The Vegas Vipers are red hot heading into the XFL’s 2023 season. Coach Rod Woodson has his team primed to make noise as kickoff quickly approaches. On February 18th, the Vipers will take on the Arlington Renegades to usher in the XFL season.
With both the XFL draft and supplemental draft in the rearview mirror, the focus now shifts to putting in the work. Training camp officially began last week, as Vegas athletes are putting their best foot forward in an effort to make the 50 man roster.
Let’s take a look at who the Vegas Vipers drafted, and which playmakers should make a major impact for the snake pit in 2023.
The TSL 2x Champion needs no introduction. Bryan Scott has been one of spring football’s most complete quarterbacks in recent history. Scott most recently played with the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL.
Just your friendly reminder that @BryanScottQb was playing at an MVP level in the #USFL before suffering an injury.
When healthy, he's easily a top signal caller in the league. USFL, watch out. The Bryan Scott comeback SZN is on it's way.pic.twitter.com/GQrBhOUH8d
An injury ended his season short, while he was leading in almost every passing category through week three. When Bryan is in the right system, he’s as dangerous as anyone in the spring football scene. On paper, Scott likely has the highest chance of winning the starting job.
Interestingly enough, the Vipers also drafted Luis Perez. Perez, the infamous bowler-turned-quarterback, has been around almost every spring league to exist. XFL fans will recognize Perez, who played for the New York Guardians in 2020.
Perez isn’t as flashy as some of the other quarterbacks in this draft. That being said, he is the ultimate game manager. Perez was solid for the New Jersey Generals in the USFL, helping lead the team to a 9-1 record. Accuracy is Perez’ strongest trait. He completed 71% of his passes during his 2022 USFL campaign.
Jalan McClendon is the outlier. The former Baylor product spent a bit of time with the Washington Commanders coming out of college, but hasn’t been in the NFL since. He now returns to the XFL, looking to make an impression on Woodson and his coaching staff.
Matt Jones returning to the XFL is a big deal. Jones was an outstanding back for the St. Louis Battlehawks in 2020. He finished the season second in rushing yards, with 314. Jones now joins the Vipers backfield, and should see plenty of playing time if he performs at the level that he did just three years ago.
Matt Jones is in for the TOUCHDOWN! 25-yard pass from quarterback Jordan Ta'Amu 🙌 (via @FS1)
John Lovett, Rod Smith, and DeAndre Torrey make up the rest of the Vipers running backs. Torrey was with the Michigan Panthers in the USFL, but hardly saw the field this season at all. Rod Smith brings plenty of NFL experience to the squad, being a veteran presence that should certainly benefit the team.
Lovett is a back that simply needs an opportunity to shine. Coming out of Penn State, he spent time with the Carolina Panthers in training camp, but didn’t make it far. Now, John looks to revive his career in Vegas with the Vipers. His upside is high.
Right off the bat, Martavis Bryant is a name that turns heads. The former Pittsburgh Steeler star landed in the XFL, which is great news for the Vegas Vipers. Bryant has performed at a high level for a long time. Expect Bryant to do big things in the XFL. His experience alone is a major asset to the Vipers organization.
Jeff Badet and Saeed Blacknall are fantastic additions as well. Both played in the XFL in 2020, and put up solid numbers for their respective organizations. Badet is a speedy slot receiver, while Blacknall adds size and strength to the WR room.
I'm excited to see WR Saeed Blacknall back in the #XFL. Rod Woodson snagged a gem for the Vegas Vipers.
In 2020, Blacknall was an elite target for Josh Johnson & the Wildcats. This moment, in particular, is one of my favorites from spring football.pic.twitter.com/x23i700jyI
Mathew Sexton is an underrated signing. He was unbelievable in the TSL in 2020, especially as a returner for the Aviators. Sexton took multiple kicks to the house, showcasing his abilities as a specialist on multiple occasions.
The punt return that kept the Aviators undefeated hopes alive.
The rest of the WR core includes Devion Clayton, Isiah Macklin, Cinque Sweeting, and Mustaqeem Williams. All are talented, young athletes who can use the XFL platform to display their talents to the nation.
Spring football fans will recognize Sean Price, who played for the Orlando Apollos of the AAF. Price then joined the Dallas Renegades for the 2020 season, but was overshadowed by the successes of Donald Parham. Expect him to shine in Vegas, if given the chance.
Brandon Dillon is an excellent pickup. He has NFL experience with the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and New York Jets. Bryan Scott and Luis Perez both are known to get their tight ends involved – so if either one of them start, it is safe to say that Dillon will perform quite well.
Other tight ends currently on the roster include: Grayson Gunter, Cam Sutton, Nick Guggemoz, Travis Koontz, and Jordan Wilson. With seven tight ends in training camp, some of these names will likely be cut before the season starts.
