The USFL informally announced in early summer that their eight teams would be permitted to expand their rosters from 50 to 75 in the offseason. As a result, it’s opened the door for new players to join the established league.
It’s been a long time since a fully-fledged spring pro football league in the United States has had a genuine offseason. That’s because leagues like the AAF and XFL 2020 didn’t complete their seasons. So this is a new territory being charted by recent followers of these alternative pro football leagues.
Year Two USFL Teams
The great thing about the USFL heading toward 2023 is that each team will retain a good number of players from last season.
It’s a vital part of building league and team continuity. After all, the players and the coaches are a significant part of building a team’s personality.
The 2022 Generals established a strong identity. And it won’t feel the same in 2023 if players like RBs Darius Victor and Trey Williams are not back-bulldozing defenses.
There’s some uncertainty as it pertains to USFL teams and their rosters. A good number of players signed with NFL teams; some are still playing in the fall right now for the “Big League.” Such as former USFL MVP, New Jersey General KaVontae Turpin, the Dallas Cowboys’ primary kick and punt returner.
Turpin is off to a good start in his first run as an NFL player, averaging 20 yards per pick return and 12.5 per punt through four games. Dallas has slowly matriculated Turpin into their offense as a gadget player. Word of advice to Dallas’s coaching staff, based on the 2022 USFL film, keep doing that.
The primary uncertainty for year two lies in which players will return to the USFL and which won’t. The same thing applies to coaches. Eleven USFL coaches have left the league. Including New Orleans Breakers head coach Larry Fedora and New Jersey Generals 2022 defensive coordinator Cris Dishman, who has joined the XFL in Las Vegas.
Mike Riley hasn’t announced a replacement yet for Dishman, but the feeling is that the team could promote from within and elevate Bob Diaco to the DC role. Riley, the 2022 USFL coach of the year, has always done a great job surrounding himself with quality coaches, and expect that trend to continue.
Returning New Jersey Generals Players
From a returning players’ standpoint, it will be interesting to see if New Jersey standouts like DeJuan Neal, DeVante Bausby, Luis Perez, Garrett McGhin, and Darrius Shepherd return to the Generals. USFL players like them, who signed early contracts with the league, are free agents right now. Because they were let out of their USFL deals to sign with NFL teams. Six Generals signed onto NFL teams after the season, but five of them have since been released.
The free-agent status of USFL players cut by NFL teams in the summer has given players a window to decide if they want to sign somewhere else. Case in point, Tampa Bay Bandits RB B.J. Emmons, who missed the cut in the NFL and recently signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
None of those mentioned above-released Generals by NFL teams are currently listed on New Jersey’s roster. Because they are technically not USFL players at the moment. That could change in the coming days and weeks.
At some positions, bringing back crucial starters takes on more importance than others.
The Generals have substantial depth at the quarterback position with DeAndre Johnson, veteran Kyle Lauletta and intriguing offseason signee DaQuan Neal. But a return by Luis Perez would certainly help fortify the overall group.
The New Jersey Generals currently have 67 players on their roster. That number could grow in the coming weeks. With 2022 players returning and newcomers joining the league from several different avenues, including NFL cuts. But there remains a possibility that players from 2022 will seek different avenues in the new year. That’s why the latest additions take on that much more importance.
New Jersey has added 19 players to their roster since its 2022 season ended. Here is the list and an in-depth look at the new names set to don the five-star helmets.
New Jersey Generals Free Agent Signings (19):
•DT Kenneth Randall, University of Charleston:
Charleston’s Kenny Randall’s journey to the pros has undoubtedly been unique. A native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, Randall originally committed to Temple but was declared academically ineligible, so he chose to attend Milford Academy in New Berlin, New York. Randall eventually enrolled at the University of Charleton but also had academic struggles there.
The 6’2, 300-pound nose tackle, however, would rebound, earning second-team All-MEAC honors in his first year before exploding with a monstrous senior season that saw him named first-team All-MEAC while leading his team in tackles for loss and sacks. The late rise in college saw Randall get pro opportunities with the Jacksonville Jaguars and CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Kenny Randall has dealt with adversity on the field and off. In 2011, he was a passenger in a car accident with seven of his high school football teammates. Four of the occupants passed away, while four survived. Randall suffered a torn meniscus and concussion in the crash. No matter the hurdles, Randall has kept pushing forward for an opportunity like this.
•CB Adehkeem Brown, Quincy
The Generals are certainly leaving no stone unturned when it comes to the signing of DB Adehkeem Brown.
A veteran of European football, Brown, the former All-Great Lakes Valley Conference cornerback at Quincy University, has plied his trade abroad the last few years.
Brown, a 2018 QU graduate who ranks second in QU history with 14 career interceptions, began his professional career with the Turin Giaguari in the Italian football league. The 5’11 173, pound defensive back also doubles as a kick returner.
•WR Warren Newman III, Jackson St.
Jackson State wide receiver Warren Newman is the fifth HBCU player to sign with the Generals during the offseason, including Hasan Muhammad-Rogers (Lincoln Mo.); Bruce Trigg (NC Central/Morgan State); DaQuan Neal (Elizabeth City), and Justin Cates (NC A&T).
Warren Newman previously agreed to join the Montreal Alouettes before agreeing to a deal with the New Jersey Generals, ultimately choosing to stay in the states to play pro ball rather than head up north to play a new style of football.
Over three seasons with JSU, Newman caught 121 passes for 1,058 yards and scored 12 touchdowns in 28 games. In addition, he was heavily featured on special teams returning 73 punts for 858 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
In his senior season at Jackson State, Newman was named to the FCS All-American First Team as a punt returner. It’s a position that the Generals are in the market for because of the departure of Turpin.
