacks, and 1 tipped pass. He displayed the ability to run sideline to sideline, which could ultimately land him an inside linebacker despite his time playing defensive end and outside linebacker in college, and high school. Regardless Hermann has another shiny new toy to play with in this defense.

Drew Beesley, 6’2 260 lbs

Beesley is yet another player who could perceivably play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end, or standing up as an outside linebacker. He is one of the more intriguing players on this defense because you simply don’t know what he will bring to the table. While he played a lot in college, he was always a depth piece and never counted on as a starter.

In his role as a designated pass rusher, Beesley produced quite well despite not being the first off the bench for Michigan State. After signing with the program as a 6’2 230 pound pass rusher with 17 high school sacks on his resume. He would play for the program in the High School Coaches All-Star Game which helped him garner the attention of the school. By the time he left school, he had added 30 pounds of muscle to his frame and developed from a designated pass rusher off the bench into a guy who could perceivably hold down a starting position for his team.

Beesley returned to Michigan State as a graduate student after obtaining a degree in economics to get a graduate degree in sports coaching, and leadership. I felt this was important to highlight, because, despite his status as a fairly inexperienced player, he is viewing the field like a coach at this point. This was displayed in his performance during the 2021 season. Despite playing in just 9 games he was able to pick up 5.5 tackles for a loss, and 5.5 sacks, to go along with 2 tipped passes, 1 forced fumble, and 1 recovery.

Mike Tverdov, 6’4 275 lbs

Tverdov is another perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end, or a guy who can play defensive end on first and second down, and shift inside to rush the passer on 3rd down in a 4-3. It will be interesting to see exactly how he is utilized and whether he plays end or tackle primarily. In a 4-3 front left to attack the middle, I think Tverdov could do damage, but it remains to be seen how all these pass-rushers are utilized in 2023.

Attending Rutgers University Tverdov was a productive player throughout his career. After spending his first season as a redshirt player he would jump right into the lineup in 2018. Playing in 12 games he produced 31 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, and 4 sacks. The following season he saw a slump in impact plays, racking up 43 tackles, with just 2.5 tackles for a loss, and .5 sacks. This would be a trend for his college career. In 2020 he would have the best season of his short career.

Collecting 40 tackles, 10.5 were for a loss, with 4 more sacks added to his resume. Unfortunately, that’s where his sack numbers would stay despite playing a fourth season. In 2021, Tverdov was relegated to coming off the bench for the school. This significantly hurt his production, playing in 9 games he had 16 tackles, with just 1 for a loss, and 0 sacks on the season. Not the best look heading into the draft. After the draft, he was invited to camp with the Miami Dolphins, based partially on his pro-day performance. Weighing in at 6’3 266 lbs, he put up 28 reps in the bench press, running a 4.82 forty-yard dash. Very solid numbers for a guy projected to do most of his damage rushing from the interior.

Secondary

The coaches this staff has to oversee the secondary might be the best in the league in terms of position coaches. Corey Chamblin is fresh off of winning a USFL Championship in 2022 while coaching defensive backs. A former spring football player himself, Chamblin has been coaching the position group he played since 2006. Most of his career has come north of the border in the CFL, including in 2019 when he spent one season as the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts.

As if Chamblin wasn’t good enough by himself, he has hired Derrius Bell away from the Arkansas Attack of the MLFB. Bell is a former coach in the XFL2020 but got his first experience running defense with The Spring League. Bell is by title the assistant defensive backs coach, but his wealth of knowledge along with Chamblin is going to make for a tough secondary this season.

Luq Barcoo, 6’1 175 lbs

Barcoo is a name I instantly recognized, and for some reason had thought bounced around the NFL a lot longer than he did. At 24 years old, he originally landed with an NFL team in the 2020 season. Barcoo is a feel-good success story about a JUCO player who dominated for two seasons at Grossmont Community College before transferring to San Diego State University.

This move to transfer likely put him on the NFL map in the first place. However, as we all know coming out during the 2020 draft process was tough without the ability to participate in the combine, and some players even missed the chance at a pro day. This likely prevented Barcoo from being drafted if we are being honest. However, Barcoo and his trainers got creative and filmed their pro-day for the budding young defensive back.

