Houston Gamblers fans are two months away from the kickoff to season two of the USFL and its schedule was released on Tuesday.
The league made separate announcements on Twitter for each team starting with the Michigan Panthers at 8:00 AM EST. It concluded with the Gamblers releasing their schedule at 3:00 PM EST.
Houston Gamblers 2023 Regular Season Schedule
Week 1 – Michigan Panthers, Sunday, April 16th at 12:00 PM EST
This is the second straight season that the Houston Gamblers open their season against the Panthers. The last time these two teams played, Houston came out on top with a 17-12 win after the Gamblers almost blew a 17-0 lead in the second half. Houston would go on to lose seven straight games after beating Michigan.
The Panthers are a wild card team as they recently announced that head coach Jeff Fisher resigned as head coach and former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan taking over. With Josh Love being the only returning quarterback to the roster, the team might be looking to add another one to the roster before training camp.
The Gamblers will have to watch out for returning running backs Stevie Scott III and Reggie Corbin as they might lead the best one-two punch in the league. Michigan had a big signing in the offseason with defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche joining the USFL which will make the Panthers that much more dangerous on defense. Kicker Cole Murphy also returns after converting 11 of 12 field goals last season for the team.
Week 2 – At New Orleans Breakers, Saturday, April 22nd at 12:30 PM EST
Last season, the series was split 1-1 as the New Orleans Breakers got a late game-winning touchdown to beat the Gamblers 23-16. It was Houston though that got the last laugh as they blew out the Breakers 20-3 on the last week of the regular season.
New Breakers head coach John DeFlippio and general manager Ryan Jones takes over a team that went 6-4 in the regular season making the playoffs before losing to the eventual champions Birmingham Stallions 31-17. Quarterback Zach Smith goes into training camp as the early favorite to start as New Orleans looks to replace Kyle Sloter.
There are plenty of weapons on offense though as Jordan Ellis, Larry Rose III, and Anthony Jones all return to the backfield. Receivers Johnnie Dixon and Jonathan Adams return at receiver as both proved to be top ten pass targets in the USFL. Look for EJ Bibbs to be an early candidate to replace Sal Cannella at tight end.
Week 3 – Memphis Showboats, Saturday, April 29th at 7:00 PM EST
Previously known as the Tampa Bay Bandits, this new look Memphis Showboats team had a disappointing showing in 2022 finishing at 4-6 on the season. The Bandits swept the Gamblers last season, winning both games. Their first matchup was a game-winning field goal by Tampa Bay to win 27-26 and the second game not being as close, but it was a 13-3 win for the Bandits.
Memphis took a big hit losing quarterback Jordan Ta’amu but do have former Memphis Tigers quarterback Brady White stepping in his place. The big addition for Memphis is veteran NFL running back Alex Collins who will be competing with Justin Stockton and Kerrith Whyte for carries in the backfield. Three of the top five pass catchers from last season’s team return with receivers Derrick Dillion, Rashard Davis, and Vinny Papale. All-USFL offensive lineman Jarron Jones is back on the team as well as starting center Bruno Regan.
Week 4 – At Philadelphia Stars, Saturday, May 6th at 1:00 PM EST
Last season’s matchup with the Philadelphia Stars was not a pretty one for the Gamblers’ defense as they lost 35-24 in what was once again another blown lead by Houston in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia finished last season at 6-4 and second in the north division. They pulled off an upset against the New Jersey Generals in the semifinals before losing to the eventual champions Birmingham Stallions.
Philadelphia Stars head coach Bart Andrus will have to figure out the quarterback position with all three of their quarterbacks from last year’s roster not currently on the roster. Kevin Thomson is the only quarterback listed on the roster. With Bryan Scott being recently cut from the XFL’s Vegas Vipers, it might be possible to see Scott back in a Stars uniform in two months.
The good news is the Stars can retain a good portion of their offensive starters. Leading rusher Matt Colburn is back along with Paul Terry and Darnell Holland. USFL Championship star running back Dexter Williams also returns after saying no to the XFL after being drafted by the Arlington Renegades in November. Watch for former Michigan Panthers running back Jordan Scarlett to compete for a roster spot as well. Leading receiver Jordan Suell returns to the team along with Devin Gray and Chris Rowland.
All-USFL defensive back Channing Stribling returns to the team after being another player who said no to the XFL. Stribling led the USFL in interceptions with seven in ten games last season. Adam Rodriguez returns as one of the top pass rushers in the USFL recording nine sacks for the Stars. Linebacker Jordan Moore is back after leading Philadelphia in tackles last season with 62 total.
Week 5 – At Birmingham Stallions, Saturday, May 13th at 4:00 PM EST
Despite the Birmingham Stallions being one of the most dominate teams in the USFL last season, they suffered only one loss last year and that was the Houston Gamblers. The Stallions won the first game between the two teams 33-28. Houston pulled off the biggest upset of the USFL season when they defeated the Stallions 17-15 late in the season.
Stallions head coach Skip Holtz has a host of players returning including both their quarterbacks J’Mar Smith and Alex McGough as they both will compete for the starting job. Star running back Bo Scarbrough is back after joining the team in the middle of the season last year. CJ Marable and Tony Brooks-James also return in the backfield giving the team arguably the best rushing attack in the league back together. While the receiving core took a hit, Marlon Williams is back after leading the team in receiving yards (466) and touchdowns (four). All-USFL kicker Brandon Aubrey is also back for the team to help their offense.
