Philadelphia Stars — Team Preview | Defense

Philadelphia Stars — Team Preview | Defense

Bart Andrus brought in Brad Miller as defensive coordinator and Martin Bayless as special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach. Miller coached in the NFL and CFL from 1996 to 2014 and most recently was with Andrus as the linebackers coach of the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

The team’s secondary has a heavy 2020 Los Angeles Wildcats flair. LaDarius Wiley, Ahmad Dixon, Jack Tocho, and Bradley Sylve all spent time in Los Angeles under Martin Bayless, who joined the Philadelphia Stars as their defensive backs coach. Bayless also coordinates special teams and brought long snapper Ryan Navarro from the Wildcats.

Like the offensive side, the defensive roster features a lot of players with connections to The Spring League and Bart Andrus. Chris Nelson, Carroll Phillips, Josh Banderas, Jordan Moore, Amani Dennis, Channing Stribling, and Matt Mengel all played under Bart Andrus in The Spring League with the Generals.

Mengel will handle both kicking and punting duties for the Stars.

  • Pro Experience: New York Giants (2019), Cincinnati Bengals (2019–2020), New York Jets (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selections: Round 2
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Has played in five games over the last three NFL seasons. Has the versatility to play inside or outside. As a freshman, he led Nebraska in sacks with 4.5, but he never fully developed into an elite pass rusher when he became a full-time starter.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: In his final 30+ starts at Nebraska, he only recorded 6.5 sacks. As a freshman at Nebraska he played lighter and was an edge rusher, but bulked up when Nebraska went to a 3–4 scheme.
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: None
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 24
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Barnett spent the last two offseasons in camp with the Patriots and Lions.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Hurt by Georgia not having a 2020 Pro Day, but didn’t last in the NFL when he signed with the Patriots. Spent all of 2020 on New England’s injured reserve. Only made seven starts at Georgia and only had 0.5 sacks in 27 games.
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: None
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 3
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Has great size at 6’7 and as a junior at Oregon he racked up four sacks on only 147 snaps.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Missed the last nine games of his senior year with a knee injury and only had 6.5 sacks over a 30 game span at Oregon.
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: None
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 26
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Spent 2021 training camp with the Miami Dolphins after being first-team All-Big Ten in 2020 when he picked up four sacks.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Per his NFL.com scouting report: “He’s high-cut and leggy and his body control is very average, so he tends to get bounced around by contact as a run blocker and pass rusher”
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: Generals TSL (2020), Edmonton Elks (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 25
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Started 29 games with the Texas Longhorns and ended his Longhorn career with 109 tackles.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Never got another shot in the NFL after a short stint in 2019 with the Steelers. Critique is Nelson is more of a space-eater and less of a distributor. At 27 years old, he’s older than most other prospects at the verge of the NFL.
  • Stars Connection: Played under Bart Andrus with the Generals in 2020.
  • Pro Experience: Jacksonville Jaguars (2017), Indianapolis Colts (2018), Washington Football Team (2019), Atlanta Falcons (2019), Generals TSL (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 4
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Has played in 11 career NFL games, mostly on special teams but got a shot on defense with the Colts in 2018 after he recorded two sacks in a preseason game. Very strong 40-yard dash (4.6) and plays fast. In 2016 at Illinois, Phillips had nine sacks and 19 tackles for a loss.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: When Phillips got an extended look with the Colts in 2018, his PFF grade was 33.3.
  • Stars Connection: Played under Bart Andrus with the Generals.
  • Pro Experience: Blues TSL (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Supplemental Draft, Round 2
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Two-time FCS All-American at Weber State and had 10.5 sacks as a senior in 2019. Also has versatility to help out at fullback with the Stars.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Undersized edge rusher from a small school.
  • Stars Connection: Played in The Spring League in 2021.
  • Pro Experience: Salt Lake Stallions (2019), Generals TSL (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 21
  • Why they’re in the USFL: As a senior at Nebraska in 2016, Banderas had 93 tackles and 7 tackles for a loss.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Injuries kept Banderas out of the NFL and then he didn’t overly impress during his stint with the Stallions in the AAF.
  • Stars Connection: Played under Bart Andrus with the Generals in 2021.
  • Pro Experience: Oakland Raiders (2019)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 30
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Had over 100 tackles in both of his final two seasons at Notre Dame and added over 20 tackles for a loss and 7 sacks in that time.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Coney is a force against the run, but will struggle some in pass coverage against NFL talent.
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: Atlanta Falcons (2017), Denver Broncos (2017), Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2019), Generals TSL (2020–2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 29
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Great athlete who was a world class hurdler and even played running back and receiver at TCU before switching to safety at UTSA and in the NFL. Has great athletic traits for a linebacker, especially in today’s NFL.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: At 28 years old he’s older than most project players are that NFL teams are interested in.
  • Stars Connection: Played under Bart Andrus for two years with the Generals.
  • Pro Experience: None
  • USFL Draft Selection: Supplemental Draft, Round 7
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Three year starter at Nevada at linebacker.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Worked out in front of 31 teams at Oregon’s 2021 Pro Day and still did not get any looks. Smaller with a heavier build.
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: None
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 31
