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2023 Preseason USFL Quarterback Rankings

As we did with the XFL, football’s most exciting position will get ranked by the writers of not only USFL News Hub, but media outlets, and fan blogs throughout the internet. As the USFL season is just over three weeks away, and training camp going into the swing of things, it’s time to rank the Top-14 Quarterbacks coming into the 2023 USFL season.

14. Dakota Prukop New Jersey Generals

Prukop makes the list due to his experience, and to some in the CFL space his notoriety. An FCS All-American, and Grey Cup Champion, Prukop was used as the “Third Down QB” during his time in the CFL, utilizing his 6’1 215 frame, for short yardage situations in the Canadian game. Prukop looks to compete with Kyle Lauletta for the QB2 position in 2023, while being utilized to extend the longevity of DeAndre Johnson, on some rushing plays.

13. Eric Barriere Michigan Panthers

Barriere has the potential to be a huge a riser if given the full reigns in 2023. Coming from the Air Raid Offense out of Eastern Washington in 2022, Barriere as mentioned by Panthers Shadow was the first rookie of the 2022 class to play in a professional game. Barriere after winning the FCS Walter Payton, appeared in two games for the Panthers in 2022, going 14/24 for 118 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. With another year in Offensive Coordinator Eric Marty’s system, Barriere could be one of the USFL’s most surprising stars in 2023.

12. Kyle Lauletta New Jersey Generals

I really wanted Kyle Lauletta to work out in “Pittsburgh”, but it seems that Kirby Wilson had other plans. Lauletta was a 4th round pick in 2018, and after five professional pass attempts, over the span of four seasons with five NFL teams, Lauletta was the 5th overall pick for the Maulers but was released after four games. Lauletta spent the rest of the 2022 USFL season with the Generals as the teams’ reserve QB and looks to have an opportunity to beat out Dakota Prukop as the teams QB2. For Lauletta, with his NFL window looking like it’s closing this may be his last opportunity to prove he belongs in any professional football league.

BIRMINGHAM AL APRIL 18 Pittsburgh Maulers quarterback Kyle Lauletta 5 throws downfield late in the USFL game between the Pittsburgh Maulers and Tampa Bay Bandits on April 18 2022 at Protective Stadium in Birmingham Alabama Photo by Michael WadeIcon Sportswire

11. Kenji Bahar Houston Gamblers

Bahar is another candidate to be a big riser on this. After an injury to Clayton Thorson, Bahar made three starts for the Gamblers going 2-1, including upset wins over the Stallions and Breakers. Bahar goes into 2023, with the momentum of last season, and another of pro-football experience to build upon. With the Gamblers returning RB Mark Thompson, WR JoJo Ward, in addition to adding newcomers TE Clint Sigg and WR Keke Chism, Bahar has an opportunity to grow as a passer, and find his way back into the NFL.

10. James Morgan Pittsburgh Maulers

James Morgan is another player I’d love to see higher on this list, but the Maulers supporting cast leads a lot to be desired. Morgan has spent parts of the past three seasons with 5 NFL teams, finishing the NFL season with the Cardinals before rejoining the Pittsburgh Maulers. With Kirby Wilson, out and new Maulers coach Ray Horton in charge Maulers, along with any Pittsburgh Quarterback is in a much better position to succeed compared to the 2022 signal callers, he’ll have to shoulder the load of leading a young team that will most likely still feel the effects of their 1-9 2022 record.

9. Cole Kelley Memphis Showboats

One of the more intriguing signings this offseason, Cole Kelley has opportunity to become a folk hero in Memphis. Kelley gets the nod due to his large frame, and freakish athletic ability that saw him for 33 Touchdowns in three seasons at Southeastern Louisiana. Kelley, will be competing with former TSL MVP Ryan Willis and Memphis favorite Brady White for the QB1 spot in Memphis but should see the field regardless due to skillset that mimics Taysom Hill.

