Michigan Panthers Re-Sign QB E.J. Perry For 2024 Season

Projecting The Michigan Panthers 50 Man UFL Roster

The Michigan Panthers put it all together a little too late last season. They spent too much time trying Josh Love and Carson Strong at quarterback only to find their QB of the future in EJ Perry in the final game of the season and Perry didn’t even really put it all together until the second half of the playoff game versus Pittsburgh.

On a positive spin they have some positive momentum going into the post merger league. That leads up to training camp which is happening in just a few days where the Panthers will go from a 75 man roster to 50 before week one.

Today I will attempt a way too early prediction on who will be left on that 50 man roster. Keep in mind this is just my predictions and I’m very likely gonna be way off on a few of these. Let’s get into it.

Quarterbacks

Staying: Davis Cheek, Danny Etling, EJ Perry

Cuts: Brian Lewerke

The quarterback room in Michigan is one that has a lot to get excited about. That excitement starts with EJ Perry who is the assumed starter after playing well in his two starts for Michigan last season. His competition for QB1 will come from Danny Etling who was once a 7th round pick and has since been an NFL journeyman and Davis Cheek who was the backup for McLeod Bethel-Thompson for the Breakers last season. That leaves Brian Lewerke out, which has seemed like a formality since Perry Re-Signed. Very few of the UFL teams have 3 QBs that intrigue me as much as Michigan, will be fun to see that room take shape.

Skill Positions

Staying:
RB Matt Colburn, Wes Hills, Nate McCrary
WR Dezmon Patmon, Marcus Simms, Jordan Suell, Terry Wright
Slot Devin Gray, Trey Quinn
TE Derrick Deese Jr, Nick Guggemos, Cole Hikutini

Cuts:
RB Raymond Calais, Toa Taua
WR Garrett Maag, Samson Nacua
Slot Devin Ross
TE Gunnar Oakes

The Panthers skill positions are headlined by a trio of running backs that have to get you excited in USFL vets Wes Hills and Matt Colburn on top of one of the more underrated offseason signing of Nate McCrary who has showed flashes in the preseason to make you think he could be an elite UFL RB. This means Raymond Calais and Toa Taua are out despite spending time on XFL and USFL rosters last season. The receiver core is looking different after 2 guys went to the NFL in DJ Montgomery and Kaden Davis.

The returning faces are Trey Quinn after a stint with the Lions and Marcus Simms mostly for his special teams play. The new faces include 3 faces from the Stars in Devin Gray, Jordan Suell, and Terry Wright as the new OC for the Panthers is Marcel Bellefeuille who coached receivers for them. They also added former 6th round pick Dezmon Patmon who could easily be their X this season. This kicks out offseason additions Garrett Maag, Samson Nacua, and returning player Devin Ross. Then one of the deeper tight end rooms as their top tight end in 2023, Cole Hikutini is returning and they added 2 NFL vets Nick Guggemos and Derrick Deese Jr. which leaves USFL rookie draft pick Gunnar Oakes on the outside looking in.

Offensive Line

Staying:
T Jarrett Horst, Drew Himmelman, Chim Okorafor, LaColby Tucker
G Jake Burton, Joshua Dunlop, Ryan Nelson
C Noah Johnson

Cuts:
T Ryan Pope, Phil Saleh, Tristen Taylor
G Eric Abojei, Denzel Okafor, Gene Pryor, James Walker
C None

So more than any other group in the UFL, I’m completely going out on a limb on this orientation for the offensive line. I believe that since they added so many tackles that they view Jake Burton and Joshua Dunlop as guards despite time recently as tackles. The interior offensive line then gets rounded out by returning lineman Ryan Nelson and Noah Johnson. Then the Panthers get one of the tallest offensive tackle groups I’ve ever seen with draft picks Jarrett Horst and Chim Okorafor being the short guys at 6’6 and then offseason additions LaColby Tucker and Drew Himmelman come in at a ridiculous 6’9. That leaves 7 offensive lineman looking for work. Will be interesting to see what happens with this group full of athletic freaks.

Defensive Line

Staying: TJ Carter, Garrett Marino, Walter Palmore, Daniel Wise

Cuts: Jamal Milan

This is a very straight forward group to look at. They added Daniel Wise and brought TJ Carter after a year long stint in the NFL who both will be likely starters then the room is rounded out by returning faces of Garrett Marino and Walter Palmore. Jamal Milan was a depth player for Michigan last season and is left on the outside looking in.

