With each and every new football league, hopes are reignited for spring football players around the country. The USFL is no different. In fact, if you look across the rosters in the USFL currently you will see many names that have already been on NFL rosters and likely are names kicking around on databases kept by NFL general managers and front offices.
Philadelphia Stars Players to Watch
Watching the season for the Stars has been a lot like a roller coaster ride. At times they were up, at times they were down. However despite the bumpy ride at times, several players stuck out among the crowd.
I would have a hard time starting this list with anybody other than this next name. This particular player on this roster made a name for himself in the 2022 USFL season fairly quickly, and continued his strong play throughout the season.
Channing Stribling, Defensive Back
Defensive back Channing Stribling, finished the 2022 USFL season as the interception leader. Stribling, was able to intercept 7 passes in just 10 regular season games showcasing his ability as a ball hawk in the secondary. Stribling is a name but NFL executives should already know.
Stribling had stints with Cleveland Indianapolis twice, San Francisco, and the Los Angeles Chargers. The 6 foot two 190 pound Cornerback, has also had stops in the Alliance of American Football, XFL, CFL, and now finds himself as a member of the inaugural All USFL Team.
The thing is if you look at his skill set, physical attributes, and level of coaching he has received, he is an NFL caliber player. You don’t find 6’2 190 lb CB’s, that track the ball like he does often. With that being said the knocks on him coming out of Michigan were lack of recovery speed, mediocre lateral agility, and lack of upper body strength. Three things directly improved by high level coaching, as well as being in professional strength and conditioning programs has helped.
Regardless, the thing about Stribling is this, if you don’t think he has the required top end speed at the next level place him at free safety. We saw a man in Malcolm Jenkins formerly a first round pick with the Saints nearly play His way out of the NFL as a cornerback, before the Saints moved him to safety. He went on to play over a decade, garnering Probowl Recognition along the way.
Stribling is another guy, there in my mind scouts are simply getting too caught up in measurable‘s once again. If you remove from the equation that Stribling did not run a desirable 40 time, or put up impressive numbers in the bench press, and simply evaluate the film on the field, Stribling belongs in the NFL and there is no question about it.
Maurice Alexander, Wide Receiver/Return Specialist
There is one position in all the football that does not change no matter the level of League you play in. That’s the return specialist position. There might be details of this job the change based on rules within the league you’re playing in, but there are simply players that can do it and there are players that cannot.
Maurice Alexander belongs in that first category. Alexander is known for his short airy quickness, lateral agility, and top and speed. The 5’11 190 lb former QB turned WR is dynamic anytime he gets the ball in his hands. This was on display this season on multiple occasions but none bigger than in the playoff game versus the Generals.
Down by 1 in the 4th quarter the Stars defense forces a punt. The Generals foolishly kick right to Alexander who races to the end zone putting the Stars up by 6 a lead they would not relinquish.
Considering that Alexander made the move from quarterback mid career in college, seeing him find success as a return man is incredibly impressive given his limited experience in the position. However, in my mind this just displays the elite level athlete that he is.
Coming out of FIU, he was a quarterback until his red-shirt junior season after red-shirting as a freshman. Despite throwing 130 passes he complete just over half of them for 8 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions on his way to 849 passing yards. During this stretch he showcased his athleticism with 77 carries over his first two seasons on the field.
Then in year four, his third on the field, Alexander made the move to wide receiver. He immediately made an impact his first season at the position. In 2018 he had his best season in college. He rushed 17 times for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns, 40 receptions 474 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 kick return for 16 yards, 15 punt returns for 219 yards and 1 touchdown, he also completed both passes he attempted for 40 yards and added a tackle. Ending his first season as an offensive weapon with 864 yards from scrimmage.
Not a bad start. Since then Alexander has continued to develop as a wideout, while continually reminding us of his prowess in the return game. Alexander coming out of college received no NFL or CFL offers and was led a different direction. However after one season in the USFL I have a feeling NFL teams see something they like.
Alexander was able to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in season one of the USFL, and also found himself on the All USFL team as a return man. This was due to his 31.5 yard average on kick returns. He had just 25 returns racking up 787 yards, adding a 12.6 yard average on punt returns for a total of 164 yards on just 13 attempts. He also added 20 receptions for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns, and a passing attempt on offense but wasn’t used as a runner.
His performance in the playoffs only cemented his status as a solid player. He had 3 kick returns for 77 yards, and 1 punt return for 87 yards and a touchdown versus the Generals. He would end up following it up with 98 yards total in the championship game. At a minimum, Alexander deserves a training camp roster spot to show what he can do in the return game at the NFL level. However I am certain that if given that opportunity Alexander will prove that he belongs on the field in more than just the return game as he did this season in the USFL.