8. Josh Love Michigan Panthers

It seems to be Josh Love’s job to lose going into 2023, but the former San Jose Spartan does have the advantage going into his second season in the system. Another victim of the 2022 Pittsburgh Maulers regime, Love has an opportunity to show the USFL and NFL scouts why he was the 2019 MWC Offensive Player of the Year. Love, like all Panthers Quarterbacks has the benefit of a revamped Offensive Line, in addition to several new skill position players, but the biggest acquisition of them all was keeping Reggie Corbin, who put together an All-USFL performance in 2022.

7. Ryan Willis Memphis Showboats

I’ve been big on Willis since his 2021 Spring League performance and was excited for his opportunity in the XFL. After being released by St. Louis, it only took two days for Willis to find himself in Memphis, for a three-way battle. Willis may have the most to prove on this list, as the former Alt-Football MVP, was originally favored to be the “guy” in St. Louis, before Battlehawks Head Coach Anthony Becht brought in a potential XFL MVP candidate from Alabama.

6. Alex McGough Birmingham Stallions

McGough was originally tabbed as QB1 for Birmingham, before injuries took him out of the lineup. A former 7th Round NFL draft pick, McGough came in late during the USFL’s championship game helping the Stallions close out the game throwing a come from behind touchdown to Victor Bolden in the 4th quarter. McGough’s athletic ability and strong arm, gives Birmingham Head Coach Skip Holtz a plethora of riches at the Quarterback position as the Stallions look to defend their title in 2023. With McGough changing his number to 20, maybe it’s possible we see him line up at wide receiver…..again.

5. Carson Strong Michigan Panthers

After a standout college career, coupled with concerns due to his knee injuries, Carson Strong would find himself bouncing between the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals in 2022. After initial XFL interest Strong remained unsigned/undrafted and took the NFL combine, to perform in front of NFL scouts and coaches. Strong now joins the USFL, with maybe the most the prove due to his drop off from potential 1st round NFL draft pick to 2022 UDFA. After extensive clearance and rehab the strong-armed Nevada Quarterback has an amazing opportunity to prove he’s healthy, a great leader, and able to take the Panthers to the playoffs in 2023.

4. DeAndre Johnson New Jersey Generals

2023 should be a big year for Johnson. After being paired with Ben Holmes for the 2nd time in his career, a freak toe fracture to Holmes, Johnson would be with a new QB to be his partner in-crime for the 2022 season, playing in a duel QB system that led the Generals to a 9-1 record. Johnson’s pedigree for 2022 is what gives him the #4 spot in this year’s rankings but his lack of ability as a passer could see him become one of 2023’s most underwhelming players. In 2023, it seems like Johnson will have every opportunity to show the USFL he’s matured as a passer but with Dakota Prukop and Kyle Lauletta fighting for a chance to get on the field, Johnson may have a short hook if he can’t push the ball through the air.

3. McLeod Bethel-Thompson New Orleans Breakers

The well-traveled MBT, returns home after winning his 2nd Grey Cup for the Argos in 2022. MBT joins the Breakers for his 11th team, in his 6th league of his career. The 34-year-old CFL All-Star comes to the USFL looking to be closer to his family (and maybe warmer), with the chance to also put on a show for the Breakers in 2023. MBT isn’t a stranger to American Alt-Football having played in UFL, AFL, and Spring League (x2) since coming from Sac-State, in 2011. With MBT easily the USFL’s most experienced and accomplished Quarterback, the CFL star will surely be able to take advantage of freakish weapons like Jonathan Adams, and Johnnie Dixion in 2023.

2. J’Mar Smith Birmingham Stallions

Voted best hair by the Birmingham Stallions team, Smith put together a Top-3 USFL QB performance in 2022 and could easily build on that in 2023. Smith passed for over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns, while adding 191 yards on the ground with 2 rushing touchdowns. Smith will be the benefactor of having his college Head Coach Skip Holtz with him for another year, in addition to the Stallions GM Zach Potter doing a great job of keeping the Stallions core pieces together for 2023. For Smith adding another year of experience under his belt should allow to position himself to put together another top tier performance for 2023.

