With the UFL’s inaugural season two months away to kickoff, the Michigan Panthers are set to return to the spring football’s biggest stage in America. Under the leadership of second-year Head Coach Mike Nolan, the team is primed to make another postseason run with all of the talent stacked up this offseason.
One of the key areas that the Panthers have looked to improve upon is the quarterback position. Right now, four signal callers are rostered:
Brian Lewerke Danny Etling (Offseason Signing) Davis Cheek (Draft Selection) E.J. Perry
Let’s take a look at each quarterback, and what their roles might look like in 2024 with the Michigan Panthers.
BREAKING: The Michigan Panthers have re-signed QB E.J. Perry, per source.
Perry needs no introduction, leading the @USFLPanthers to a comeback victory in week 10 to make the playoffs – and was stellar in their loss against Pittsburgh.
E.J. Perry returns to the roster as the early favorite to start – at least, on paper. Perry doesn’t need much of an introduction to the Panthers fanbase, having led the team to the playoffs in miraculous fashion.
For some context, E.J. was added to Michigan’s roster with only three weeks left to play in 2023. This signing was made due to the release of Eric Barriere. After sitting as QB3 for two weeks, Mike Nolan decided to stick Perry into the fire with one game remaining: a do or die matchup against Philadelphia.
We all know how this one went – Perry came alive in the second half, leading a 17-0 run as Michigan came back to knock off the Stars 23-20.
In the postseason, E.J. was outstanding, throwing for 370 yards (a postseason USFL record) and three total touchdowns, as Michigan fell just short against Pittsburgh. That said, it was clear that the offense was clicking with Perry at the helm, something we hadn’t seen much of in 2023. One has to wonder what things would have looked like, had they had him for the entire season.
After a couple of NFL opportunities with the Texans and Jaguars, Perry now returns to compete for the starting gig in 2024. Clearly, Nolan and GM Steve Kazor were very aggressive in bringing him back to the team – re-signing him twice.
One of the most intriguing storylines – that was pushed under the radar due to the USFL-XFL merger – was the addition of Danny Etling, out of LSU.
Etling has spent the last few years in the NFL, with the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, and New England Patriots. His mobility and ability to make something out of nothing is similar to the skills that Perry possesses – and is a trait he put on full display when given the opportunity in the NFL.
The former LSU star has quite the resume, with over 4,500 passing yards and 27 touchdowns to his name in Louisiana in two seasons.
Now, it’s a matter of finding his footing in the professional scene. Etling was most recently beat out by Alex McGough – the USFL’s MVP – for the third QB spot in Green Bay. The two essentially trade places, with Danny now looking to spring football for his next chapter.
Davis Cheek is a pickup that isn’t talked about enough. Cheek spent the 2023 USFL season in New Orleans with John DeFilippo, but was the backup behind CFL All-Star McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
With that in mind, MBT moved back to the CFL this offseason. Sources indicated that Cheek would have been in a position to compete for – and win – the starting job with the Breakers, had the team not folded in the merger. New Orleans as an organization was very high on his skill sets.
Cheek played his college football at Elon, and racked up 2,294 passing yards and 17 touchdowns during his senior season. He signed with the Carolina Panthers as an UDFA in 2022, and also had a workout with the Las Vegas Raiders this past summer.
Brian Lewerke was also a midseason addition for the Michigan Panthers. Interestingly enough, the team no longer retains any of the quarterbacks they started the 2023 season with: Carson Strong, Eric Barriere, and Josh Love.
Lewerke is a guy who simply wasn’t given a chance last year. He was permanently QB2, and didn’t play a single snap. When the decision was finally made to bench Josh Love, the team moved to E.J. Perry (rightfully so), but Brian remained untapped.
Truthfully, it’s going to be tough for Lewerke to crack the regular season roster with the amount of talent in this QB room. Etling and Perry seem like the early favorites for the starting job, and Cheek is a young prospect who deserves a spot as well.
That said, we know that Brian Lewerke is capable of making things happen. The former Michigan State product posted over 8,200 passing yards and 47 touchdowns in college, and has had a couple of professional stints in the NFL, and The Spring League (Alphas). Brian needs to have a solid showing in camp to give himself a chance to play during the season.
There will be some changes in Michigan this year from a coaching perspective, which could certainly play a role in how things play out in training camp. Eric Marty, who was the team’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons, is out. His replacement is Marcel Bellefeuille, who comes over from the Philadelphia Stars.
News: The @USFLPanthers will have a new Offensive Coordinator in 2024, per sources.
Eric Marty is out, and Mike Nolan has brought in Marcel Bellefeuille, formerly of the @USFLStars (WR's/Passing Game).
The addition of Marcel to Nolan's staff makes perfect sense, especially…
The regular season rosters will hold 50 players, so it’s unlikely that we will see all four quarterbacks make the final cut. Players report to training camp on February 23rd-24th, which means that we will have more clarity sooner than later.
With the amount of talent that the Michigan Panthers have brought in through the Dispersal Draft and free agency, this organization will no doubt be a team to watch closely this UFL season.
What are your thoughts on the Michigan Panthers quarterback situation right now? Will E.J. Perry or Danny Etling win the starting gig, or someone else? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!