Breakers Sign Free Agent TE Marcus Baugh & WR Jimmie Robinson Jr.

Looking At Roster Surprises In The UFL: USFL Conference

At the beginning of camp, I make an article for each UFL team trying to predict a final 50-man rosters. In the past few days, teams have made their final cuts and it felt like a good time to revisit those predictions to see where I was off. There was no way I could predict all the additions and trades made in camp so today I will be looking at the players that I cut in those previous articles that beat the odds and made the initial rosters. This article will only detail the USFL division as I already covered the XFL ones in an earlier article. Let’s jump into it.

Birmingham Stallions

Offense: WR Kevin Austin, WR Gary Jennings, TE Marcus Baugh, T Darius Harper, T Derwin Gray, G Zack Johnson

The Birmingham offense is stacked with talent so it’s no wonder that I would be off on a few of the final players. At receiver, there were a few surprises with Victor Bolden and Slade Bolden both missing out on final roster spots. That meant that WRs Kevin Austin and Gary Jennings made the cut. Austin was on the Jaguars the last 2 seasons but fell under the radar due to a loaded receiver room and I didn’t view Gary Jennings as a threat at returner but he was seen returning kicks during camp on social media which made his inclusion a certainty.

Beyond them, Marcus Baugh made it as a 3rd tight end when I thought they would only keep 2 and 3 lineman made the roster with 2 returning lineman in T Darius Harper and T Derwin Gray and an NFL Journeyman in Zack Johnson. They all earned spots after some surprising cuts with Cohl Cabral and Calvin Ashley who failed to make it despite being some of the better starters last year in the USFL.

Defensive: DL Jordan Thompson, EDGE DaMarcus Mitchell, LB Damon Lloyd, LB Scooby Wright, CB Madre Harper, CB Lorenzo Burns, S JoJo Tillery, S Daniel Isom

Few of my predictions were as far off as I was on the Stallions defense this year. They spent a lot of their offseason getting a ton of NFL talent which makes me right off some of the players that weren’t starters or were injured last season. That applies to DL Jordan Thompson, Damon Lloyd, Scooby Wright, Lorenzo Burns, and JoJo Tillery. The linebacker spot was especially flipped on its head as 2 projected starters didn’t make the final squad in Chris Orr (retired) and Travin Howard (cut) which takes fan favorite Scooby Wright from a bubble player to suddenly a player inline to start despite being the oldest player on the team.

Alongside those, I also missed on DaMarcus Mitchell who didn’t make it originally due to a stacked edge room but the Stallions didn’t feel the same as 5 of the 6 edge rushers I had originally making it were cut and 2 street free agents in Taco Charlton and Jonathan Garvin round out that room. A similar story with Madre Harper and Daniel Isom in the secondary, guys that I was high on like Channing Stribling and Bubba Bolden were just beat out by these 2 NFL journeymen which makes them players to watch if they are able to get extended playing time.

Houston Roughnecks

Offense: WR Emmanuel Butler, WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, WR KeKe Chism, T Justin Redd, G Brandon Haskin

The Houston offense was not built the way I thought it would be. The additions made this offseason made me think they were gonna stock up on tight ends and get physical with Mark Thompson. Instead they only kept 3 tight ends to make way for a staggering 8 receivers. This included 3 receivers that I didn’t see returning in Emmanuel Butler, Anthony Ratliff-Williams, and KeKe Chism who were mostly role players on a run heavy team last year so it’ll be interesting to see if any of the 3 are able to stand out early.

Beyond that they also had 2 surprises at offensive line in T Justin Redd and G Brandon Haskin. Redd as a rookie was just able to make it over Marcus Tatum who was a starter last season for the New Orleans Breakers. Haskin is the oldest non-specialist player in the league at 34 but that didn’t stop him from beating out all the younger lineman that Houston had in camp.

Defense: DL Glen Logan, DL Ethan Westbrooks, LB Marvin Moody, CB Colby Richardson, CB Jai Nunn-Liddell

On the defensive side of the ball, there were only a few surprises to make the team. 2 spring league vets were able to get spots in Glen Logan and Ethan Westbrooks. Logan becomes the only holdover from last season’s Roughneck team and Westbrooks enters his 3rd season on his 3rd team. At linebacker, Marvin Moody blindsided me by beating out Ace Eley who I viewed as a potential starter for Houston after finishing the NFL season with the Panthers but that never materialized. Then, in the original series of articles, I called the secondary one of the hardest rooms to predict and I was right in believing that as 4 of the 5 corners I had making the team were cut, mostly in favor of street free agent (Corn Elder and Jimmy Moreland) but also 2 players I had cut in Richardson and Nunn-Liddell. Both don’t have a lot of experience so they’ll be interesting to watch if they get any real playing time this spring.

Memphis Showboats

Offense: WR Dee Anderson, WR Daewood Davis, SLOT Lee Morris, TE Wes Saxton Jr, TE Jay Jay Wilson, G Leka Uhatafe, C Jordan McCray

The Showboats are under new management with coach Todd Haley out and coach John DeFillipo in. The position where that’s most evident is receiver with the starters from last year Derrick Dillon, Rashard Davis, and Ryan McDaniel out. That means there are 2 faces from the Breakers last year in Dee Anderson and Lee Morris that made the cut alongside Daewood Davis who is one of the players with the most hype coming out of camp.

