The USFL inches closer to the start of its second season after announcing the coaching staffs for all eight teams. The Birmingham Stallions will look to embark on another successful year after claiming the USFL championship last July.
For those that followed the team in 2022, there are some familiar faces returning — including head coach Skip Holtz and defensive coordinator John Chavis — while a bunch of new coaches are joining the Stallions’ coaching staff for the upcoming season.
Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks: Skip Holtz
After leading the Stallions to a 9-1 record, Skip Holtz returns to Birmingham having the same role in head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Skip Holtz, the son of Notre Dame legend Lou Holtz, already proved to be a successful coach prior to his USFL tenure, as he has 22 years of head coaching experience at the collegiate level, coaching Connecticut, East Carolina, South Florida and Louisiana Tech. He accomplished a 152-121 career record with eight bowl victories.
Holtz commanded a balanced offensive attack for the Stallions that averaged 187.8 passing yards per game and 135.7 rushing yards per game last season. With a plethora of starters returning, it’s safe to believe the Stallions will pose one of the best offensives in the USFL in 2023.
Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers: John Chavis
Holtz isn’t the only coach returning to Birmingham, as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach John Chavis joins the coaching staff for a second season.
Prior to joining the Stallions, Chavis operated as a defensive coordinator for 24 years at the SEC level, commanding elite defenses for Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas. Chavis won a national championship with the Volunteers in 1998 and made a second appearance in the championship game with LSU in 2011, where he was the recipient of the Broyles Award for being the best assistant coach in college football.
Chavis’ success speaks for itself but the veteran defensive mind carried his genius into the USFL. He guided the Stallions to the best defensive unit in 2022, allowing just 16.1 points per game (2nd best) and only 268.8 yards per game (best).
Offensive Line: Neil Callaway
Neil Callaway brings over 40 years of coaching experience to the Stallions, starting his career in Wyoming before managing the offensive line for multiple Power 5 programs, including Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, USC and Purdue.
The veteran coach announced his retirement from coaching following Purdue’s 2021 season but came back the following year to be the offensive line coach for the Michigan Panthers.
Michigan’s offensive line conceded just 19 sacks last season. Callaway has a chance to bring his expertise to Birmingham’s front that allowed 25 sacks in 2022.
Defensive Backs: Bob Shoop
Bob Shoop began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for his alma mater, Yale, in 1989. Shoop comes from the James Franklin coaching tree, as he was the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt for three years before following Franklin to Penn State for another two years. He later became the defensive coordinator for Tennessee and Mississippi State for two years each.
Shoop was fired from his most recent position with USF, following a 54-28 loss in early November. But he has a perfect opportunity to succeed and improve the Stallions defense that recorded only nine interceptions in 2022.
Wide Receivers: Mike Jones
Mike Jones, a former NFL receiver, drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round of the 1983 NFL Draft, returns as the wide receiver coach for a second season with the Stallions. He had a seven-year career, playing for the Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots. Following his playing career, he won two championships for the Rhein Fire in the NFL Europe League as the wide receivers coach in 1998 and 2000 along with one World Bowl championship with the Frankfurt Galaxy as the head coach in 2006.
This will be Jones’ first tenure as a wide receivers coach since 2009 with the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL. He previously served as Tennessee State’s offensive coordinator from 2010-14 and East Central Community College’s running backs coach, tight ends coach and offensive coordinator from 2018-19.
Running Backs: Larry Kirksey
If you’re looking for a veteran running back coach with experience at the professional and collegiate level, then look no further than Larry Kirksey. Before joining Birmingham in 2022, the veteran mentor coached 17 years in the NFL along with 22 years of experience coaching at the collegiate level.
One of Kirksey’s most notable achievements is winning Super Bowl XXIX as the wide receivers coach with the San Francisco 49ers that included Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Additionally, he helped the Alabama Crimson Tide win a national championship in 1992 where his running backs led the SEC with 252 rushing yards per game.
The Stallions averaged the second most rushing yards last year under Kirksey and will look to continue to have success on the ground in 2023.
Defensive Line: Marty Long
Marty Long has spent all but two years coaching at college since graduating from The Citadel in 1986. He’s spent the past dozen years at Northwestern, serving as the assistant defensive line coach. Across his tenure, he’s coached six of Northwestern’s top 10 all-time sack leaders in a career. He’s coached numerous players that have made All-Big Ten honors, including Joe Gaziano, Tyler Lancaster and Samdup Miller.
Long will inherit a stout defensive line unit that contributed to the Stallions leading the league with 27 sacks and allowing the second-least amount of rushing yards per game at 95.5.
Special Teams: Chris Boniol
Chris Boniol will make his USFL debut as the Stallions special teams coach. Boniol started his coaching career working for the Dallas Cowboys as a special teams assistant from 2010-13. Since then, he’s coached special teams units for the Raiders, Louisiana College, Mississippi State and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Boniol won a Super Bowl as a player and a coach and will be a valuable addition to the Stallions this season.
Defensive Backs Assistant: Daric Riley
Daric Riley joins Birmingham after serving as UAB’s cornerbacks coach. He’s been coaching since 1999 and has made stops at Clemson, SMU, East Carolina and Old Dominion along the way. Along with managing cornerbacks, he’s coached outside linebackers, safeties and special teams.