The XFL season kicks off in February, and teams are beginning practices on Saturday. All eight teams are chock-full of hopeful and hungry ball players looking to make a name for themselves this spring.
The San Antonio Brahmas are an interesting team on paper. They are led by Pittsburgh Steelers legend Hines Ward, who is leading his first professional football team. He has surrounded himself with a very experienced coaching staff to help his players along.
Some of that experience also comes in the spring football world. For example, both coordinators, Jaime Elizondo (OC) and Jim Herrmann (DC) coached in the last iteration of the XFL.
Along with spring experience in coaching, many of their players have experience with spring football as well. Some played in XFL 2020, while others applied their skills in the USFL last year.
But with practices beginning, many will wonder how the Brahmas roster will look by the start of the season. It is very early in the process, but here is a general prediction of how things will look for San Antonio on February 19.
Starter: Jawon Pass, Backup: Reid Sinnett
The quarterback position is the one every team’s fanbase focuses on. For the Brahmas, there is a lot of intrigue here. Nothing pops out just yet, but training camp should sort that out.
Heading into camp, I think the starting job is Jawon Pass’s to lose. Pass, 25, began his collegiate career at Louisville, succeeding Lamar Jackson under center. However, injuries hindered his abilities, and he transferred.
Pass played the rest of his collegiate career at Prairie View A&M. There, he threw for 2672 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games. He also ran for 271 yards and four touchdowns.
However, things weren’t all smooth sailing. Pass threw 12 interceptions at Prairie View. He had two games where he threw three interceptions, and two games where he threw two picks.
If Ward can bring out the best in Pass, then the Brahmas have a young quarterback with a lot of talent on their hands. If it doesn’t pan out, he has another young option in Reid Sinnett.
Sinnett played his college ball at San Diego, and went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. He found time on the active roster in 2020 and 2021 with the Miami Dolphins but never played a game.
Sinnett only started one season in college, but he was a star. He threw for 3528 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 12 games as San Diego won the PFL Championship.
Like Pass, Sinnett also had multiple games where he threw three interceptions. However, he also had multiple games where he threw five touchdown passes.
Pass has a higher ceiling, but Sinnett is not someone to sleep on. Neither are the other two quarterbacks in camp, Anthony Russo and Jack Coan.
RB1: Jacques Patrick, RB2: Kalen Ballage
When it comes to the running backs, Jacques Patrick is the clear number one. Patrick is one of those former XFL 2020 roster members, having played for the Tampa Bay Vipers.
After the XFL suspended play in 2020, Patrick signed on with the Cincinnati Bengals. He bounced around a few practice squads before joining the XFL once again for this upcoming season.
With Tampa Bay, the 26-year-old Florida native ran the ball 60 times. He racked up 254 yards on the ground and added two rushing touchdowns to his stat line.
Patrick played his college ball at Florida State. From 2015 to 2018, the 26-year-old ran the ball 366 times for 1790 yards and 17 TDs in 45 games.
Behind him is a player with a bit of NFL experience under his belt. Kalen Ballage was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2018, and made his NFL debut that season.
The 27-year-old Ballage played two seasons for the Dolphins. He rushed for 324 yards and four touchdowns in 24 games, including six starts.
Prior to the 2020 season, the Dolphins tried to trade Ballage to the New York Jets. A failed physical nixed the deal, but he signed with the Jets after being waived. He last three games in New York before finding some playing time with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Ballage caught on with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021, but only received 12 carries. He ran for 36 yards, with 13 of those yards coming on one carry.
Jacques and Ballage have a lot of potential. Both could be a number one back in the XFL, but Patrick gets the slight edge given his XFL experience and youth. Don’t count out Ballage, however.
The other running backs in camp for the Brahmas are Calvin Turner and Jon Hillman. Both of these backs could definitely upset Patrick or Ballage for one of these spots, so keep an eye on them.
WR1: Jalen Tolliver, WR2: Kendrick Rodgers Jr., WR3: TJ Vasher, WR4: Terry Wright
This wide receiver group is defined by one thing: height. Tolliver, Vasher, and Rodgers are all above 6’2″, with Vasher standing at a towering 6’6″.
What they have in height, they lack in speed. There aren’t any true burners on this team, even down the depth chart. The Brahmas may be one of the best teams at catching contested balls. However, yards after the catch may not be easy to come by.
Tolliver has a connection with Patrick, having also played for the Tampa Bay Vipers in 2020. The 27-year-old also has a connection with offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo.
Elizondo was the offensive coordinator for the Vipers in 2020. In 2021, he coached Tolliver in the CFL as head coach of the Edmonton Elks. The Elks finished the 2021 season 3-11 and last place in the West Division.
Tolliver’s experience with Elizondo will put him in that WR1 spot. Rodgers and Vasher are quality options behind him, while the Brahmas could slot the 5’10” Wright in the slot.
Other wide receivers in camp for the Brahmas include Travis Jonsen, Landon Akers, and Da’Jean Dixon.
TE1: Alize Mack, TE2: Dylan Parham, TE3: Deandre Goolsby
Mack looks to be the number one tight end for the Brahmas heading into the season. The 25-year-old has bounced around a number of NFL practice squads prior to joining the XFL.
The former seventh-round pick played his college ball at Notre Dame. Mack became a full-time starter for the Fighting Irish his senior season, catching 34 passes for 349 yards and three touchdowns.
