Houston Gamblers Sign RB Mark Thompson In USFL Free Agency | Houston Roughnecks

Projecting The Houston Roughnecks 50 Man UFL Roster

If you were a fan of the Houston Roughnecks last season then you might be upset at the fact that it’ll be a new look Houston team in 2024. The old Roughnecks were dissolved and the Houston Gamblers led by Coach Curtis Johnson are taking over the name and city.

The Gamblers were seen as a bottom dweller coming into last season in the USFL and exceeded expectations with a 5-5 season and just barely missing the playoffs in a strong southern division. Now the Roughnecks hope to continue exceeding expectations in 2024 and that starting in camp this month.

Today we’ll look at a projection for who makes it when the roster cuts down from 75 to 50 at the end of camp. Obviously, this is just my opinion and there is almost no way these predictions will be correct but it’ll be a fun exercise to see where these teams sit pre-camp. Alright let’s get into it.

Quarterbacks

Staying: Jarrett Guarantano, Nolan Henderson, Reid Sinnett

Cuts: None

Houston is starting over at the quarterback position in 2024. All three of their quarterbacks from 2023 are street free agents as they look to improve to match the arms race that has been this UFL offseason. The Roughnecks added Jarrett Guarantano who has spent time on the Cardinals and Broncos over the past 2 years and Nolan Henderson who is a rookie out of Delaware who spent a cup of coffee with the Ravens in the offseason. The guy I think will be the starter is Reid Sinnett though, Sinnett was on the Brahmas last year but barely spent any time on the field as once he got the starting spot, he was hurt 2 quarters later. In that time he flashed accuracy and athleticism so he is intriguing and it was enough to get him an opportunity with the Bengals last year. Either way, these three seem to be the guys that’ll be there once the season starts.

Skill Positions

Staying:
RB Tiyon Evans, Ryan Nall, TJ Pledger, Mark Thompson
WR Steven Dunbar, Cyril Grayson, Kirk Merrit, Teo Redding
Slot Justin Hall, Isiah Hennie
TE Braedon Bowman, Woody Brandom, Ryan Izzo, Clint Sigg Jr.

Cuts:
RB Ezra Gray, Shemari Jones
WR Emmaunel Butler, KeKe Chism, Anthony Ratiff-Williams
Slot Gene Coleman
TE Rodell Rahmaan

The Houston Roughnecks seem to be running a very unique system in spring football with an increasing interest in the running game. That is mostly due to USFL offensive player of the year Mark Thompson who will continue to be the focus although there are other interesting backs in rookie Tiyon Evans and returning back TJ Pledger which round out a very solid running back room. They also have free agent RB/FB Ryan Nall who I have as fullback for them. Then at receiver they have 3 very interesting additions in Isiah Hennie, Steven Dunbar, and Kirk Merrit who all will be a part of this passing attack on top of Justin Hall and Teo Redding returning and speedster Cyril Grayson. Then they went heavy with 4 tight ends in returning Clint Sigg Jr, New Jersey Generals Braedon Bowman and Woody Brandom, and Ryan Izzo. The spot that I had Teo Redding in is one to watch as the 3 outside receivers I cut could all make a run at that last receiver spot. Last player I’d watch is Ezra Gray only because they were Houston’s top pick in the super draft.

Offensive Line

Staying:
T Avery Gennesy, Na’Ty Rodgers, Marcus Tatum
G Shamarious Gilmore, Braylon Jones, Robert Myers
C Nick Buchanan, Jack Kramer

Cuts:
T Norman Price
G Brandon Haskin, Jair Joseph, Jakari Robinson, Justin Redd
C Isaac Weaver

The Roughnecks invested heavily in their offensive line this offseason which is interesting because I have them keeping almost all of their returning players in Gennesy, Rodgers, Jones, and Buchanan. That’s not to say they didn’t get better as they got the highest graded offensive lineman in the USFL last year in Shamaroius Gilmore and 2 starters from New Orleans in Kramer and Tatum. Cutting Norman Price at tackle hurt and I could see him making it but it’s tough to keep more than 8 offensive lineman on a 50 man roster.

Defensive Line

Staying: Reggie Howard Jr, Jeffrey Johnson, Toby Johnson, Olive Sagapolu, Keonte Schad

Cuts: Glen Logan, Ethan Westbrooks

This is a tough group to decide what to do with as all of these players were starters or role players last season in the USFL or XFL. They have completely re-made their room with the only returning player being Jeffrey Johnson. Other than him they got the Breakers 2 defensive tackles in Schad and Howard Jr, Toby Johnson from the Generals, and Olive Sagapolu from the Maulers. Both of the cuts in this room were tough as Logan and Westbrooks are spring league vets but they were both the odd man out.

Edge Rushers

Staying: Ronheen Bingham, Isaiah Chambers, Chris Odom, Adam Rodriguez

Cuts: Jake Hlava, Reggie Walker, Bryson Young

The Roughnecks got a fun pair of edge rushers to join their squad this offseason in former DPOY Chris Odom and All-USFL edge Adam Rodriguez who were both top rushers in the USFL. They join both 2023 starting pass rushers in Ronheen Bingham and Isaiah Chambers who both are back for the 2024 season. That means Bryson Young is on the outside looking in as I only have 4 rushers making the squad despite being a starter for both of the Generals seasons.

Linebackers

Staying: Ace Eley, Reuben Foster, Gabriel Sewell Jr, Khalan Tolson, JT Tyler

Cuts: Marvin Moody

The 2023 Gamblers linebacking core that consisted of Khalan Tolson and JT Tyler were a solid group despite the lack of a household name. That won’t be the case in 2024 as they added Reuben Foster to the room after a great year with the Maulers, to go alongside Ace Eley who spent the 2023 NFL season on the Panther practice squad and Gabriel Sewell Jr (Brother of Penei Sewell) who was a starter for the Philadelphia Stars last season. That leaves Marvin Moody on the outside looking in.

Secondary

Staying:
CB Nick Grant, Jeremiah Johnson, Dayan Lake, Shahman Moore, Isaiah Zuber
S Manny Bunch, Ja’Von Hicks, Markel Roby, Donald Rutledge Jr.

Cuts:
CB Richard Bowens III,Jai Nunn-Liddell, Colby Richardson, Elijah Rodgers
S None

The Roughnecks secondary is the opposite problem of their defensive line where they have a lot of unknown quantities in the room which makes guessing who is in and out very difficult. At corner I brought back everyone left from last season with Grant, Johnson, Lake, and Zuber making the cut along with Shahman Moore. At safety it’s easier as there are only 4 players that have history at safety so unless one of the corners is moving positions, it’ll be those 4. This is one of the groups that’ll be most interesting to watch as someone could easily come out of nowhere and find a role for the Roughnecks.

Specialist

Staying: K Luis Aguilar, P Hunter Niswander, LS Logan Klusman

Cuts: None

The Roughnecks are looking to overhaul their specialist group with the only player left from last season being Niswander who was a midseason addition. They added Logan Klusman very early in the offseason last July and they drafted Luis Aguilar who was famous for hitting 8 field goals in a single game last year for the Stars. Obviously, this group seems set until proven otherwise.

Final Thoughts

The Houston Gamblers liked to zig when everybody else zagged and despite the name change that has stayed the same for the Roughnecks. They are going big on offense which isn’t typical in spring ball and didn’t make any big investments in their secondary as everyone else jumped on the available players. They still had some hard names to cut in KeKe Chism, Norman Price, Glen Logan, and Bryson Young. Will be one of the more interesting teams to watch when the season kicks off in late March.

What are your thoughts on the Houston Roughnecks roster for this UFL season? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!