UFL playoffs: Who NFL scouts will probably be watching this weekend

by Christina S. Brown
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For Jim Popp, the satan is within the particulars.

The UFL’s vice chairman of participant personnel, a part of Popp’s job helps gamers develop and develop within the new spring league, with a watch towards reaching their aim of taking part in within the NFL.

That is one thing the XFL and USFL completed earlier than the merger into a brand new league this season.

In 2023, the XFL and USFL had a mixed 111 gamers signal with NFL groups for coaching camps, with 35 sticking as energetic gamers or on follow squads.

“Everyone’s totally different,” Popp mentioned. “There’s some gamers that may not fairly be prepared, however talent-wise they’ve it. And they should show it. Or they won’t have performed at a Energy 5 college, and somebody could also be questioning who they are surely as a result of they have not performed in opposition to the so-called ‘greatest.’

“Quite a lot of guys will go to coaching camp within the NFL, they usually have to attend an entire different yr to get a possibility to get seen, they usually could solely get two or three quarters throughout coaching camp to showcase themselves. This (the UFL) is a wider, larger alternative to play persistently.”

A two-time USFL champ now competing for an UFL crown, Birmingham Stallions GM Zach Potter has had probably the most success of any spring league soccer official in transferring gamers to the NFL. 

Final yr, the Stallions had 22 guys signal with NFL groups, with 10 of these sticking on a 53-man roster or spending time on a follow squad in 2023 — most notably final yr’s USFL MVP in quarterback Alex McGough with the Inexperienced Bay Packers and defensive deal with Khalil Davis of the Houston Texans.

A type of gamers by no means performed a snap for Birmingham. The Stallions signed tight finish Chris Pierce out of Vanderbilt in late July proper after they received the USFL championship final yr.

Nonetheless, earlier than becoming a member of the Stallions for the 2024 season, Pierce signed with the Carolina Panthers in August, making the group’s follow squad and signing a futures contract with them after the NFL common season in January.

UFL prime 10 performs from week 10 introduced by ZOA Power

UFL top 10 plays from week 10 presented by ZOA Energy

Potter mentioned he is been involved with all 32 NFL groups all through this yr, and that these groups are taking the spring league extra severely due to the success they’ve had in transitioning gamers to the best stage.

Gamers like return man Kavontae Turpin and kicker Brandon Aubrey have been success tales due to the quantity of manufacturing they’ve supplied as Professional Bowlers in comparison with what NFL groups are paying them with an preliminary contract.

Potter expects as soon as once more to have a number of gamers from this yr’s Birmingham squad observe go well with this season. 

“We need to discover the very best gamers obtainable,” Potter mentioned. “And whether or not they make it or do not make it, it will likely be as much as the NFL. Coach (Skip) Holtz does an excellent job of maintaining all people recent and understanding we will by no means keep established order.” 

After speaking with scouts, coaches and participant personnel in each the UFL and the NFL, listed here are some gamers to keep watch over within the UFL playoffs this weekend who could have an opportunity to latch onto NFL rosters in 2024.

Birmingham Stallions

WR Kevin Austin Jr.: The 24-year-old Notre Dame product frolicked with the Jacksonville Jaguars for 2 seasons. At 6-foot-2 and 200 kilos, Austin completed with 15 receptions for 253 yards and two scores this season, averaging a powerful 16.9 yards per reception.

DT Carlos Davis: Within the dialog for Defensive Participant of the Yr, Davis led the Stallions with seven sacks this season. At 6-foot-2 and 312 kilos, the 27-year-old Davis initiatives as a 3-tech defensive deal with who can present inside go rush on the subsequent stage.

DE Johnathan Garvin: A seventh-round choose of the Packers in 2020, Garvin spent three seasons in Inexperienced Bay. Garvin, 24, totaled 20 mixed tackles and three.5 sacks for among the best defenses within the UFL this season.

QB Adrian Martinez: The front-runner for league MVP honors, Martinez led the UFL in dashing (528), tied for second in passing touchdowns (15) and third in passing yards (1,750). Martinez, 24, additionally accomplished 58.5% of his passes and had simply three interceptions. His capacity to make chunk performs together with his arm and his ft ought to make Martinez a coveted prospect on the subsequent stage.

RB Ricky Individual: At huge again at 6-foot-1, 222 kilos, the 24-year-old Individual led the UFL in dashing touchdowns with six and completed with 295 yards.

Stallions’ Adrian Martinez finds Kevin Austin Jr. for a 40-yard TD

Stallions' Adrian Martinez finds Kevin Austin Jr. for a 40-yard TD

Michigan Panthers

Okay Jake Bates: Michigan’s kicking phenom made a jaw-dropping three area targets from 60-plus yards together with an extended of 64. Bates, 25, was a part of a powerful yr for kickers within the UFL, as they transformed 83% of their area targets this season. Nonetheless, Bates was not as constant kicking outside, making 6 of 10 from outdoors this season. 

TE Cole Hikutini: An athletic tight finish who additionally confirmed a capability to maneuver our bodies within the run sport, at 6-foot-4 and 240 kilos, the 29-year-old averaged 17 yards per reception in the course of the common season.