He put up numbers like a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash or a 41-inch vertical jump, and a 6.84 L drill displaying he was a freak athlete, to say the least. This led Barcoo to receive interest from the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he would play his entire rookie season. He would play in 3 games even starting 1 game collecting 10 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 tipped pass. He has not appeared in a game since despite signing with the Cardinals, 49ers, Chiefs, and Jets during the following two seasons. He was released by the Jets on August 16th allowing him to pursue the XFL. This might be the chance Barcoo needs to solidify a position for himself on an NFL team.

Kary Vincent Jr., 5’10 189 lbs

There is one word that comes to mind when you see Vincent Jr. play. FAST. The Texas Native returns home to represent the San Antonio area not far from where he grew up. Having lived there up to his days in high school, he is sure to still have fans in the area who remember him as a First Team All-USA team member for the State of Texas. He would go on to attend LSU, where he again would continue to make a name for himself.

During his first two seasons at the school, he operated primarily as a nickel defender operating against slot receivers. He would play quite well in this role. In 17 games through his first two seasons as the third or fourth defensive back off the bench, Vincent Jr. was able to collect 40 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, 1 sack, 7 passes deflected, and 2 interceptions. As a junior, he finally got his chance to be a starter.

He would have his best season yet. Playing in 15 games, he showed he wasn’t afraid to mix it up and make a tackle with 47 stops, including 2 for a loss, but he showed he can lock receivers down and create big plays as well. He intercepted four passes adding on 45 return yards and deflected 8 passes. He did not play during the 2020 season and opted to enter the draft. He was selected in the 7th round by the Denver Broncos. He had an interesting rookie season in which he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, in exchange for a 6th-round pick.

The Eagles were loading up on young defensive backs to see if they could find some long-lasting talent opposite of Darius Slay. After staying with the Eagles to finish out the 2021 season, even appearing in games, he was released before the 2022 season. He was briefly with the 49ers practice squad before being released a week later. The XFL is lucky to pick up such a young, athletic defensive back like Vincent Jr. He is the type of player who could use the coaching Chamblin and Bell can provide. This will help him develop as a player and match the mental aspect of his game to the undeniable athletic ability he already possesses.

Bubba Bolden, 6’3 204 lbs

Bolden is the most likely candidate to start at strong safety for the Brahmas defense. Bolden was most recently with the Cleveland Browns but played in the preseason with the Seattle Seahawks. In two games Bolden had 3 tackles for the Seahawks. He was released before the final preseason game, He wouldn’t sign with the Browns until two days after the XFL Draft.

Technically…Bolden has not been released from the Browns yet. So unless he is signed to the active roster, or opts to sign a futures deal with the Browns, he could go to the XFL, play with the Brahmas, and increase his standing in the eyes of the NFL. Bolden displayed the traits of a full-time starter in college with Miami.

After initially attending USC for the 2017 season, he would end up seeing the most playing time with the “U”.  After a slow start to his career during the 2017-2019 seasons, in 2020 he got a chance to shine. He played in 11 games, collecting 74 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, 3 tipped passes, and 4 forced fumbles. Bolden to me is a no-brainer here, I would assume the team did their due diligence on Bolden’s desire to play in the XFL before drafting him. If he is coming to the XFL, I want him on my defensive unit.

Elijah Jones, 6’2 178 lbs

Coming out of high school Jones was the top cornerback prospect in New York and the #8 cornerback prospect in the country. As wide receivers get larger and larger by the year, defensive backs that can match up are becoming more and more valuable. Jones may be on the lighter side at 178 pounds, but we have seen another corner find great success at this size before. Of course, I’m talking about Channing Stribling.

If you’re a spring football defensive back, and you’re being compared to Channing Stribling, you’re in good company. While he has played inside or outside in college, he might be a better fit at safety given some of the things he was able to do in school. In his senior season, he had 34 tackles, 3 for a loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and 15 passes deflected. It seemed everywhere the ball was, Jones wasn’t far behind to make the play. Allowing him to sit back and play the ball might be the Brahmas’ best bet at finding success for Jones.

