Michigan Panthers Sign UFL Trey Quinn, Jamal Perry, Nick Guggemos

Breaking Down The Michigan Panthers 2024 UFL Roster

The Michigan Panthers were an anomaly during the USFL’s 2023 season. At times, it felt like the team could beat just about anybody. However, there were plenty of moments last year where the Panthers fell short of expectations.

Ultimately, the organization found a way to make it to the postseason, taking down the Philadelphia Stars in week ten. Michigan snuck into the playoffs with a 4-6 record, and lost in the semi-finals to the Pittsburgh Maulers.

As we head towards the 2024 UFL season, this team has a lot to prove. They will be under the leadership of Head Coach Mike Nolan for a second straight year, and with a revamped roster, should be capable of winning more than four games.

Quarterbacks

Danny Etling
E.J. Perry
Brian Lewerke

It’s a brand new quarterback room for the Michigan Panthers – at least, to an extent. The three signal callers they had to begin last season are gone, and in their place are two late-season additions, along with a brand new face.

E.J. Perry returns to the team, after his triumphant entry to the USFL a season ago. Perry was thrown into action in week ten in a do or die game, having been signed just a couple of weeks prior. E.J. led the team to victory, and then set a modern USFL playoff record with 370 yards in a loss against Pittsburgh.

Mike Nolan has yet to name a starting QB for the 2024 season. Many would assume that Perry would retain his starting role, given his success last year.

However, the organization brought in former Green Bay Packers quarterback, Danny Etling, who is battling for the starting job with Perry. Etling had an outstanding college career at LSU, and has spent time in the NFL with the Packers and Patriots. According to Nolan, Etling has looked extremely sharp in camp so far. It would not be at all surprising to see Danny earn the week one start.

Brian Lewerke returns to the team, after originally being cut in training camp earlier. The Michigan State product had been beat out by Davis Cheek for the QB3 spot, but Cheek then decided to leave the team, so the Panthers brought Lewerke back. Brian will be the third string signal caller heading into the season.

Running Backs

Wes Hills
Matt Colburn II
Nate McCrary

Panthers fans will be saddened to see that All-USFL RB Reggie Corbin is not with the team this year, having moved onto a coaching gig. However, the Panthers have brought in quite a few quality backs to replace him, so the loss isn’t too severe.

First up, Wes Hills – who led the USFL in rushing yards in 2023 – is now on the roster. Hills was a force for the New Orleans Breakers last year, rushing for 680 yards and 10 scores. His downhill running style is similar to that of Roughnecks’ RB Mark Thompson.

While Wes will likely see a solid load of rushes, he can also make plays coming out of the backfield. With New Orleans, he posted 278 receiving yards as well.

An underrated pickup for Michigan is Matt Colburn, who spent the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Stars. People forget that the Stars went on a Championship run in 2022 when Matt got healthy. He completely changed the dynamic of that offense.

In 2023, an injury ended his season short. Hopefully, Matt can stay healthy this year, because he will be a legitimate problem for defenses. In his USFL career, Colburn posted 721 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

Nate McCrary was a free agent signing, and one who brings some NFL experience to the table. McCrary has spent the last few years on and off of practice squads. He’s the type of prospect who could bloom in a league like the UFL, if given the opportunity.

Wide Receivers

Devin Gray
Devin Ross
John Hightower
Jordan Suell
Marcus Simms
Trey Quinn

The Michigan Panthers have brought back a few familiar faces, but have essentially adopted almost half of the WR room from the Philadelphia Stars.

Highlighting the returns for Michigan is Trey Quinn, Marcus Simms, and Devin Ross. Quinn was excellent last year for the Panthers, totaling 438 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He also put on a show in their playoff loss, racking up 104 yards and a score.

Devin Ross was a key piece in 2022, but spent most of last season inactive. Marcus Simms, on the other hand, proved to be a hidden gem, making a major impact once the team finally utilized his skill sets down the stretch of their campaign. He’s also a dynamic returner, with incredible speed.

