The Houston Gamblers have their final roster for the 2023 season as they get ready for their season-opening game against the Michigan Panthers.
Houston announced the last of their cuts Sunday with four players being released. Those players included three on offense and one on defense. On that list was running back Benny LeMay who was a part of the roster last season as a late addition to help with injuries at running back.
The team currently has 52 players listed on the roster, but tight end Julian Allen and offensive lineman Bamidele Olaseni are both on the suspended list. This leaves the team with the 50-player roster that is required for the regular season. Let’s take a deeper look into each position group on the team.
Houston Gamblers Roster Breakdown
Kenji Bahar, Terry Wilson, Montell Cozart
The presumed leading man at quarterback is Kenji Bahar who started three games for Houston last season throwing for 541 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 87 yards in the season. His experience gives him an advantage over the other two quarterbacks, but all three quarterbacks have similar skill sets with strong arms and mobility.
Mark Thompson, Devwah Whaley, T.J. Pledger
Two of the three backs have returned to the team from last season with Mark Thompson and Devwah Whaley. Thompson was one of the leading rushers in the USFL through five weeks last season but had a drop-off through the second half of the season. Whaley provided depth at the position and could see more playing time with Dalyn Dawkins no longer on the team. Watch for T.J. Pledger to be the change of pace back for Houston as he should see some playing time as well.
Teo Redding, Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Tyler Palka, Keke Chism, Deontez Alexander, Justin Hall
Two of the team’s top three receivers from last season are back on the team for this season. Anthony Ratliff-Williams led the team in catches (28) while also contributing 243 yards and a touchdown in the process. Teo Redding was second on the team in receiving yards (249) while also recording one touchdown. Tyler Palka will fill the slot receiver position after catching 18 passes for 188 yards last season for Houston. Watch for Keke Chism to make an impact as one of the three newcomers to the receiving core.
Brandon Barnes, Josh Pederson, Clint Sigg Jr., Rodell Rahmaan
With the loss of Julian Allen, Brandon Barnes steps in as the only tight end from last season as he caught eight passes for 75 yards and a touchdown for Houston. Josh Pederson and Clint Sigg Jr. are battling for the backup job as they should see playing time. Rodell Rahmaan joined the team late in training camp so he will have time to learn the offense before being implemented.
Avery Gennesy (RT), Nick Buchanan (C), Tyler Higby (LG), Brandon Hitner (LT), Braylon Jones (C), Jair Joseph (T), Na’Ty Rodgers, Kristijan Sokoli (OL), Jordan Steckler (OL)
This is considered the most experienced position group on the team which is the most important position to have consistency with. This is a group that allowed 18 sacks in ten games and did a good job protecting the quarterback while opening holes for the running backs. Four of the five starting offensive linemen from last year’s team are back on the team anchored by Nick Buchanan at the center.
Tim Bonner (DE), Isaiah Chambers (DE), Damion Daniels (DT), Eli Howard (DE), Chigozie Nnoruka, Ikenna Onwuasoanya (DT), Reggie Walker (DE)
No one on the defensive line played or recorded stats on the team last season so it’s a whole new group coming in for the team. Key guys to watch are Tim Bonner and Reggie Walker coming off the edge. They both do a great job of rushing the passer and should make an immediate impact. Damion Daniels headlines the defensive tackle position as he spent time with the Houston Texans.
Ronheen Bingham, Isaiah Pryor, Marcel Spears Jr., Khalan Tolson, Jeremiah Tyler
Another group that has no one on this season’s roster that played or recorded stats for the Gamblers in 2022. Khalan Tolson spent time this past training camp with the Carolina Panthers. Isaiah Pryor also was with the New Orleans Saints last year. Ronheen Bingham spent time in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Manny Bunch (S), Stefan Claiborne (S), Nick Grant (CB), Trey Hoskins (DB), Jeremiah Johnson (S), Bydarrius Knighten (CB), Dayan Lake (S), Donald Rutledge Jr. (DB), Andrew Soroh (S), Malcolm Washington (CB)
The strength of this team comes in the secondary with multiple players who played on last season’s team. Jeremiah Johnson and Bydarrius Knighten each got an interception in their appearances for Houston. Johnson also added 22 tackles, one tackle for loss, and three pass deflections last season. Of the returning players, Manny Bunch leads the team in 2022 tackles with 36 tackles as well as one pass deflection. Andrew Soroh also returns after recording nine tackles and one tackle for loss last year.
Nick Vogel (K), Andrew Galitz (P), Ross Reiter (LS)
Both the kicker and punter are returning from last season’s team. Nick Vogel was one of the top kickers in the USFL after converting 18 of his 23 attempts hitting 78 percent of his field goals. Andrew Galitz returns as well after averaging 44.5 yards per punt, pinning the ball inside the 20-yard line 20 times. Ross Reiter joins the team after Houston released their previous long snapper Cole Mazza Monday morning.
The offense and special teams have a ton of experience from last season’s team which should give them an advantage heading into the season. Key positions like quarterback and offensive line are important in the development of the team and being consistent. This will be important, especially with a whole new defense that will lean on their secondary to make plays for them.
Houston will have an uphill battle all season as they get the team to gel with a new coaching staff in a short timeframe led by head coach Curtis Johnson. Talent and athleticism are there for the players on the team. It’s a matter of putting it all together for the team so the keyword for this team is patience. It may not start pretty, but once this team gets into a rhythm, they should come on strong in the second half of the season.