Regardless of where he lines up, I believe he is in line for significant snaps in 2023. If I were the coach I use him as my free safety full-time to keep his coverage ability on the field at all times. Then when I need to drop him down and use him as a cornerback, I bring in another defensive back at safety. The Philadelphia Eagles used Avonte Maddox in a similar role early in his career to perfection.

A’brae Booker-Currin 6’1 200 pounds

Booker-Currin is listed as a free safety and strong safety. Assuming the Brahmas follow my thoughts with Jones, he would likely be the next player off the bench as a safety. Booker-Currin is a Dallas, Texas native, who would go on to spend two seasons with West Texas A&M.

I’ve already discussed at length how incredibly smart it is to target players who have a following in the region you’re expected to play. Booker-Currin had a winding road in college. Beginning at Orange Coast College in 2016, he would attend Saddleback College next where he spent just one season before moving on to West Texas A&M where he spent three seasons. He would finish up with Adams State.

He played well at every stop but wasn’t necessarily a superstar at any one location during his college career. Coming out of college, he had an impressive pro day putting up a 4.45 40-yard dash, 20 reps in the bench press, a 37-inch vertical leap, and a 7.01 3-cone drill. He certainly has the requisite athletic ability to play the game. The question is can he make the leap to superstar with the XFL?

Terrell Bonds, 5’8 182 lbs

Well if the Brahmas were targeting bigger defensive backs, they strayed from the plan with this pick. Terrell Bonds is a spring football league veteran who has the Alliance of American Football to thank for giving him his first professional opportunity. A member of the Memphis Express, in 8 games Bonds collected 8 tackles, and blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown for the Memphis Express. A name you’ll see again later on this list. Bonds may have gotten his start in the AAF, but he did not, play in the 2020 iteration of the NFL, because he was in fact on an NFL roster at the time.

Bonds was one of the players that used the AAF to launch his NFL career. Immediately after the AAF folded he was signed by the Baltimore Ravens where he would finish out the 2019 season and play there in 2020 as well. He would collect 6 tackles during his time with Baltimore. He would later sign with the Miami Dolphins, the day after his Ravens practice squad contract expired. However, he was released in final cuts without playing a regular season game. This left him available for the 2022 USFL Season.

Bonds was selected in round 9 by the Pittsburgh Maulers. He would go on to play as a rotational piece for the team. He collected 14 tackles, and 1 interception, while also seeing 1 punt return and 3 kick return attempts as well. Bonds is a solid nickelback option if the team opts to leave Jones at safety full-time, and use more three safety looks. Bonds could then be the third cornerback off the bench, with linebacker suffering when it comes to snaps lost.

Coney Durr, 5’10 200 lbs

Started 43 of 55 games played in college, so he is an experienced player ready to come in and contribute right away. A member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, he would go on to earn several honors during his career with the school. Including but not limited to Two-time Academic All-Big 10, two-time All-Big 10 Honorable Mention, and he was invited to the Hula Bowl as well.

At first, during Durr’s career, it looked like an injury might derail his progress in 2017. As a freshman he had played in seven games, collecting just 6 tackles, and 1 pass deflected. He hadn’t yet made the impression he needed to earn a starting job. He would play in just two games for the 2017 season before he was injured missing the rest of the season without logging any statistics.

He would return in 2018, not knowing where he stood on the roster at the time. Faced with the pressure of needing to perform to get on the field, Durr had his best season yet. With 36 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, .5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 7 tipped passes. From then on it seemed this was the norm for Durr. Around 30 tackles, 5-12 tipped passes, and 1 interception a season. Not bad numbers at all, but not the elite numbers NFL teams want to see. Durr is the type of player who could surprise people in the XFL.

Ryan Lewis, 6’0 195 lbs

For this pick the Brahmas went to the thrift shop:

Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis Perform Thrift Shop

Only kidding, this is obviously a different Ryan Lewis. Lewis is a long-time NFL journeyman that finds himself on the outside looking in when it comes to the NFL. After originally joining the NFL in 2017 with the Arizona Cardinals, Lewis would end up released, and signed by the New England Patriots to finish out the season, and begin the 2018 season.