Joining the fold from Philadelphia is Devin Gray, and Jordan Suell. Gray is one of the best slot receivers in the UFL, who should tear it up with Quinn. Suell’s rib injury in 2023 cut his year short, but some tend to forget what he accomplished late in the 2022 season. His Championship performance was nothing short of spectacular, and if Michigan can get that version of Jordan, this unit will be in great shape.

The addition of multiple Stars receivers makes sense. Michigan features a new offensive coordinator, with Marcel Bellefeuille joining the fold from Philadelphia. The Panthers had also drafted Corey Coleman and Terry Wright, but neither made it to camp.

Finally, John Hightower rounds out this unit. Hightower entered training camp with the DC Defenders, and to Nolan’s surprise, was cut. Interestingly enough, their scrimmage with DC played a key role in Michigan bringing John onto the roster.

Tight Ends

Cole Hikutini
Derrick Deese Jr.
Gunnar Oakes

The tight end group for Michigan has retained Cole Hikutini, but lost Marcus Baugh in the offseason. Hikutini was an underrated playmaker in the USFL last year, posting 239 yards and five touchdowns. One would expect his role to remain the same this season.

Derrick Deese Jr. and Gunnar Oakes were offseason pickups. Oakes was actually a part of the 2023 USFL College Draft, but did not sign with the team until the summer. Deese Jr. is a name Michigan fans might be familiar with, as he was featured on “Hard Knocks” when the Lions were covered.

Offensive Line

Chim Okorafor
Cohl Cabral
Jacob Burton
James Walker
Jarrett Horst
Joshua Dunlop
Noah Johnson
Ryan Nelson
Ryan Pope

A glaring issue for the Michigan Panthers last year was their offensive line play. It was difficult for Josh Love to find much of a rhythm at quarterback, when the O-Line struggled week in and week out. General Manager Steve Kazor addressed this during the offseason, bringing in quality pieces all the way up until this weekend.

Cohl Cabral is a major addition. He was claimed off of waivers just last week. Cabral was the Stallions’ starting center last year, and should play a similar role with Michigan once he gets accustomed to the system. For now, though, Noah Johnson is expected to remain as the starting center.

Jarrett Horst was the first pick in the USFL 2023 College Draft, and has proved his value to the team in camp. Jacob Burton and Ryan Pope are two spring football veterans who provide depth and stability. Chim Okorafor is also someone to watch, coming off an NFL stint with the Eagles. Ryan Nelson and Joshua Dunlop clocked quality minutes for Michigan last year, and return for the 2024 season.

Defensive Line

Breeland Speaks
Daniel Wise
Garrett Marino
Kenny Willekes
Mika Tafua
Ron’Dell Carter
T.J. Carter
Walter Palmore

The defensive line was a strength for Michigan in 2023, and that trend should continue this year. The team has brought back Breeland Speaks, who led the USFL in sacks last year with nine.

Garrett Marino, Walter Palmore, and Ron’Dell Carter are all returning pieces as well. Marino had an underrated season last year, totaling 25 tackles and 2.5 sacks for a stout unit up front.

In addition, the Panthers have brought in some NFL-caliber talent. Daniel Wise and Kenny Willekes are names to watch closely, as the two are expected to see plenty of snaps this year. Willekes was formerly a standout at Michigan State, and is now making his homecoming to play football in Michigan again.

T.J. Carter actually played with the Panthers in 2022, racking up 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks. The DT ended up spending the last year on the LA Rams’ practice squad, but now comes back for the 2024 UFL season. Mika Tafua was an addition just as training camp began, and made a solid impression throughout the last month.

Linebackers

DaShaun White
De’Gabriel Floyd
Frank Ginda
Javin White
Noah Dawkins

Highlighting this unit is the legend himself, Frank Ginda. Ginda has been a staple of this defense for the past two years, and earned USFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2023. Last year, Frank racked up 104 tackles, a sack, and three interceptions. He was awarded with four Defensive Player of the Week honors along the way.

Following his All-USFL campaign, Ginda signed with the Atlanta Falcons, and spent time with them on the practice squad. Now, he returns to Michigan for this year. Frank will, no doubt, be a huge piece to this unit once again. Mike Nolan has continually praised Ginda and his efforts, calling him an “intelligent” football player.

