Training Camp and Workouts have begun for the XFL, and the Battlehawks are in the thick of it right now. While Head Coach Anthony Becht, Wide Receivers Coach Ricky Proehl, and Defensive Line Coach La’Roi Glover all head to the St. Louis for a night out with at Sybergs, the rest of the Battlehawks continue to plug a way for their Week one bout vs the Brahmas in San Antonio.
Quarterback Ryan Willis
Ryan Willis seems to be the favorite for the QB1 position, despite the addition of an established pro like AJ McCarron. Willis the Spring League MVP and 2021 champion is younger more mobile and has the making to become an established star in the Alt-League. His ties to Missouri allow him to be a sort of “local hero”. While it’s possible Coach Becht’s “pick” AJ McCarron could supplant Willis at some point in the season, it looks like it’s Willis’ job to lose in the meantime.
Running Back: Leddie Brown, Mataeo Durant
The Running Back position is always a hard one to nail down in the alt-leagues, as in XFL 2020 multiple teams had running backs shouldering a similar workload throughout the 5-game season. For week one I suspect Leddie Brown and Mataeo Durant to be a 1-2 punch for the Battlehawks as the team may lean on a youth movement to assist Ryan Willis as they get their footing under them.
Wide Receiver: Marcell Ateman, Darrius Shepheard, and Donteaa Dye
Ateman is a big 6’4 receiver with NFL experience coming from the Big-12. Ateman earned all-conference honors in college, totaling 146 receptions for 2466 yards and 13 touchdowns during his college career. Originally poised to paired with Ja’Marcus Bradley who now signed a futures contract in the NFL, look NFL/USFL vet Darrius Shepheard to step into that WR2 role. WR3 could be a battle between Austin Proehl and Donteaa Dye, but I think the larger frame of Dye wins in this one. Proehl may have an inside track due to his XFL 2.0 experience and NFL experience, but Dye also has been around the block in the AAF, XFL and NFL giving the crafty veteran a possible edge in a young league.
Tight End: Jaylen Smith
One of Lamar Jackson’s favorite collegiate targets may get the TE1 out of camp. He’ll battle with more traditional NFL vet Jordan Thomas for that role but if Bruce Gradkowski stays with an Air Raid offense that Willis had success in, it fits Smith’s tweener body-type which could allow him to showcase his NFL calibar skillset.
Offensive Tackle: Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Jaryd Jones-Smith
Sticking with Alt-leaguers the Battlehawks bring in Bushell-Beatty and Jones-Smith to man the Tackles for 2023. Bushell-Beatty has been in the USFL, CFL, XFL and NFL, while Jones-Smith was with the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders and has participated in several NFL games. Both players bring experience and stability in a sport that often struggles for solid and consistent play at Offensive Tackle.
Offensive Guard: Steven Gonzalez, Vadal Alexander
The Battlehawks go with Alexander an NFL and USFL vet and Steven Gonzalez at the interior. Alexander may be a steal due to his experience starting with the Raiders and success with the Maulers. While Gonzalez may be a bit of wild-card his time at Penn State preps him for top tier competition in the XFL. Look for Shane Carpenter to also compete for both positions, due to his pro experience and large 6’7 size.
Center: Open Battle
Almost an easy choice until Jon Toth was see on the reserve list and currently not on the roster. With many of the offensive linemen on the roster having limited to none experience at the roster, look for Shane Carpenter to step up if the need comes up.
EDGE: Travis Feeney, Freedom Akinmoladun
Look for the Battlehawks to lean on USFL/NFL vets like Feeney and Akinmoladun to begin the foundation of this defense. Both players veterans who understand the fast-paced nature of Alt-football and the ability to start a season quickly and be successful.
Interior Defensive Linemen: Shakir Soto, Kevin Atkins
Soto in my opinion being a supplemental draft pick and having ties to Becht/Bollers days with the AAF Fleet, bodes well in my opinion. The former USFL New Orleans Breaker was brought to the Battlehawks to play and contribute though I believe Soto could be a part of a rotation with former AAF vets Gelen Robinson and Tani Tuopou look for Soto to be out on the field when the Battlehawks break their first huddle. Kevin Atkins could also fight to be Soto’s right-hand man. At 6’2 and over 300 lbs the former Fresno State Bulldog is in prime position to continue garner NFL interest by putting together a solid XFL season.
Linebackers: LaKiem Williams, Mike Rose, Silas Kelly
Rose and Kelly were fringe NFL players during 2022 training camp and Kelly may have made the team if not for injuries. Williams brings experience as he’s bounced around NFL practice squads and the CFL before joining the Battlehawks. Williams may be a surprise star in the XFL if given a full stretch of games to showcase his skills.
Cornerbacks: Quenton Meeks, Allie Green IV
Meeks is a proven commodity and easily steps into camp as CB1, following the departure of Channing Stribling. With Stribling leaving the position of CB2 is wide open and could be anyone’s guess. I think Allie Green steals the job as his body type is ideal in stopping big receivers especially in the red zone. Green’s biggest knock is his speed as his 40 time is just a tad under 4.7 it is possibility, he could see time at safety as he has experience at Mizzou playing Cornerback, Safety, and even Wide Receiver. Look for Elijah Hamilton to also be a possibility as he also showcases pro potential.
Safety: Ben DeLuca, Lukas Denis
DeLuca seems almost a lock to start due to his draft position, however the Free Safety position may have a bit more open competition. With Nate Meadors currently waiting to see if he can be offered a futures contract with the Titans look for Lukas Denis to showcase in camp after being picked up with the 67th pick of the Defensive Backs round in November. Denis comes from BC after 40 games at safety and was most recently with the Mass. Pirates of the IFL.
With the training camp under way, and injuries always a possibility the “unofficial” XFL News Hub Depth Chart and Roster is subject to change as camp and season progresses. The 2023 Battlehawks appear to have solid mix of youthful “true” rookies, along with vets from alt-leagues and the NFL. With the Battlehawks primed to stay in Texas for Week 1’s “battle” vs the Brahmas only time will tell if our initial prediction is accurate come February 19th.
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