He would spend the 2018 season with the division rival Bills, seeing some game action with them late in the season. Primarily he spent his time on the practice squad. After this, he had very brief stints with the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles. Finally finishing out the 2019 season with another AFC East team, the Dolphins. He had a cup of coffee with the Washington Football Team, before landing with the Giants to finish out the season.

This left Lewis in the cold since then, a free agent since the end of the 2020 season, he has seemingly fallen off the NFL radar. He is one of the few players that was selected by the Brahmas whom I can see a long-term future in the XFL for. Although he is likely hoping to land back in the NFL, maybe he can try and sign with the Cowboys or Jets to finish his tour of the Eastern divisions.

Cedric Stone, 5’11 196 lbs

Cedric Stone is a Liberty Flames alum, a school that was arguably put on the map in terms of professional-level talent thanks to quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson lit it up during college and wound up a first-round pick. Stone on the other hand didn’t seem to have the same luck.

Having begun his career with Georgia State, he didn’t play many during his first three seasons in school. However, in year four, he burst on the scene before transferring to finish out college with Liberty. Producing 45 tackles, 2 for a loss, 4 tipped passes and 1 fumble recovery.

At Liberty, Stone was allowed to continue starting, and he rewarded the team with a solid performance in both seasons with the school. In 21 games he collected 66 tackles, 1 for a loss, 1 interception, and 4 tipped passes. Granted he didn’t light the world on fire, but he produced enough to show he belonged at the professional level. If anything hurt his chances at the NFL, it was his 40 time. Running between a 4.6-4.7 as a safety simply won’t cut it for the NFL. Perhaps he can work on his speed during his time with the XFL, and remind scouts what he is capable of on the field.

Tenny Adewusi, 6’0 206 lbs

Adewusi was a four-year contributor for the University of Delaware Blue Hens, however, it wasn’t until his senior year that he was given a chance to play significant time. After 51 tackles in his previous 27 games, he was able to collect 38 as a senior in 12 games. He would also deflect 7 passes, and force one fumble. After four seasons with the Blue Hens, Adewusi declared for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Given his production in college, most NFL teams looked over him, and he was not invited to the NFL combine. He would put up respectable numbers at his pro-day. Running a 4.52 forty-yard dash, 16 reps in the bench press, and a 31.5-inch vertical jump. While this certainly didn’t set the world on fire, it turned a few NFL scouts’ heads, and some began to see him differently given the strength he displayed. With this, some started to view him as a free safety.

This is exactly what he was listed as when he attended a workout with the New York Giants. He would latch on with New York, and spend the rest of the offseason with them. He played in a total of 78 snaps that preseason, allowing 3 receptions on 4 targets, which led to grading out under 61 in every category per PFF.com. He also had 1 missed tackle. This led him to be released, and he would find his next opportunity with the XFL’s Dallas Renegades in 2020. He would start all 5 games for Dallas. He produced 22 tackles before the league was shut down due to covid.

I expect him to come in and compete for snaps at both safety spots. At 6’0 200 pounds he isn’t the biggest player in the world, but his time with the Giants showed us his strength was run support. Playing in the box would put him in his element more often than playing free safety ever has. Adewusi is an incredibly valuable, and versatile player who I feel can play any position in the secondary. His versatility will be one of the deciding factors on if he makes the team out of camp.

Jack Koerner, 6’0 200 lbs

The man whose last name could be mistaken for the word corner ironically plays strong safety. Having attended Iowa University, he was extremely productive over three years. In his freshman season, he primarily rode the bench, before stepping into a starting role in year two. As soon as the coaches plugged Koerner in as a starter he showed them what he could do, rushing the passer, stopping the run, and in coverage.

In his first season as a starter at the college level, he was all over the field collecting 81 tackles, including 1 for a loss, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 forced fumble. Each season Koerner seemed to get better. In year two he was on pace to top his year-one production before an injury limited him to 8 games. He would tack on 3 more interceptions, 2 more tackles for loss, and 2 more passes deflected. In his senior year, he would add another 2 interceptions, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and 1 pass deflection. This high level of production at a solid program led to interest from the New Orleans Saints.