RB Nate McCrary: Matt Colburn and Wes Hills carried the operating sport, however McCrary confirmed explosive playmaking capacity in restricted snaps and is simply 25 years previous. 

WR Marcus Simms: Michigan’s prime receiver risk completed with 23 receptions for 426 yards and three scores in the course of the common season. Simms, 26, averaged 18.5 yards per reception. 

DE Breeland Speaks: The league’s sack chief (9.5), Speaks led the USFL final yr with 9 sacks and is the frontrunner for Defensive Participant of the Yr within the UFL this season. Speaks, 28, frolicked with the San Francisco 49ers in 2023. 

Jake Bates drills 64-yard, game-winning area aim

Jake Bates drills 64-yard, game-winning field goal

St. Louis Battlehawks

WR Hakeem Butler: At 6-foot-6 and 220 kilos, the 28-year-old Butler led the UFL with 652 receiving yards on 45 receptions and in addition completed with 5 touchdowns.

OLB Chris Garrett: The speedy edge rusher frolicked with the Los Angeles Rams within the NFL and nonetheless has upside at 25 years previous.

LB Mike Rose: He served as the within linebacker making the calls defensively for the Battlehawks, ending with 45 mixed tackles and two interceptions. At 24-years-old, Rose additionally may contribute on particular groups.

RB Jacob Saylors: The versatile Saylors is sweet at catching the ball out of the backfield and led St. Louis in dashing with 460 yards and eight complete touchdowns. Saylors, 24, frolicked with the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals within the NFL.

WR/KR Darrius Shepherd: He completed second within the UFL this season with 1,334 all-purpose yards. Shepherd, 29, totaled 29 receptions for 240 yards on offense.

Hakeem Butler hauls in lovely landing catch

Hakeem Butler hauls in beautiful touchdown catch

San Antonio Brahmas

QB Chase Garbers: The Cal product was within the MVP dialog at first of the yr earlier than struggling a wrist damage that compelled him to overlook 5 video games this season. Garbers, 24, performs with anticipation and has good motion abilities. His standing for the playoffs is unsure after he re-aggravated his wrist damage final week.

RB Anthony McFarland: One of the explosive playmakers within the league, McFarland completed with 396 scrimmage yards and 4 complete touchdowns this season. The 25-year-old has been coping with a shoulder challenge this season that is restricted his play time. 

RB John Lovett: The Penn State product led the Brahmas in dashing and completed No. 4 within the UFL with 423 dashing yards and 5 touchdowns. At 5-foot-11 and 215 kilos, the 24-year-old Lovett is a punishing runner who also can catch the ball out of the backfield.

WR Jontre Kirklin: The LSU product led San Antonio with 614 receiving yards on 56 receptions and three scores. Kirklin, 25, additionally threw for a 36-yard landing.
OLB Wyatt Ray: The Brahmas completed the season with a league-high 32 sacks. The 27-year-old Ray was one of many defensive catalysts, ending with a team-high 5.5 sacks. 

Brahmas’ Anthony McFarland breaks out for electrical 52-yard TD

Brahmas' Anthony McFarland breaks out for electric 52-yard TD

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Different gamers across the league who may get a shot within the NFL: 

Arlington Renegades: WR Deontay Burnett, CB Myles Dorn, OT Bobby Evans, LB Storey Jackson, CB Steven Jones, P Marquette King, QB Luis Perez, DT Jalen Redmond, OL Dru Samia, WR Tyler Vaughns. 

Birmingham Stallions: OL Deonte Brown, CB Lorenzo Burns, WR Deon Cain, QB Matt Corral, CB Madre Harper, DB Daniel Isom, OL Zach Johnson, WR Amari Rodgers, C Cole Schneider, TE Jace Sternberger, OT Armani Taylor-Prioleau, LB Kyahva Tezino, S A.J. Thomas, TE Jordan Thomas, DE Dondrea Tillman.

D.C. Defenders: WR Keke Coutee, OL Yasir Durant, DE Malik Fisher, WR/KR Chris Rowland, WR Ty Scott, WR Brandon Smith, QB Jordan Ta’amu.

Houston Roughnecks: LB Chris Allen, OT Cam Carter, WR Justin Corridor, LS Logan Klusman, RB Kirk Merritt, Okay J.J. Molson, CB Colby Richardson, CB Kiondre Thomas. 

Memphis Showboats: WR Jonathan Adams, WR Daewood Davis.

Michigan Panthers: CB Nate Brooks, OT Jarrett Horst, DT Garrett Marino, S Kai Nacua, OT Ryan Nelson, OT Chim Okorafor, QB Bryce Perkins, DT Daniel Sensible.

St. Louis Battlehawks: TE Kemari Averett, OT Juwann Bushell-Beatty, FS Qwynnterrio Cole, LB Willie Harvey, OT Jaryd Jones-Smith, QB A.J. McCarron, WR Jahcour Pearson, CB Brandon Sebastion, Okay Andre Szmyt.

San Antonio Brahmas: OT Greg Eiland, CB BoPete Keyes, S Jordan MosleyP Brad Wing.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for greater than a decade, protecting the Los Angeles Rams for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma Information Tribune. Observe him at @eric_d_williams.

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