Giddy Up: Stallions look to repeat as USFL Champions

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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The United States Football League (USFL) kicks off season two of the spring league’s revival this weekend and the reigning USFL Champion Birmingham Stallions play in primetime.

The Stallions and the other teams in the league have been hard at work in training camp for the past month leading up to this weekend’s kickoff. With a new season also comes new faces and familiar faces for the defending champions.

A pair of Birmingham’s leading receivers, Victor Bolden Jr. and Osirius Mitchell, are both no longer Stallions. After playing for the Arizona Cardinals this past season, Bolden opted to move over to the XFL in the spring where he plays for the Arlington Renegades. Mitchell also opted to move to the XFL, playing for the Houston Roughnecks, before moving back to the USFL to play for the Memphis Showboats.

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Returners on the offense include the formidable backfield duo of CJ Marable and former Alabama star Bo Scarbrough. Marable led Birmingham in rushing last season with 401 yards and five touchdowns, while Scarbrough tallied 352 yards and one score after joining the team midway through the season. In the postseason, Scarbrough really heated up rushing for 174 yards and a touchdown in two games including more than 130 yards in the USFL Championship.

Bo Scarbrough runs for yardage for the Birmingham Stallions. (Photo courtesy of the USFL)

Mobile native Marlon Williams is the only Stallion receiver back on the roster with more than nine catches, tallying 32 catches for 474 yards and four touchdowns last season. Birmingham has a slew of new faces at receiver this year with former Clemson receiver Deon Cain, Sam Houston State’s Davion Davis, UAB’s Myron Mitchell and Austin Watkins joining a receiver’s group that also includes Stallion veterans Adrian Hardy and Michael Dereus, who return from last season.

Cain bounced around numerous NFL teams from 2018 through last season – including a stint with NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles – Davis played for the Houston Texans from 2021 through 2022. He started the spring season with the XFL before signing with the Stallions. Mitchell and Watkins were teammates at UAB and Mitchell is a Jasper native. Mitchell played for the Minnesota Vikings the past two seasons and Watkins played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022. Watkins started the offseason with the Memphis Showboats before being traded to the Stallions.

This week, Birmingham added another weapon to the offense as former LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss joined the team. Moss, the son of legendary NFL receiver Randy Moss, was a star tight end at LSU and has played for both the Washington Commanders and Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL. At 6-foot-3-inches and 250 pounds, Moss will also be the Stallions’ biggest target.

Birmingham returns both quarterbacks from last season, J’Mar Smith and Alex McGough, and head coach Skip Holtz has said he plans to continue to play both players. Smith ended the season with 1,573 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, while McGough threw for 460 yards and three scores. McGough also rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns, while Smith rushed for 187 yards and two scores.

On the offensive line, the Stallions lose All-USFL guard Cameron Hunt who moved over to the XFL this season. Starting linemen O’Shea Dugas and Darius Harper return from last season.

The majority of starters from one of the USFL’s top defenses returns in 2023. The biggest loss is All-USFL linebacker DeMarquis Gates, who now plays for the Chicago Bears in the NFL. Gates led the Stallions defense last season but starting safety JoJo Tillery (56 tackles), linebacker Scooby Wright III (52 TKL, 3 sacks, 2 FF), safety Christian McFarland (43 TKL), cornerback Brian Allen (40 TKL, 3 TFL, 1 INT), defensive tackle Willie Yarbary (35 TKL, 3.5 sacks) and defensive end Dondrea Tillman (34 TKL, 1.5 sacks) are all back.

Some new faces on the defense include safety TJ Carter, who played for the Los Angeles Rams last season, and former Clemson cornerback Mark Fields II. Sylacauga native TJ Green, who played safety at Clemson, has also joined the team along with former fifth round NFL Draft Pick defensive end Joe Jackson (Miami) and former Arkansas State linebacker Joseph Ozougwu.

All-USFL kicker Brandon Aubrey is also back this season.

Former Troy Trojan offensive linemen Kirk Kelley and Steven Rowzee are both playing for the New Orleans Breakers. Rowzee started at offensive guard for New Orleans last season, while this is Kelly’s rookie season in the USFL.

The Stallions open this season this Saturday at home against the New Jersey Generals, which is a rematch from last season’s opener. In fact, the Stallions vs. Generals opening the season is a bit of a tradition dating back to the original USFL. In both the 1984 and 1985 seasons, the Stallions and Generals opened the season against one another. New Jersey won the 1984 game 17-6 but Birmingham won the 1985 matchup 38-28. Last season, Birmingham beat New Jersey in the season opener by a score of 28-24.

Week one kicks off this Saturday, April 15, as the Philadelphia Stars play the Memphis Showboats at 3:30 p.m. on FOX followed by the Stallions and Geenrals at 6:30 p.m. on FOX. Week one continues on April 16 with the Houston Gamblers facing the Michigan Panthers at 11 a.m. on NBC. The Pittsburgh Maulers close out week one against the New Orleans Breakers at 5:30 p.m. on FS1.