His pro-day numbers didn’t hurt his case either, with a 4.51 forty-yard dash, 20 reps in the bench press, a 38-inch vertical leap, and a 6.72 3-cone drill all of which displayed he was an NFL-level athlete. The Saints signed Koerner immediately after the draft but cut him shortly after, he was brought back for the preseason on August 11th, but appeared in one game and logged no statistics. Koerner is the type of guy who can jumpstart his career in the XFL. If he simply displays the same type of sideline-to-sideline athleticism he did in college, and couples it with high-level coaching he will get in under Chamblin and Bell….He could be a star in the XFL. But First, he has to win a starting job.

Punter

Brad Wing, 6’3 205 lbs

Wing was born in Melbourne, Australia where he grew up playing Australian rules football which is essentially a form of rugby. One position that translates well and has been tapped by NFL teams in the past is punter. Rugby uses punting more than any NFL team ever will so the thought process is these guys have had more reps at this skill than any football player that grew up punting in American Rules games.

A family friend would take him in for his senior year of high school so he could transition to American Rules punting. This move proved to be in his best interests. This one season of high school put him on the map for LSU where he would later attend. After a redshirt season, Wing would go on to set records for the highest average yards per punt in back-to-back seasons.

After the 2012 season, he entered the NFL originally landing with the Philadelphia Eagles who have had no qualms about bringing in international players. He wouldn’t crack the active roster, before moving on to the Steelers. He would spend three seasons with the Giants, before falling out of the NFL in 2018. In 2019 he played in the AAF for the Memphis Express, alongside Terrell Bonds. The crazy thing is he hasn’t played since the 2019 season. At 31 years old he returns to the field after a 3-season hiatus. He will be an interesting player to watch. Will he have any rust to knock off come week 1 of the XFL Season?

Open Rounds of the Draft

Mathew Gotel, 6’2 325 lbs

If you’re looking to stop the run, and you need a two-gapping nose tackle to eat up blocks, look no further you have found your man. Gotel has played across the defensive line during his time with West Florida University. Gotel was originally a JUCO product coming out of Snow Community College. He began his career weighing in at 290 pounds, playing primarily as a 3 technique in a 4-3 front.

Playing two seasons in this role, he played in 18 games, with 43 tackles, 7 for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. Solid production from an interior tackle. West Florida University took a liking to him but viewed him a bit differently. When he arrived at the school he had added 15 pounds since his freshman season, playing at 305 pounds. However, WFU ran a 3-4 front under Darian Dulin. This meant Gotel would play a similar position given his alignment, but a different role based on the scheme. He would be asked to two-gap still lining up as a 3 technique. Instead of playing to beat the guard, his job was to eat up blocks at this point allowing the linebackers to flow over the top to the ball carrier. This worked with tremendous success and WFU would win the National Championship.

Given that before this, the objective was for Gotel to penetrate and get to the ball carrier, the school must have liked his abilities in this role. Following his junior season, he added another 20 pounds and shifted over to the 0 technique other words known as nose tackle where you line up right over the center. This position’s sole responsibility is to eat up blocks and keep the linebackers clean. Gotel would be signed after his college career by the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle employs a very unique defensive style that requires a big nose tackle like Gotel, at this point Gotel is weighing in at 341 pounds embracing his role as a nose tackle. He would play in two preseason games before visiting the Turk and ending up a free agent. He now looks to cement his status with the NFL, by playing in the XFL. Every good 3-4 needs at least one good nose tackle, San Antonio is hoping they have more.

Julian Mccleod, 6’3 285 lbs

Another former Seahawk, the Wagner Seahawks that is, Mccleod is a similar case to Gotel in terms of how he shifted positions early in his career. Mccleod has always been listed as a defensive lineman, but he came into Wagner University at 6’3 255 pounds and began as a traditional defensive end with a focus on rushing the passer. During his time with the school, he would play under four different defensive coordinators.