DaShaun White, who was a USFL college draft pick last year, is back. He signed with Michigan midway through the season, and then was brought to training camp with the Buffalo Bills last fall. Noah Dawkins is someone who doesn’t get enough attention, as he produced well for Michigan in 2023.

De’Gabriel Floyd and Javin White are two new additions to the group. They both bring depth and playmaking abilities to the table. White has had experience playing at corner as well, so his versatility could be utilized this year.

Secondary

Adonis Alexander
Keith Gipson Jr.
Kiante Hardin
Levonta Taylor
Nate Brooks

The Michigan Panthers will have a fresh look in the secondary, but have brought back some key pieces. Right off the bat, the return of Levonta Taylor is great news. Taylor did not allow a single touchdown last year, and was an excellent one-two punch with Josh Butler (who is now in Dallas). Kiante Hardin did not play much last year due to injury, but should make a difference this time around.

Adonis Alexander, Keith Gipson Jr., and Nate Brooks are all new additions. Alexander spent the last two USFL seasons with the New Orleans Breakers, and has made his fair share of valuable plays in this scene.

Keith Gipson Jr. is an underrated piece from the Pittsburgh Maulers. Gipson started in all ten games for Pittsburgh in 2023, totaling 26 tackles and two interceptions. Nate Brooks is also poised for success, coming off a Championship victory with the Stallions. Brooks was a starter for Birmingham last year, with 43 tackles, 9 PBU’s, and two interceptions to his name.

Safeties

Bryce Torneden
Corrion Ballard
Kai Nacua
Kedrick Whitehead
Sean Mahone

With five safeties on the roster, there’s a solid chance we see a couple of them line up at corner at some point during the season. Firstly, the Panthers have brought back three safeties: Corrion Ballard, Kai Nacua, and Sean Mahone.

All three produced at a high level last year, with Ballard and Mahone taking the majority of the starts. Nacua did make four starts, though, totaling 31 tackles and a sack. Kai has looked excellent in camp, and is someone who could be in a position for a breakout season.

Bryce Torneden is another former Mauler who has made it on the roster. Torneden earned All-USFL honors with Pittsburgh in 2022, and was a key piece to the team’s Championship run last year.

Finally, Kedrick Whitehead was a training camp addition, who recently was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whitehead has tremendous speed, and was a standout at Delaware with 297 tackles, five interceptions, and 25 PBU’s in his career.

Special Teams

K Jake Bates
P Brock Miller
LS Jordan Ober

After two years with Cole Murphy, the Michigan Panthers will feature a new kicker. Surprisingly, Jake Bates beat Murphy out for the starting gig. Bates did not kick field goals in college, having been utilized as a kickoff specialist.

With the USFL’s kickoff rules being implemented in the UFL, Bates’ strong leg certainly played a major role in this move being made. Considering he has not kicked a field goal in a game for years, though, it’ll be interesting to watch him with Michigan this year. The pressure is on.

Brock has been one of spring football’s top punters for years, booting punts of 80+ yards in back to back seasons. Miller has had multiple NFL workouts, and was with the Los Angeles Rams for a couple of weeks at the end of the 22-23 NFL season. Miller replaces Kyle Kramer, who decided not to join the team for camp this year.

Jordan Ober got a chance to prove himself with the Generals last year, and that’s exactly what he did. Ober was tremendous through ten weeks with New Jersey, and earned himself a tryout with the Arizona Cardinals following his USFL campaign. The Generals were a well oiled machine on special teams all year long, largely due to the efforts of Ober.

Final Thoughts

Something that the Panthers should benefit from this year is having another season under the leadership of Steve Kazor and Mike Nolan. Last year, Mike Nolan had to take over shortly before the season began, as Jeff Fisher decided to step away.

It was not easy by any means for Michigan to get this roster trimmed down to 50. Nolan spoke on the difficult decisions the team had to make on March 10th and March 23rd, cutting a lot of quality talent.

With their team now set for kickoff, though, the focus shifts to Saturday, as the Panthers host the St. Louis Battlehawks at 4pm ET.

For a full breakdown of the Panthers coaching staff, click here.

What are your thoughts on the Michigan Panthers roster for the 2024 UFL season? Will they make a return to the playoffs? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

Fubo