Edge Rushers

Staying: D’Anthony Jones, Breeland Speaks, Nasir Player, Kenny Willekes

Cuts: Ron’dell Carter, Vantrell McMillan

Last Season saw the breakout of Breeland Speaks and Levi Bell, although Bell is with the Seahawks, the room still has a lot of potential. 3 new players join Speaks with Nasir Player coming from the Maulers and 2 free agent signings of Kenny Willekes and D’Anthony Jones. Jones gives them some flexibility as he has inside out versatility. That leaves 2 of the rushers from last season in Carter and McMillan out.

Linebackers

Staying: Isaac Darkangelo, Noah Dawkins, Jerod Fernandez, Frank Ginda, DaShaun White

Cuts: Javin White

A pretty straight forward room to talk about with no cuts. The room recently got back USFL Defensive Player of the Year Frank Ginda which really solidifies the room. They also brought back Noah Dawkins and DaShaun White and drafted All-USFL LB Jerod Fernandez. They then added Isaac Darkangelo after he had a stint with the Raiders. Linebacker talent across the league is solid but this group still stands out as one that might be a game changing group for Michigan.

Secondary

Staying:
CB Adonis Alexander, Nate Brooks, Keith Gibson, Jamal Perry, Lavonta Taylor, Alex Thomas
S Will Adams, Corrion Ballard, Shalom Luani, Kai Nacua, Bryce Tornaden

Cuts:
CB Keandre Evans, KiAnte Hardin
S Sean Mahone, Cory Rahman, Warren Saba

The secondary is getting a serious overhaul with only a projected 3 returning players in Taylor, Ballard, and Nacua. They added NFL vet Jamal Perry to a group that has 4 new faces that were starting in the USFL last season. The safety room is even more impressive as they are keeping their top 2 from last year and adding 2 All-USFL safeties in Shalom Luani and Bryce Tornaden they also had Will Adams as a top pick in the Super Draft so he seems likely to make the cut despite limited playing time for the Vipers last season. That leaves a bunch of players from last season cut with the most notable of the group being Warren Saba.

Specialist

Staying: K Cole Murphy, P Brock Miller, LS Jordan Ober
Cuts: K John Bates, P Kyle Kramer

The Panthers specialist room has more competition than any other group in the UFL with a kicker and punter battle. They are challenging Cole Murphy with rookie kicker John Bates and Kyle Kramer with spring football vet Brock Miller. I’d bet on Murphy and Miller to join Jordan Ober to form the group for the upcoming season.

Final Thoughts

The Michigan Panthers are dealing with some tough competition on the USFL side with Birmingham and Memphis looking formidable and I’m not sure they’re at that level yet. Even if they don’t, Panthers fans have a lot to look forward to as they have a bunch of interesting prospects and spring football veterans surrounding this roster. The hardest cuts were Warren Saba and Gunnar Oakes although admittedly there weren’t a ton of tough calls for the Panthers. It will be interesting to see how Michigan looks against St. Louis at the end of March.

What are your thoughts on the Michigan Panthers roster setup for 2024? Who will make a difference during the regular season this year? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

  1. Spot on! All the way through. Even to the point of talking Warren Saba being a tough cut, especially with Corrian Ballard on the team, because that could go one way or the other. The other interesting is that stats would say Sean Mahone made the tackle, but only after he did not affect the play he could have. This shows me you truly have watched the games and understand what you are seeing. Seeing this should motivate players like Mahone to truly ask Nolan what he expects of him so he can find out whether he was reading plays wrong or was he more of a safety valve and if this is what Nolan wanted. This could change the pecking order a bit. I think you nailed the linebacker group to a tee., It is the group I feel he has put his staple on the most. He jettisoned two players Santrell Latham and Terry Myrik who seemed to be active. Latham after only one game. To be honest this lineup seems to be the right lineup so I think he envisioned this. The DT lineup was porous against the run last season. Marino might offer less against the run, but does bring pass rush from that spot. I think you nailed the WR and RB spots, however since I don’t watch college football that much I can’t say I am familiar with that group that will be cut. I think Gunner Oakes has a real shot to make the team, but I say this without having seen him play. If the players are watching, this should light a candle under some of these players as these picks are not out of left field. I hope one thing that doesn’t happen. I hope that if Etling does not win the job, I hope he aeea it through. He has waited around for his chance to play and this is as close as he has been. The o line in the past has not done a good job, but it seems there is some experience and depth on this line. Remember too that for the 25 players that don’t make it, there is hopefully another 2 expansion teams on the way with hopefully a CFL expansion team down the road and if the IFA league makes it at least another 160 spots for American players to make their mark, so these players should be learning everything they can to keep the dream alive next season.

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