While not starting for Notre Dame much throughout his career, Mack still impressed those who watched. He was on the watchlist for the John Mackey Award as college football’s best tight end three times.
Parham originally played quarterback in college before switching in 2016. He only played 835 snaps throughout his college career as he dealt with injuries. Parham entered the 2022 NFL Draft, going undrafted.
Goolsby also struggled with injuries. He went undrafted in 2017 before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, the Jags waived him with an injury designation before the season.
The number one job looks like Mack’s to lose. However, each tight end brings size and potential, and spring football has proven to be the land of opportunity, no matter your background.
Starters: Darius James, Willie Wright, Luke Juriga, Norman Price, Malcolm Bunche
This line is a mix of experience and youth. Malcolm Bunche brings NFL and spring football experience to this line. The 31-year-old played for the DC Defenders in 2020.
The Brahmas feature a lot of big offensive linemen who can grow both physically and as football players. However, there will be some growing pains. Especially as it pertains to pass blocking.
Perhaps the most promising player among the starters is Luke Juriga. The 25-year-old was a two-time First Team All-MAC selection at Western Michigan. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2020 NFL Draft, and even saw some game action in the 2020 season.
Like their quarterback room, there is a lot of potential for the Brahmas here. This is one position group where the battle for a starting job is wide open.
Starters: Drew Beesley, Denzel Chukwukelu, Mike Tverdov
The defensive line looks like a real area of strength for the Brahmas. San Antonio boasts a nice balance of speed and size at this position that could help them establish control in the trenches on defense.
Beesley played his college ball at Michigan State. The Michigan native did not hear his name called during the 2022 NFL Draft despite having a solid final year in East Lansing. He recorded 5.5 sacks despite missing four games in 2021.
Chukwukelu played his college ball at UTEP where he enjoyed a very nice junior season. He led all UTEP defensive linemen with 42 tackles, including two sacks.
Chukwukelu does have spring football experience. The interior lineman joined the Iowa Barnstormers of the IFL in 2021 before playing for the Tucson Sugar Skulls in 2022.
Tverdov played collegiately at Rutgers, and flashed some potential. He had four sacks in his freshman year and reached that mark again in his junior season. However, he had a rather lackluster senior year.
Tverdov went undrafted but did participate in rookie mini camp with the Miami Dolphins in 2022. The New Jersey native was named to the academic All-Big Ten team in 2021.
While there is a nice combination of speed and size, there are some potential issues. For example, outside runs could present a problem for this defensive line if they face a speed back.
In any event, there is potential here, which seems to be the name of the game for the Brahmas. This is a group to keep an eye on for sure.
Starters: Owen Carney Jr., Riko Jeffers, Joel Dublanko
Owen Carney Jr. has a ton of potential to become a standout linebacker in the XFL. He is already a solid run defender, but he could be a very dynamic pass rusher if the defensive line can get him free.
Speaking of run defenders, Riko Jeffers is probably the cream of the crop. The former Texas Tech Red Raider recorded 26.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles in his collegiate career.
Joel Dublanko was part of a Cincinnati defense that made history in 2021. He captained the Bearcats defense as they became the first Group of 5 team to make the College Football Playoff.
And while Cincinnati lost, Dublanko played very well. He had seven tackles and a pass defended in the Cotton Bowl against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
This linebacker group will be the heart and soul of the Brahmas defense. If this defense is to succeed, these men will lead the charge.
Cornerbacks: Kary Vincent Jr., Rico Gafford, Luq Barcoo
Safties: Jack Koerner, Cedric Stone
This group is deep both at corner and safety. The corners will be led by former LSU man Kary Vincent Jr. The 23-year-old Texas native had a standout 2019 season for the Tigers, picking off four passes as they won the National Championship.
Gafford and Barcoo are both former wide receivers. Gafford brings speed to this group, while Barcoo brings above-average height for the position, standing 6’1″.
Jack Koerner played collegiately at Iowa where he had a few solid seasons. He recorded 80+ tackles in two separate seasons and six career interceptions.
Cedric Stone played at Liberty his final year of eligibility, and he played well. He earned a starting role in the last five games, and recorded four tackles in their bowl win against Coastal Carolina in 2020.
This group is deep, and is completely wide open. Especially since Bubba Bolden, who would be a projected starter, signed a futures contract with the Cleveland Browns on January 9. Anyone could step up here, but this current group could definitely be one of the best in the league.
Kicker: John Parker Romo, Punter: Brad Wing
And finally, we get to special teams. This is the most cut-and-dry group of them all. The Brahmas will likely entrust Parker Romo with kickoff duties. He has experience handling the unit at Tulsa and Virginia Tech.
At Virginia Tech, Parker Romo handled field goals in his final season. He made 18 of 22, including seven of nine from 40+ yards. One of those kicks hit from 52 yards.
Wing is one of the few players in the XFL with legitimate NFL experience. The Australian punter spent three seasons as the punter of the New York Giants. In 2015, the 31-year-old tied a single-season franchise record for punts downed inside the 20-yard line with 33.
Wing should be one of the best punters in the league. And Parker Romo has the leg to make big kicks if he needs to. All around, a good-looking special teams unit on paper.
The name of the game for the Brahmas is potential. San Antonio has a lot of players who could really breakout this season, but it’s a question of whether the coaching staff can get the best out of them.
It is early, but this team should be able to hang with the rest of the league. It may not be smooth sailing to begin with, but if they hit their stride, the rest of the XFL should watch out.
Featured Photo Credit: Getty Images
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