This led to position shifts more than once. Originally beginning as a 7 technique lining up on the offensive tackle’s outside shoulder, he would eventually wind up shifting to more of a 3 technique, on the guard’s outside shoulder. This led to him adding 30 pounds over time to get his playing weight up to 285 pounds. This also trained him perfectly for eventually playing in a 3-4 front as a defensive end, or a 4-3 front as a defensive tackle. Perfect for this defense.

When he was finally able to focus on playing the interior of the defensive line he had his best season at Wagner in 2019. He had 38 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. After he graduated from college he would find his way to the Toronto Argonauts before the 2020 season was canceled. He spent 2021 on the practice squad before an injury, returning to play with the team in 2022. He just missed crossing paths with Corey Chamblin who was the head coach of the Argonauts in 2019. 

Stephen Denmark, 6’2 217 lbs

Demark is an interesting player. He originally played his first three seasons of college football on the offensive side as a wide receiver for Valdosta State. He would convert to cornerback as a senior, an incredibly bold move for a player having played most of his career on offense. However this gamble paid off as he had a solid season with 55 tackles, and 3 interceptions helping win the Championship. After this, he opted to enter the draft.

A 7th-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2019, he spent parts of two seasons on the Bears practice squad before moving on to be a practice squad journeyman. Spending time with the Browns, Steelers, and Packers in 2020, and 2021, by 2022 he was exploring opportunities outside of the NFL. This led him to sign with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He spent just three months with the team before being released in June. Denmark has the necessary size, and offensive mentality to be a potential ball-hawk for the Brahmas.

Ben Davis, 6’4 236 lbs

Davis is a solid addition this late in the draft. Listed as a linebacker, he is an edge rusher first and foremost. He attended Alabama for five years beginning on a redshirt before playing sparingly for the next four years. His best season came with the Texas Longhorns where he played due to the covid year of eligibility. This led to him playing in 10 games, collecting 15 tackles, 4 for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 recovery.

Davis would go on to receive interest from the CFL after college. Playing in just two games, Davis was able to make 4 defensive stops, and 2 on special teams for the Edmonton Elks. Ultimately early in the season, he was released and never brought back to the active roster or the practice squad.

This left the opening for Davis to pursue the XFL. Having just finished his career with Texas, he is sure to be a fan-favorite player for the San Antonio-based Brahmas. With the drive being less than 2 hours to San Antonio from his alma mater, maybe he helps puts fans in the stands in 2023. I am certainly interested to see if he can use alternative football to really launch his football career.

Rico Gafford

Gafford depending on whom you ask can play wide receiver, defensive back, and special teams. However, he will not be playing any of these three positions for the Brahmas, as he has decided to sign with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL. He will try his hand in the USFL, likely seeing an easier path to playing time with the defending USFL champions, who ironically lost their defensive backs coach to the Brahmas.

Summary

I like the front seven the team has built. It makes a lot of sense to run a 3-4 front with guys like Joey Porter on the staff. Porter spent his entire career as a rush linebacker, regarded as a tweener of a defensive lineman, but not a true 4-3 linebacker either. Porter was just gifted with a group of players who are essentially the same type of player he once was. With that being said I don’t expect to see the Brahmas in a strict 3 down-lineman front all the time. That’s where the scheme versatile players come in. It would stand to reason at times we could see as many as 5 down linemen, with the players needed to rotate into players whose focus is shutting down the run in short yardage and goal-line situations.

In the secondary, the staff seemed to want bigger defensive backs. Guys that stand 6’0 or taller to help cover the larger receivers in the league. If there was one trend that stuck out from the XFL Draft it is that the large receivers were the trendy pick. With countless players playing at 6’3 or above. This can be displayed by Brahma’s offense, with guys standing as tall as 6’6 playing wide receiver, it will create match-up nightmares for any defense ill-prepared. The Brahmas did their best to make sure they don’t fall into that category.

Drafting a veteran punter like Brad Wing was a conscious decision not to worry about the kicking game. Wing is a guy who has been around the block, even dabbling in spring football with the Alliance of American Football in 2019. However, it’s been three seasons since he last punted in a game. Will he have any rust to knock off?

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