Week 6 – New Jersey Generals, Sunday, May 21st at 4:00 PM EST
Another dominate team from 2022 faces off against the Houston Gamblers as the New Jersey Generals finished last season at 9-1. New Jersey was not able to make the USFL title game after losing to Philadelphia in the semifinals. While the Gamblers almost defeated New Jersey, the Generals got a late QB sneak to win 26-25 in their previous matchup together.
De’Andre Johnson comes in as the early favorite to be the starting quarterback with Kyle Lauletta lined up to be the backup. All-USFL running back Darius Victor is back for New Jersey with leading rusher Trey Williams also returning with both backs combining for 1,155 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. KaVonte Turpin is no longer with the team as he had a Pro Bowl season in the NFL, so the receiving core falls on Cam Echols-Luper. Alonzo Moore, Randy Satterfield, and De’Morney Pierson-El leading the pack.
Safety Shalom Luani stood out as a star for the defense after recording five interceptions, 30 tackles, and one sack during the 2022 season. The Generals’ linebacker core stays intact with D’Juan Hines and Chris Orr returning after being number one and two on the team in tackles. Top defensive lineman Toby Johnson is also returning after leading the team with two sacks.
Week 7 – At Memphis Showboats, Sunday, May 28th at 2:00 PM EST
Both teams play each other again later in the season as the playoff picture will start to come into play. It’s very likely at this point both teams will be battling with the Breakers for the number two spot in the division as the Birmingham Stallions will go into the season as the favorites once again to win the division and the USFL title.
Linebacker Anthony Butler leads the returning defensive players in tackles and interceptions after finishing last season with 52 tackles and two interceptions. Another top linebackers Greg Reaves returns after finishing second on the team in sacks with three last year. All-USFL punter Brandon Wright is back with the team after being named the top punter in the league last year.
Week 8 – At Pittsburgh Maulers, Saturday, June 3rd at 12:00 PM EST
This Pittsburgh Maulers team was the worst in the league as they finished 1-9 on the season. Unfortunately for Houston, Pittsburgh’s only win came against the Gamblers as they threw a game-winning touchdown on them as time expired to take the game 21-20. They too come in with a new head coach as long time NFL defensive coordinator Ray Horton takes over the team after Kirby Wilson left the team.
The Maulers have a much different quarterback room from what they had last season as James Morgan looks to be the favorite to be their day one starter. Their top two backs Madre London and Garrett Groshek are back leading one of the worst rushing attacks in the league. The good news is their top four receivers from last season are back with Tre Walker, Baily Gaither, DelVon Hardaway, and Isiah Hennie all returning.
All-USFL safety Bryce Torneden after recording 71 tackles, one sack, and one interception during the season for the Maulers. Linebacker Kyahva Tezino was the leading tackler for the team with 85 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one interception to his stat line. One notable addition to the defense was the recent signing of former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster who is expected to have a big season for them.
Week 9 – Birmingham Stallions, Sunday, June 11th at 2:00 PM EST
This week nine matchup was one to remember last season with Houston shocking Birmingham on their home field. The Gamblers will be hoping for a similar result as they are expecting a better season from last year. Birmingham will be a tough matchup especially with a good amount of offensive and defensive players back on the team.
Self-proclaimed “Shark-Dog” Scooby Wright III rejoins the team after dominating on the defensive side finishing third on the team with 51 tackles and recording three sacks. Safety JoJo Tillery also returns after recording 63 tackles and one sack last season. Top cornerback Brian Allen is back after recording 41 tackles and taking an interception back for a touchdown.
Week 10 – New Orleans Breakers, Sunday, June 18th at 4:00 PM EST
Another regular season will end between these two division rivals. It’s unclear how important a game it will be for both teams, but it was clear that at least one of them was preparing for the playoffs. This matchup could be the same between the two. It will come down to which defense can play the best with offenses that are more comfortable in their systems.
New Orleans might have one of the strongest linebacking cores in the USFL as leading tacklers Jerod Fernandez and Vontae Diggs are back to lead the defense. Cornerback Adonis Alexander returns after leading the team in interceptions with two. Defensive end Amree Saint-Amour is also back as he was second on the team in sacks with two.
The toughest stretches for the Houston Gamblers will be in weeks five and six when the play the Stallions and Generals as both teams look poised for strong seasons again. Weeks nine and ten will also be challenges as Houston once again plays the Stallions, but the Breakers as well as that could be a playoff spot on the line for that game.
At this point last year, it was hard to determine who was going to be good and who would struggle. Now that the league has one year under them, it’s clear the Gamblers have some work to do on their roster compared to what other teams have. Houston lost all their top four defensive players which leaves big gaps in their depth chart. The only consolation is that they have a returning quarterback on their roster with Kenji Bahar back on the team.
Teams will be better this season as they have one year under their belts in their systems. It will only get tougher from here for Houston so they will need to retool their roster through the draft. Houston Gamblers head coach Kevin Sumlin has a lot of work to do, but they still have time to be prepared for a tougher second season for the team.