They had the top pick where they selected hometown hero Shea Patterson and NFL veteran head coach Jeff Fisher. Things didn’t go well as Patterson would be cut by week 6 and the Panthers would finish with a record of 2-8.
They would end on a good note however as the USFL made a last second rule change to make the winner of the game between the Panthers and the Maulers get the top pick. Michigan would win 33-21 thanks to the performance of quarterback Paxton Lynch where he went 22-30 for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns to only 1 interception. Lynch like 24 other Panthers aren’t coming back. They aren’t the only ones gone as coach Jeff Fisher has resigned and former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan is taking over. Michigan looks to turn the page and that top pick will be the center of their rebuild. This is what the Michigan Panthers look like going into the 2023 USFL draft.
The Panther have 57 players rostered as of 2/17/23.
Returning: Eric Barriere, Eastern Washington; Josh Love, San Jose State
Losses: Paxton Lynch, Memphis
The quarterback position was hard to get right for Michigan in 2022. The Panthers saw playing time from 4 different quarterbacks over the course of their 10-game season. The one who had the best performance was former 1st round pick Paxton Lynch. Lynch was able to string together a few solid games, but he is currently out of the picture as he signed with the Orlando Guardians of the XFL. This leaves 2 QBs left on the roster in Eric Barriere and Josh Love. Love started the year on the Maulers but was cut in favor of Vad Lee and signed to Michigan to be a backup. He would get one full start where he would go toe to toe with Kyle Sloter and the Breakers and forced the only overtime game in year one. Barriere was also a mid-season add as he was a rookie in 2022 and after some time in rookie minicamps, decided to jump to the USFL where he saw some limited playing time after Love got hurt against the Generals in week 9. If the choice is between these two, Barriere is the high upside choice where Love is the high floor choice. Either way I would like to see them add another quarterback and if a great one is out there, I wouldn’t mind them spending the first pick on one.
RB Reggie Corbin, Illinois; Stevie Scott III, Indiana
WR Ishmael Hyman, James Madison; Joe Walker, Delaware; Marcus Simms, West Virginia
TE Marcus Baugh, Ohio State
RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame; LaDarren Brown, Oklahoma State
WR Trey Quinn, SMU; Taolo Limu-Jones, Eastern Washington; Whop Philyor, Indiana; AJ Richardson, Boise State; Isaiah McKoy, Kent State; La’Darius McElroy, Ouachita Baptist
TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville; Kyle Markway, South Carolina
RB Cameron Scarlett, Stanford; DeAndre Torrey, North Texas
WR Lance Lenoir, Western Illinois; Devin Ross, Colorado
TE La’Michael Pettway, Iowa State; Connor Davis, Stony Brook; Ryan O’Malley, Pitt
Last year the offense was built around the run game and this offseason has seen a doubling down on that. They were able to keep their top 2 running backs in Stevie Scott and All-USFL RB Reggie Corbin despite both looking like they might leave during points this offseason. They also added NFL vet Josh Adams who has spent time with the Eagles, Jets, and Saints. Tight end also looks pretty good now as they kept Marcus Baugh and added two NFL journeymen in Cole Hikutini and Kyle Markway. The big issue for Michigan is wide receiver. They lost their top two targets in Lance Lenoir and Devin Ross. They were able to bring back spring football veteran Ishmael Hyman who could potential be their top target. Michigan also made a signing I love in 2018 Mr. Irrelevant Trey Quinn and another that makes a lot of sense in Taolo Limu-Jones who was Eric Barriere’s top weapon at Eastern Washington. Whether it’s bringing back Lenoir or drafting one, receiver is something I image would be high on their radar.