The Vegas Vipers signed fourteen offensive linemen:
Antonio Garcia Avery Young Ben Petrula Clayton Bradley Dohnovan West Fernando Frye Isaiah Williams Jamil Demby Larry Williams Matt Cohen Michael Miller Quinterrius Eatmon Tony Adams Tre Johnson
Avery Young is a name some will recognize. He played for the New York Guardians back in 2020. As of right now, it’s tough to assess the offensive line group, given that some of these players will likely be cut before the season begins.
Vegas is primed to have a dangerous defensive line heading into the 2023 season. Rod Henderson is a name that immediately sticks out, having played for the Los Angeles Wildcats in 2020. The former Alabama State product is back in the XFL, and for good reason.
Destiny Vaeao is a great addition to their line. He played for the New Jersey Generals in the USFL in 2022. James Folston, Jah’Sheem Martin, Jalen Pinkney, LaRon Stokes, and Robert Windsor all add depth to the position.
Penn State IDL Robert Windsor has a lot of pass rush upside. Love the power and heavy hands here to come away with a sack. pic.twitter.com/r12hX3Y80U
Windsor is a name to keep an eye on. He put up impressive numbers for Penn State, and was picked up in the 6th round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. The talent is clearly there for Robert, it’s simply about development.
The Vipers are stacked at the linebacker position. It’s almost unfair. To begin with, Vic Beasley – the former All-Pro for the Atlanta Falcons – signed with the team. His talent – and veteran experience – should be a pillar for Woodson’s defense if all goes well.
Emmanuel Beal is back in the XFL. The hard hitting linebacker played for the Tampa Bay Vipers in 2020. Most recently, Beal played for the Tampa Bay Bandits in the USFL, racking up 45 tackles and a sack in 2022. He should certainly make an impact in Vegas.
Juwuan Johnson is another XFL alumni, formerly playing for the NY Guardians. D.J. Calhoun, P.J. Dawson, Luke Holloway, Cassanova McKinzy, Max Roberts, Pita Taumoepenu, Cecil Cherry, and Wes Bowers fill out the LB room.
Bowers is a rookie out of Bowie State, coming off an excellent 58-tackle season. Cecil Cherry is finally getting an opportunity, after dominating in the FCF and TSL. Cherry has a raw knack for the position, which gives him a great chance at making the official roster.
Expect some cuts during training camp as teams narrow down their rosters.
An intriguing signing for the Vipers is Nijuel Hill, out of Delaware. The talented CB was snagged by Washington, but couldn’t stick with the NFL organization. Now, he has a chance to prove his worth in the XFL. Hill was incredibly consistent at Delaware, producing year in and year out.
Jameson Houston is a name many will recognize. Houston was with the Michigan Panthers in the USFL. He put up excellent stats, finishing the season with 45 tackles and two interceptions. Houston earned himself a training camp opportunity with the Seattle Seahawks, but now turns to the XFL for his next chapter.
WE'LL TAKE THAT! 😏 @jh_era11 with the pick and we are in business 💼
Deontay Anderson is also a rookie, beginning his professional career in the XFL. Anderson hails from Houston, where he compiled 63 tackles in his final year with the Cougars. Interestingly enough, Deontay has played as a linebacker in the past, so we could see Anderson moved around in Vegas.
Will Adams, the product out of Virginia State, could prove to be a solid pickup. His versatility at the position makes him a unique prospect heading into the XFL’s 2023 season. In his final college season, he racked up 61 tackles, including a couple TFL.
Trey Dickerson, Mister Harriel, Kevin McGill, Keylon Kennedy, Antonio Phillips, Nick Pickett, Stephen Roberts, Maurice Smith, and Adam Sparks round out the DB’s. Harriel was a monster at Sacramento State, and should do well in the XFL.
Bailey Giffen will serve as the Vegas Vipers kicker. In his senior season at Lamar University, Giffen went 7-for-10 on field goals. His longest made kick was 54 yards, showcasing his strong leg. Adam Higuera, out of Tulsa, will be his long snapper.
Funny enough, the Vipers punter will be Michael Carrizosa. Carrizosa was with the Michigan Panthers in 2022, until he missed what would have been a game winning 25 yard field goal. As a punter, however, Michael is quite good. The Vipers are making a smart decision by allowing Carrizosa to focus on what he does best.
Generally speaking, the Vegas Vipers are stacked. This team has drafted some of spring football’s elite playmakers. On top of that, they have also tapped into the NFL (i.e. Bryant, Beasley). While we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves – if all goes well – this team should make the postseason.
A lot rides on the coaching staff. Can Rod Woodson bring this team together in a cohesive manner? Will he properly utilize the talent his staff drafted? Time will tell. The snake pit is ready for action, that’s for sure. The Vegas Vipers kick off their season on February 18th, in Arlington.