The Birmingham Stallions accomplished what no other spring league team has done so far: win a Championship. In 2022, Birmingham was a force to be reckoned with. They dominated the USFL from week one all the way to the end, culminating in a Championship victory.
Let’s take a look back on their incredible 2022 season, and set sights on the future ahead.
Selfless & Talented Quarterbacks
One of the key factors that brought Birmingham success was the unselfish play of their quarterbacks. Sure, J’Mar Smith saw the majority of snaps this season – but both Alex McGough and Smith did whatever they had to do to win.
Smith wasn’t even the starter to begin the season, but filled in for an injured Alex – and the rest is history. He led the Stallions to their first win against New Jersey, which ultimately carried through the rest of the year.
J’Mar finished the season with 1,572 passing yards, completing 54.6% of his passes. He threw ten touchdowns, to six interceptions. One of his major strengths was fighting through the inconsistencies. Even on days where he struggled, Smith would find a way to get the job done when it mattered.
Of course, he put on a show in the postseason – playing his best football of the entire year. Skip Holtz and Smith had both worked with each other prior, and that college chemistry passed over into the USFL.
Now, McGough was no slacker either. Despite dealing with injuries all season long, he stepped up when his name was called. Heck, if it wasn’t for Alex’ heroics in the Championship after J’Mar went down, who knows if the Stallions would have hoisted that trophy.
At the end of the day, both Smith and McGough were the main reason why Birmingham had an 11-1 record. No matter what was thrown at them, they pushed through the adversity to get the job done.
Bo Scarbrough Signing
In week four, the Stallions made a major move by bringing in Bo Scarbrough. An already very talented team gained a running back who had star potential in this league – and he lived up to the hype. Over the course of his first couple of games, Bo lit up those Birmingham crowds.
He finished the season with 353 rushing yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. While he wasn’t as effective down the stretch, Bo turned up the intensity in the playoffs. In the Championship game versus Philadelphia, Scarbrough ran for 135 yards and a TD – setting the tone from the get go.
Now, while Scarbrough played quite well – you can’t ignore CJ Marable’s success, either. The two were a fantastic one-two punch, with both providing different assets to the team. While Bo was the bigger, more physical back, Marable was a shifty speedster that could turn it up at any moment.
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Bolden led the way, serving as a playmaker across the board. He was a reliable target for both quarterbacks, while making an impact in the return game as well. Bolden was a league leader in all-purpose yards, which was made evident in the postseason. His kickoff return for a touchdown was a major turning point in the semi-finals, and he won Championship MVP due to his effectiveness.
Marlon Williams is a straight up baller. Every time Birmingham needed a big play, Williams was one of the guys to do it. He was quite consistent week in and week out, and made a name for himself on the Stallions.
Clearly, Birmingham also boasted one of the best defenses in the league. There were plenty of times in 2022 where their offense was struggling to find a rhythm – but this defense was always showing out.
Gates, in particular, was fantastic. He made countless clutch plays throughout the year, including a pick six in the semi-finals against New Orleans. His presence on the defense made Birmingham a formidable foe that no one wanted to face at all.
Then, we have Scooby. Everybody loves Scooby. His demeanor, passion, and love for the game was made famous with the shark-dog celebration he pulled out in week four, garnering the support of football fans across the country. Wright’s pick six in the Championship essentially locked up the trophy for Birmingham – which was a fitting way to close out the season.
For Skip Holtz, the USFL was his first time as a head coach in a professional football league. The way he handled business with the team was phenomenal, to say the least.
What made Birmingham such a strong unit, was the attitude that Holtz instilled into his players. Embracing a “next man up” mentality brought the best out of everyone on the roster, helping the team withstand the tough times; while simultaneously allowing them to thrive as they got on a roll.
Another underrated ability of Holtz was his ability to build this group from the ground up. He wisely brought in plenty of athletes that he had worked with in the past at Louisiana Tech, which gave Birmingham an upper hand when it came to chemistry.
Overall, Skip did an excellent job this year of creating a winning environment in Birmingham. Season one couldn’t have gone any better, and the Stallions have a bright future moving forward.
Holes To Fill
To be honest, this roster was quite complete in year one – but, expect some changes in 2023. Firstly, they will have to find replacements for players such as Bolden and Mitchell, who both signed contracts with NFL teams since the season ended.
While there is no guarantee that those players will stick in the NFL, it is likely that Birmingham will need some more receivers in the future. Skip Holtz’ offense operates best with smaller, quicker wide receivers – so those Bolden-esque athletes are the ones that they will want to pursue. On top of that, getting a healthy tight end is a must, as Cary Angeline struggled with injuries all season.
Brandon Aubrey, the soccer player turned kicker, was solid this year. Sure, he showed some weaknesses here and there – but, overall, he performed quite well for the Stallions. If they can keep him on the roster, odds are they will roll with Aubrey in 2023.
A massive question mark will be the status of J’Mar Smith, and/or Alex McGough. If the NFL opportunities come their way, then the team will have to find another signal caller. Otherwise, the Stallions should be back in action with two of the USFL’s best quarterbacks.
Well, it’s hard to call Birmingham’s season anything other than a smashing success. From their thrilling win in week one against New Jersey, to their hard fought Championship victory in Canton, it was a movie. From start to finish, the Stallions put on a show, and proved that they belonged on the big stage.
Moving forward into 2023, it will be quite interesting to see how things pan out in the future. Can the Stallions repeat in back to back years? What will their team look like next season? Only time will tell. All of that being said, fans who followed in 2022 were treated to a sensational season.