T Keith Williams, Nebraska; Brodarious Hamm, Auburn; Joshua Dunlop, UTSA
C Sean Pollard, Clemson
T Ka’John Armstrong, Eastern Michigan; Gene Pryor, Hawaii; Ryan Nelson, Virginia; Denzel Okafor, Texas
G Corey Hoelck, Nebraska-Kearney
C Api Mane, FIU; Noah Johnson, Kansas State
T Teton Saltes, New Mexico; Syrus Tuitele, Fresno State
G Maea Tuehema, Louisiana State; Cordel Iwuagwu, TCU
C Tejan Koroma, BYU
The Michigan Panthers had a solid offensive line in year one. Like most teams they lost a few starters to the XFL in Teton Saltes and Maea Tuehema and they even lost their back-up center Tejan Koroma who got a lot of playing time after Sean Pollard was injured. They signed 3 guys with NFL experience and two who were rookies in 2022 in Gene Pryor and Denzel Okafor. Line is a difficult position to get right in spring football and although they seem to have a decent 5, it wouldn’t surprise me if they go offensive line with even the top pick.
DL Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M; Walter Palmore, Missouri
EDGE Tre Williams, Arkansas; Vantrel McMillian, Chattanooga
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss; Garrett Marino, UAB; Jamal Milan, Illinois
Michigan has taken some big swings at getting better this offseason. They lost a few starters like TJ Carter who signed a futures deal with the Rams and Cavon Walker who opted out of year 2 but those names are far less notable than the ones they added to replace them. Robert Nkemdiche was a top prospect coming out of high school and was good enough to be the Cardinals top pick in 2016. His NFL career didn’t go as well and after bouncing around on 3 other team he finds himself in the USFL. The other big signing was former Chiefs’ 2nd round pick Breeland Speaks. He had a similar fate to Nkemdiche as he didn’t stick in Kansas City and bounced from team to team. There should be some skepticism as many top picks in spring leagues don’t live up to the hype like Trent Richardson or Matt Elam, but their will certainly be eyes on this group. As for the draft, they might still want to add to the edge group, but I doubt they will use top capital on depth.
Returning: Frank Ginda, San Jose State; Terry Myrick, Eastern Michigan; Justin Hughes, Kansas State; Alexander Vainikolo, New Mexico
New Addition: Leon Jacobs, Wisconsin; Charles Williams, Northwood; Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
This is one of the rare position groups that suffered no losses over the offseason. They were able to keep the linebacker with the 2nd most tackles last year in Frank Ginda and everyone else in that room. That didn’t stop them from trying to get better though as they added 3 new bodies to the group. The most notable name is Leon Jacobs who was a 7th round pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars and spent three seasons with them before getting cut. I can’t imagine them adding much more to this room, at minimum it’s a very low priority.
CB Jalin Burrell, New Mexico; Eddie Graham, Tennessee State
S Warren Saba, East Carolina; Cory Rahman, Tennessee State; Sean Mahone, West Virginia; Corrion Ballard, Utah
CB Jameson Houston, Baylor; Tino Ellis, Maryland; Joseph Putu, Florida; Dominique Martin, Tarleton State
S Sean Williams, Navy; Kieron Williams, Nebraska
The 2022 Panthers secondary was a strong group. Unfortunately, the 2023 secondary will be very different. Michigan lost 3 starters with Jameson Houston joining the Vegas Vipers, Sean Williams joining the San Antonio Brahmas, and Tino Ellis who signed a futures deal with the Dolphins. This may mean that Eddie Graham and Cory Rahman who both signed during the season and were both rookies coming from the same college are probably stepping into bigger roles. The Panthers also signed former Michigan Wolverine and 3rd round NFL safety Lano Hill who figures to start this year. This is a spot that could see significant upgrades in the draft with all the talent that is gone.
There is a lot to be excited about for the Panthers despite the poor first season. They are playing in Michigan for the first time this year, they signed multiple notable former NFL players to their team, and for the second year in a row they get the top pick in the draft. I could still see them going after quarterback, wide receiver, edge rusher, and cornerback but there is reason for some cautious optimism in Michigan.
Who should the Michigan Panthers select with the first pick in the upcoming USFL College Draft? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.