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Played defensive back at Alcorn State but saw time at linebacker and edge rusher at UTSA. Has great size and NFL bloodlines.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Wise isn’t eligible for the NFL until after the draft as he played college football in 2021. There have only been three players from Alcorn State to play in the NFL since 2010, but with the addition of the HBCU Legacy Bowl, more Alcorn State prospects could get looks.
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: Salt Lake Stallions (2019), Houston Roughnecks (2020)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 19
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Intercepted six passes over two years at Arkansas State and added 128 tackles and 18 pass deflections. Excelled in his time with the Salt Lake Stallions of the AAF, earning a camp invite with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Brown didn’t measure and time very well at his Pro Day in 2017. He’s now 27 years old.
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: Generals TSL (2020–2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Supplemental Draft, Round 4
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Spent part of the 2019 offseason with the Cleveland Browns. Has familiarity with the Stars’ system from playing with the Generals the past two years.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: The last player from Carthage College to play in the NFL last played in 1987. Didn’t dominate against small school competition at Carthage.
  • Stars Connection: Played under coach Andrus with the Generals the past two years.
  • Pro Experience: Dallas Cowboys (2014), Minnesota Vikings (2014), Chicago Bears (2014), Miami Dolphins (2014), Minnesota Vikings (2014 again), Edmonton Eskimos (2017), The Spring League (2018), Los Angeles Wildcats (2020), Massachusetts Pirates (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Supplemental Draft, Round 8
  • Why he’s in the USFL: Dixon was on pace to be an NFL prospect before some off-field issues caused his career to spiral. Played well in 2020 with the Wildcats.
  • Why he’s not in the NFL: Maturity issues and serious off-field incidents led to Dixon exiting the NFL the first time. Now at age 30, a return to the NFL is very unlikely.
  • Stars Connection: Reunited with Martin Bayless, who coached Dixon with the Wildcats in 2020.
  • Pro Experience: Ottawa Redblacks (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 9
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Ten game starter for Maryland at cornerback in 2019, recording two interceptions. Displays nice speed and willingness to be physical. Spent 2021 in the CFL.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Lewis struggled some in 2021 in the CFL and was not retained by Ottawa after the season.
  • Stars Connection: None
  • Pro Experience: Cleveland Browns (2017), Indianapolis Colts (2017), San Francisco 49ers (2017), Los Angeles Chargers (2018), Memphis Express (2019), Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2019), Seattle Dragons (2020), Generals TSL (2020), Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 8
  • Why they’re in the USFL: At 6’2, Stribling has great size and decent enough speed for this level. AT Michigan, Stribling finished fourth in school history in career pass breakups.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Ran a nearly 4.6 40-yard dash at the combine in 2017. His speed severely limits his NFL potential.
  • Stars Connection: Played under Bart Andrus with the Generals in 2020.
  • Pro Experience: New Orleans Saints (2017), Birmingham Iron (2019), DC Defenders (2020), Los Angeles Wildcats (2020)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 11
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Returned a 69 yard interception for a touchdown in the XFL. Has solid speed and experience on the big stage from playing at Alabama.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Sylve is 29 years old and was mostly a backup cornerback and special teamer at Alabama.
  • Stars Connection: Reunites with Martin Bayless with the Stars, whom coached Sylve with the Wildcats.
  • Pro Experience: Minnesota Vikings (2017–2018), Washington Football Team (2018), Birmingham Iron (2019), Los Angeles Wildcats (2020)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 18
  • Why they’re in the USFL: 2017 7th round draft selection of the Minnesota Vikings. Got NFL looks after playing well with the Birmingham Iron in the AAF.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Conversion to NFL safety didn’t work out after playing cornerback at NC State. Has been out of the NFL since 2018.
  • Stars Connection: Played on the LA Wildcats under current Stars coach Martin Bayless.
  • Pro Experience: Los Angeles WIldcats (2020)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 19
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Got NFL contracts after playing well with the LA WIldcats in the XFL.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Given multiple opportunities in the NFL up to this point and has not latched on.
  • Stars Connection: Played under Martin Bayless with the LA WIldcats in 2020.
  • Pro Experience: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2019–2020), Alphas TSL (2021), Arizona Cardinals (2021), Baltimore Ravens (2021
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 10
  • Why he’s in the USFL: Has a decent amount of NFL experience and has nice size. Has shown to be an effective special teams contributor.
  • Why he’s not in the NFL: Only played 12 career snaps on NFL defense and athletically doesn’t test very well.
  • Stars Connection: Played in TSL in 2021.
  • Pro Experience: The Spring League (2018), Conquerors TSL (2020), Generals TSL (2020), Montreal Alouettes (2021)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 32
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Mengal was a punter at UCLA, but added kicking skills post college, nailing a 55-yard field goal in the 2020 TSL championship game. Spent 2021 in the CFL on Montreal’s PS.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: Mengal’s arguably a better kicker than a punter and he didn’t kick in college. If he does well in the USFL, he’ll get a chance to kick in the NFL.
  • Stars Connection: Played under Andrus with the Generals in 2020.
  • Pro Experience: Memphis Express (2019), Los Angeles Wildcats (2020)
  • USFL Draft Selection: Round 35
  • Why they’re in the USFL: Navarro has been in two NFL camps and snapped in the XFL and AAF.
  • Why they’re not in the NFL: It’s very tough to crack the NFL as a long snapper, with a little over 32 jobs available. Hurting Navarro is his age (27), but long snappers can have longer careers.
  • Stars Connection: Reunites with former Wildcats special teams coordinator Martin Bayless.

Projected Depth Chart

  • DE: F. Akinmoladun, C. Phillips
  • DE: G. Cumberlander, A. Rodriguez
  • DT: M. Barnett, C. Nelson
  • DT: J. Johnson
  • LB: J.Moore, J. Banderas, S. Wise
  • LB: T. Coney, G. Sewell Jr.
  • CB: C. Stribling, M. Wilkins
  • CB: M. Lewis
  • SCB: B. Sylve, A. Dennis
  • S: L. Wiley, C. Brown
  • S: J. Tocho, A. Dixon
  • P: M. Mengel
  • K: M. Mengel
  • LS: R. Navarro
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