Arlington Renegades vs. Birmingham Stallions Week 1 UFL Preview

Arlington Renegades vs. Birmingham Stallions | Week 1 Preview

Folks, the UFL season is upon us. In just two days, the Arlington Renegades and Birmingham Stallions face off in what will be a “battle of champions”.

While the USFL and XFL remained separate last year, there was quite a bit of chatter online between the fans. It made for some entertaining hypotheticals, but unless these leagues merged, they were simply hypotheticals.

Now, that all changes. The United Football League is leaning into the rivalry between the USFL and XFL conferences, and we’re kicking things off right away with the two champions facing each other.

The Birmingham Stallions have been the gold standard for spring football the last two years. They are back to back USFL Champions, with a 21-3 record across that span. Skip Holtz has reloaded this roster for season three, and they’re primed for another deep run.

“Big Game Bob” and his Arlington Renegades were underwhelming for most of the XFL season, but a trade for Luis Perez turned things around. The spring football veteran took them to the Championship, where they upset DC 35-26. Let’s take a look at what we can expect from this heavyweight matchup.

Quarterback Play

For the Arlington Renegades, there are no questions about it: Luis Perez is QB1. Perez, the alt-football journeyman, has been a stable force for every team he’s been a part of. He provided Arlington with leadership that they desperately needed.

Against a stout DC defense, Luis threw for 288 yards and 3 TD’s in the XFL Championship. We know what we can expect from Perez. He’s calm and collected, even when things aren’t going his way. One would imagine that with the retooled offense in Arlington, this team should see more immediate success in 2024.

The one point of emphasis for Arlington will be their offensive line. Perez can use his legs, but he isn’t necessarily a dual threat QB. With some new faces at the O-Line position, the Renegades will have to do everything they can to give Perez time to throw the football.

Questions For Birmingham

For Birmingham, Holtz has yet to name a starter. He did say in a media call earlier this week that it’s probable we will see a two-QB system in week one.

We have been told that Matt Corral will likely be taking the first snaps for the Stallions. Heading into this opener against Arlington, it’s sounding like Matt will be QB1, and Adrian Martinez will be QB2. This means that J’Mar Smith will be QB3 for the time being.

Of course, nothing is set in stone until Skip makes it official. That said, this lineup would make the most sense for Birmingham. Matt Corral was a massive signing for this team in the offseason, and given his track history, one that left some fans with questions. Would he show up to Training Camp?

The good news is that he did. Corral has looked extremely sharp so far, and with his background as an Ole Miss Star and an NFL draft pick, it’s not surprising to see him win the starting gig.

Martinez is expected to be utilized in certain packages on Saturday as well. Skip Holtz spoke on his ability to be a runner, similar to what Alex McGough did for them last year. His speed and athleticism should be a key piece to the offense when his name is called upon.

UPDATE: We have confirmed that Matt Corral is the starter.

Standout Playmakers

Across the board, both of these teams are stacked. One fun matchup will be in the tight end room. Both Sal Cannella and Jace Sternberger have been two of the top tight ends in spring football history. Expect both of them to produce at a high level this weekend.

Arlington ended up retaining several pieces from a year ago. In their backfield, De’Veon Smith and Leddie Brown are expected to carry a large load, similar to what they saw down the stretch of the 2023 season. LuJuan Winningham, Tyler Vaughns, and Javonta Payton are all back at the WR position as well.

Deontay Burnett is an excellent addition to their offense. Burnett was with the Roughnecks in 2023, posting almost 400 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He should be a deep threat for Luis Perez throughout the season.

New Look Stallions

On Birmingham’s side, their WR room was completely revamped. The only familiar faces are Deon Cain and Marlon Williams. During the offseason the Stallions acquired Amari Rodgers, Gary Jennings, Kevin Austin, and Binjimen Victor. They also scooped up Isaiah Zuber, formerly of the Houston Gamblers.

Even though there are so many new pieces offensively for the Stallions, expect this team to look even better than they did a year ago. It won’t be easy to replace Alex McGough, but the weapons at hand are as dangerous as any unit in the UFL.

CJ Marable has always been an underrated running back in this scene, but he’s bound for another impressive campaign. With the amount of talent that now surrounds him in the backfield and across the board, his production should see growth if he’s getting consistent touches.

Two Brand New Defenses

What’s interesting about both of these teams is their approach to defense in the offseason. Throughout the merger process, with the dispersal drafts, both Arlington and Birmingham picked up a lot of new faces.

Arlington now features the likes of Tuzar Skipper, Vic Beasley, and LaRon Stokes who were all playmakers for their respective teams a year ago. While Donald Payne returns to lead the linebacker group, the additions of Marquel Lee and Storey Jackson only make this team stronger.

In the secondary, the Renegades no longer roster Will Hill, De’Vante Bausby, Joe Powell, etc. – who were all starters a year ago. Ajene Harris is now in the building, who was arguably the best corner in the XFL last year with five interceptions.

Speaking of top corners, the Birmingham Stallions picked up Mark Gilbert, who was the best in the USFL last year. Gilbert is leading a retooled group that features Nevelle Clarke, Chris Jackson, Ike Brown, and Kenny Robinson – to name a few.

Up front, the Stallions have also made some changes. They’ve acquired former NFL talent such as Taco Charlton, DaMarcus Mitchell, Carlos Davis, and others. The good news for diehard fans: Scooby Wright is back in action. He made it through Training Camp, and will be a vocal leader for this defense once again.

Special Teams

Both of these organizations have fantastic special teams units. Arlington maintained their trio of Marquette King, Taylor Russolino, and Antonio Ortiz from a year ago.

In Birmingham, All-USFL playmakers Colby Wadman and Ryan Langan return. Replacing Brandon Aubrey is Chris Blewitt, who was excellent with the Pittsburgh Maulers in 2023.

Coaching Matchup

Arlington Renegades | Bob Stoops: Stoops has found a new home with the XFL/UFL. After originally joining the XFL in 2020, he’s been one of the biggest names in this scene since then. The city of Arlington loves him, and he’s a great fit for the team. His ability to adjust under pressure led them to their Championship victory last year.

Birmingham Stallions | Skip Holtz: Who doesn’t love Skip Holtz? This is a guy, who for the first time in modern spring football history, will be coaching his team for a third straight year. One would assume that this could give the Stallions a competitive advantage. The synergy and chemistry continues from year to year in his system.

Depth Chart

Final Thoughts

When it comes to picking someone to win this game, it’s by no means easy. I mean, it’s two champions playing against each other.

That said, Birmingham does feel like the slight favorite. They are back to back Champions for a reason, and have only lost 3 games over the past two years. Not to mention, their roster features 16 former NFL draft picks. That’s quite the statistic.

Arlington earned their Championship, but they did struggle for most of the 2023 season. While the Renegades are capable of beating anyone in this league, they will have to get off to a faster start this time around in order to run it back. A 4-6 record is not going to cut it in the newly formed UFL.

One advantage that Arlington could target: with Birmingham’s roster featuring so many new additions, it might take a couple of drives for them to gain chemistry. If Jay Hayes dials up some pressure early to throw Corral off balance, that could greatly impact the outcome of this game.

What we do know is that this game should be very competitive. Two of spring football’s best going head to head. What more could you ask for?

The Arlington Renegades and Birmingham Stallions kick off the UFL season this Saturday, at 1pm ET on FOX.

Full Roster Breakdowns: Arlington, Birmingham

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between Arlington and Birmingham? Will the Birmingham Stallions keep their win streak going on the road? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!