At tight end, I completely missed on the depth behind Sage Surratt with newcomers in Dominique Dafney and Michael Ezeike getting beat out by spring football vets in Wes Saxton and Jay Jay Wilson. The offensive line was also interesting with a starter for the 2023 Breakers in Kirk Kelley getting cut early in camp and G Lukayus McNeil not reporting, it led to 2 vets sticking around in Leka Uhatafe and Jordan McCray despite both being 29 and 31 respectively.

Defense: DL PJ Hall, EDGE Jordan Ferguson, EDGE Tyshun Render, LB Malik Lawal, CB Nehemiah Shelton, CB TJ Green, S Quinton Meeks

The misses I had on the Showboats defense followed a similar trend for the most part. 5 of the 7 players on defense were returning players that I assumed would be beat out by the additions made in free agency and the dispersal drafts. In the secondary Nehemiah Shelton, TJ Green, and Quinton Meeks were able to beat out additions like CB DJ Daniel, CB Tye Smith, and S Antonie Brooks for roster spots.

Then at linebacker, Malik Lawal was able to beat out Shaheed Salmon and Jordan Ferguson was able to outlast a ton of additions like Kolin Hill and Jordan Brailford at edge. The last 2 players were offseason additions that I didn’t see sticking. Tyshun Render was originally a victim of the same room that made me think Ferguson would not make it and PJ Hall despite his draft pedigree, hasn’t been able to stick around in spring football, getting cut twice in the last year but he was able to find a home in Memphis.

Michigan Panthers

Offense: SLOT Devin Ross, TE Gunnar Oakes, T Ryan Pope, G James Walker

Michigan was the team I had the least wrong about in the USFL conference. That doesn’t mean I didn’t miss on a few names though and the one I was most off on was Devin Ross who found a way to stick around in Michigan for a third season. At tight end, I thought Nick Guggemos would be tight end #3 but he was placed on IR and rookie draft pick Gunnar Oakes took his place. Then at offensive line, Ryan Pope might’ve found a home as this is his 5th spring football team in the last 13 months but he looks to be getting starting reps at left tackle which is an interesting development. The last player is James Walker who was able to secure that 3rd guard spot in a room with a lot of bodies at the beginning of camp.

Defense: EDGE Ron’Dell Carter, LB Javin White, CB KiAnte Hardin, S Sean Mahone

Lastly, the Michigan Panthers defense had only a few names that exceeded my expectations in camp. At edge rusher, D’Anthony Jones not reporting screwed up my list and led to Ron’Dell Carter finding a spot in Michigan for the 2nd season in a row. At linebacker the shocking cuts of Jerod Fernandez and Isaac Darkangelo led way to some other players like hybrid backer Javin White to find a spot. Then in the secondary the Panthers decided to hold onto their own with depth pieces KiAnte Hardin and Sean Mahone beating out players that started for other teams like Shalom Luani and Alex Thomas.

Specialists: K Jake Bates

This is one of the worst mistakes I had in either list, to the point where I forgot about it when writing the XFL version of this article and called Donald De La Haye the only specialist I got wrong. The signs were all there when the Panthers protected Bates and didn’t do the same for Murphy. This is a clear trend around the league where kickers that are good kickoff specialists are beating out kickers that are better at field goals. This is likely due to the USFL kickoff and XFL PATs getting adopted by the UFL which takes away the amount of field goals without extra point kicks and requires kickers to be elite on kickoffs to make it far enough for good field position.

Final Thoughts

The USFL division doesn’t have the sheer amounts of intriguing surprise players that the XFL division does, but that doesn’t mean that there are no fascinating players exceeding expectations here too. Players like WR Daewood Davis, WR Kevin Austin, TE Gunnar Oakes, and the 2 corners in Houston Colby Richardson and Jai Nunn-Liddell all have upside that was shown through beating out more well known players in camp and anyone of those sort of players could be the next Davion Davis or Josh Butler that breaks out and goes on to stick at the next level.

What are your thoughts on the USFL Conference Rosters? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

Fubo
  1. Hi Nicholas,

    When you originally wrote this, I told you that ai thought you did a great job, but I also mentioned that players need to perform in camp. Those that do will surprise. My comments included that I felt the Stallions would carry 3 whether it be Baugh or Holly. I figured this would be a Skip Holtz decision. I thought there was a good chance Gunner Oakes would make the team as long as he had a good camp. I did think that Anthony-Ratliff Williams would get in over Teo Redding, but still felt Redding could stick over the other two on the list, but I wasn’t sure. I kind of feel they felt they had already seen his best. As far as o-line play, I can follow a line and see how it is performing, but for me to say who will get cut I am unsure….so I have two things to say. 1. As you stated when you wrote the articles you wrote these WAY too early and for you to feel you would get it right is crazy, because you don’t know the measure of a players heart unless you have seen them play before. Someone told me even before the game the Chiefs will win the Super Bowl, because it is what they do. They know that because they have seen it. 2. Even though you picked way to early and can’t always tell what players will do in camp, you did a wonderful job. Just think on this. I have been watching football 47 years and picked just about the same as you and think on this next year you will jave the experience of knowing what you picked and how they performed so you will be a bit more experienced yet still have the same instincts.

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