1. Case Cookus Philadelphia Stars

Case Cookus was one of the USFL’s top Quarterbacks in 2022, and he did it in three less games than everyone else. Cookus put together some sensational highlights in 2022, and after a stint with the Rams has returned to Philadelphia for 2023. With Cookus fully healthy, after a gruesome leg injury in the 2022 USFL championship game, and given a full ten-games Cookus should be primed to maybe put together one of the best seasons in Alt-Football history, especially with Alt-Football favorite Bart Andrus leading the charge once again for the Stars this year.

Closing Thoughts:

As with all these rankings, it’s expected to change throughout the season as teams constantly re-tool and readjust their rosters. With the USFL primed and ready to go for the 2023 season, many of these quarterbacks coming into the league already have professional experience already giving fans and analysts measurable sample sizes of what to expect in 2023. With Quarterback play always a question in Alt-Football, for 2023 the USFL has done a great job in retaining some of their key QBs from 2022, while adding in some cult-favorites to be the new faces of the league.

For More in-depth breakdowns of the Quarterbacks listed, and for USFL weekly QB rankings, be sure to check out my YouTube Channel Analyze and Educate throughout the USFL Season.

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Pat Rifino is a former Security Contractor turned writer. He began his writing career talking about geo-politics, and the defense industry. Now Pat writes about alt-league football, while hanging out with his dogs in his off time.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ken Granito

    March 22, 2023 at 2:46 pm

    Really cool info and of course you left plenty of room to debate. First I think Dakota Prukop is the real deal. If you look at his passing highlights in college you would see an extremely capable and accurate quarterback. If you ask him I think he has his eyes set on the top spot. I am not saying De’Andre Johnson doesn’t have his own thoughts on that. I see two starters in Nj. I would like to see some of Kyle Lauletta has too, but I wonder if we will. If he has any chance to reclaim the promise he had previously shown it’s in New Jersey. Last we saw Kyle Lauletta he was dinking and dunking passes. Even with the game in reach the Maulers defense keeping it close he would not risk trying to make a play. Maybe that was a by product of being on last years Mauler’s team, but it seemed like he had given up. I hope I am wrong and as I said earlier, NJ is the place, but I wonder if Kyle Lauletta is the next generation of coaching and Mike Riley is going to teach him. I believe both Stallions QBs are rated too high if for no other reason than immaturity. On more than two ocassions you could see Alex McGough pleading his case to his coach. Come on dude! This is Skip Holtz. Just buy in already. J’Mar Smith waving bye-bye to the Breakers in the playoffs. I am sure he had his reasons, but for someone that misses as many throws as he does, he should do what a QB is supposed to do and be above it. I get this is a redemption league and to be honest I rooted for J’Mar despite his taunting. I cannot in good conscience put him above a guy who has 15k yards to his credit. MBT is over J’Mar in my mind. Even if Case Cookus is not the best QB this year, I could not change his ranking. To date he has earned the #1 spot. Anyone could be anything. There are a lot possibilities, but only 8 jobs. Truly an amazing adventure is about to take place. I know you only ranked him 11th, but you said many positives about Kenji Bahar and I agree. When there were only a couple of weeks before camp some people wondered if the Gamblers would try to upgrade at QB. They still may try, but to be honest, I would have then missed any Kenji Bahar growth. I am looking forward to seeing what the Monmouth grad can do. I watched him a couple of times last year and his numbers weren’t outstanding, but every completion run or place where he threw the ball away were great football plays. I wish Thorson ended up with a better opportunity, but I am also happy to see Bahar get his chance. Keep the articles coming. You always seem to inform when there is information to be had, but I also love the way, that as a fan, you have your opinions as well and aren’t afraid to discuss your thoughts. Have a great day!

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