Dexter Williams, Running Back
Running back Dexter Williams signed with the stars just four days before the championship game. He had most recently played in 2021 with the Cleveland Browns but following a stint on the Covid list he was unable to get on the field for Cleveland. After the 2020 season he was not retained by Cleveland.
This left him at home watching the USFL season as it progressed. Little did he know he would play a huge role in the seasons final game. During the stars playoff match up with the generals, both Matt Colburn and Darnell Holland were injured. With both of their top to back‘s added to the inactive list just days before the championship game, the stars were left with no choice but to hit the free agency market.
Hindsight might be 20/20, But in this case it only reaffirms with the stars apparently already knew. Dexter Williams provided them the best opportunity to win. With fellow running back/wide receiver Paul Terry just coming off the injured list, the same day Williams was signed.
Everything was lining up for Williams to have a big role in the stars office during the championship game. A big role is exactly what he would have. By the end of the game Williams had a total of 12 touches for 102 total offense of yards. Having been a former sixth round pick of the Green Bay Packers, Seeing him find this success should’ve been no surprise.
However, in a league where running backs are cycled like loads of laundry, Williams had fallen out of the forefront of the free agency market. This performance just four days removed from signing will solidify his status as a priority free agent for NFL teams. Anytime a back can come in off the street, learn the offense, and put up big numbers in less than a week that man has value in the NFL.
Bryan Scott, Quarterback
Bryan Scott might be the hardest sell on this list. But the thing about the NFL and its quarterback play, is they can never have enough good options. While Scott has got an NFL looks before including even in Kansas City with the Chiefs and Andy Reid he has not been able to stick on a roster so far.
However after proving himself as a starting quarterback in the USFL through the first three games of the season I believe he opened up some eyes in NFL buildings. He received a try out with Sean McVay and the Rams in 2017 but wasn’t signed. Ultimately the CFL brought him in coming out of Occidental College. His opportunity with the BC Lions was short lived.
He would go on to compete in the spring league in 2018 finding himself being named player of the game twice during the season. This helped lead to the opportunity he had with the Chiefs, he also got looks from the Falcons ultimately signing with the practice squad of the Edmonton Elks.
He would end up signing a futures deal for the 2020 season with Edmonton. Upon hearing the 2030 CFL season would be cancelled Scott opted out of his deal and returned to the US. He again looked to the Brian Woods led Spring League, and again found himself coached by Bart Andrus during an undefeated season.
This led to interest from the Frank Reich led Colts but ultimately they passed on signing him due to former draft picks at the position. Scott is now just 26 years old coming off a USFL season in which he completed nearly 70% of his passes and still holds the third highest passing yards per game output in the league despite playing just 2 1/2 games. Scott belongs on an NFL roster.
Adam Rodriguez, Defensive End
Adam Rodriguez is a 6’2 246 lb defensive end that showcased his pass rushing prowess in 2022. In just 10 games Rodriguez was able to rack up nine sacks. Ending the season second in the league.
With the size and skill set to play a true 4-3 end, 3-4 OLB, or even as a SAM in a 4-3 over scheme as a designated pass rusher he had to have turned heads in 2022. Rodriguez didn’t receive a ton of attention out of high school committing to Weber State University at just 210 lbs. over the next four seasons he focused on adding weight developing into a professional football player.
After playing in The Spring League the precursor to what became the USFL in 2022, Rodriguez had a good chance of being drafted by a USFL team. It only made sense that he landed with the Stars who leaned heavily on Bart Andrus’s ties to TSL. This time in the TSL seemed to put Rodriguez on the map.
The fact that he was a late bloomer seemed to affect his interest at the professional level but after a strong showing at the USFL level the NFL likely took notice in 2022. Questions about his strength, or ability to stand up to professional level tackles have been answered. Now the only question left is which NFL team will give him the opportunity he needs?
Players at Premium Positions
The NFL is hungry for solid play at many of these positions listed above. You can trip over clips of coaches saying you can never have enough good quarterbacks, or pass rushers. The value of a ballhawking cornerback has never been higher due to the modern game, and of course a wide receiver that can add value on the special teams unit is an appreciating asset to have at this point in the NFL.
With that being said teams are constantly looking for more talent at these positions. They need look no further than the Philadelphia Stars roster, where they had a group of probably ten or twelve players that belong on NFL rosters, contributing right now. That however, is the beauty of the USFL, and the opportunities it presents players with to showcase themselves in an attempt to achieve their ultimate dreams of playing in the NFL.
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