The 5’6 speedster has similar traits to KaVontae Turpin. One of Deion Sanders’s favorite players at Jackson State gets a shot to be a star for Mike Riley.
•CB Michael Sam, La. Tech
The 6’1 Michael Sam is finally getting an opportunity on the pro level after signing with the Generals. The All-Conference USA player once played for Birmingham Stallions coach Skip Holtz. He was a late arrival at Louisiana Tech. Sam had a starring turn at Trinity Valley Community College that led to his ascent to LA Tech.
A former all-state track star at Louisiana also has versatility as a returner. Sam totaled over 1,000 return yards in his college career, returning two kicks for scores.
•DT Tyrone Truesdell, Florida
Tyrone Truesdell was one of the most highly sought-after recruits in the country a few years back. The 6’2, 330-pound space eater chose the Auburn Tigers over prominent universities like Clemson and Ole Miss. Things didn’t go quite as planned for the Georgia native at Auburn, and he transferred to Florida.
Truesdell wound up playing 56 games in college for Auburn and Florida. He never quite lived up to his billing. But did show glimpses from time to time as a dominant interior player.
Truesdell signed with the New York Giants this Spring as an undrafted free agent. But he failed his physical. He profiles as a two-down player in the pros and certainly has tremendous upside in that role if the Generals can tap into it.
•LB Willie Eubanks III, The Citadel
Willie Eubanks III was an incredibly productive player in college who has been overlooked on the pro level. The 6’2, 230lb Georgia native was a tackling machine for The Citadel. The first-team All-Southern conference player was a do-it-all linebacker. A three-year starter who won endless awards.
Leagues like the USFL were made for players like Eubanks, who play at a high level in college but do so in great anonymity.
• C Sean McMoore, Vanderbilt/Tennessee State
Sean McMoore is an undersized center from Hawaii who never lived up to his billing as a four-star high school prospect because of injuries. The 6-foot Center’s full name is Toleafoa-lokepa Sean Auwae McMoore In high school, McMoore was a two-time team captain and an all-state player who did not allow a single sack and provided highlight reel film with 33 pancake blocks as a senior. It’s what led to him entering the college ranks as a hot property.
But things didn’t quite work out for McMoore at Vanderbilt or Tennessee State. He only ended up having a handful of starts on the collegiate level. Primarily due to injuries, he finally started coming on late before his college career ended. In the USFL, McMoore could get an opportunity to develop his game further.
• WR Arthur Jackson III, E. Michigan
As evidenced by Kavontae Turpin’s unique journey into pro football. One that saw him play overseas and in the Fan-Controlled Football League. Arthur Jackson has had a strange path to the pros of his own.
Jackson spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career at American River College in Sacramento, California. He then made the leap to Eastern Michigan, and he played there for two years and was a Second Team All-MAC selection during his senior season in 2019. During his career for the Eagles, Jackson compiled 92 receptions for 1,324 yards and 12 touchdowns.
As a pro, The 6’0 200lb receiver Arthur Jackson has been with two indoor league teams, the Vegas Knight Hawks and Louisville XTreme.
• DE Justin Cates, N.C. A&T
Once again, the Generals lean toward the HBCU ranks, signing NC A&T standout DL Justin Cates.
Cates played in 44 career games, with the Aggies recording 100 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks. He was selected to two All-MEAC teams and won four MEAC championships.
The 6’2, 260lb team captain with the Aggies signed with the Edmonton Elks in 2021 but hasn’t seen any pro action yet. He’ll get his chance in camp with New Jersey to prove he belongs.
• TE/FB Bryson Cannon, E. Michigan
Cannon is another former Eastern Michigan player signing with the Generals.
Cannon is a former JUCO-level tight end who made his way to EMU, playing three seasons there. The 6’2, 240lb pass catcher registered 49 receptions for 662 yards and seven touchdowns during his time at E. Michigan.
The Generals have a crowded TE room that includes Woody Brandom, Wes Saxton, Braedon Bowman, and Mason Sikes. But on a team that loves to deploy multiple tight ends. Cannon has a shot at making an impression; he could also be utilized as a lead blocker at fullback. His versatility and experience in playing both spots can be an asset.
• WR Darrell Stewart Jr., Michigan St.
Another German Football League star is signing with New Jersey.
Darrell Stewart Jr, the Houston, Texas native, was a three-year starter for the Michigan State Spartans and finished his career with 150 receptions for 1,640 yards and seven touchdowns in 43 games. He was ranked among the Spartans’ all-time leaders in receptions (3rd with 150), receptions per game (9th with 3.49), and receiving yards (tied for 23rd with 1,640 yards). He also recorded 2,363 all-purpose yards (1,640 receiving; 551 kick return; 152 rushing; 20 punt return).
Despite dealing with multiple injuries throughout his college career. NFL teams showed interest in Stewart coming out of school in 2020. Stewart spent time with the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers but could not stick onto their rosters. Stewart then took his talents to the German Football League.
The 6’2″, 216-pound pass-catcher was the leading receiver in the German Football League in 2021, putting up absurd numbers in helping the Dresden Monarchs win the German Bowl. Stewart had 1,369 yards, 82 catches, and 22 touchdowns in 2021, and he led all-skill players in scoring.
• LB Bryan Wright, Cincinnati
The Generals have a very similar player to Bryan Wright on their roster in Star LB D’Juan Hines. Wright, like his new teammate, is a multi-sport athlete who, at one time, believe it or not, was a dual-threat quarterback.
Wright has also kicked field goals and punts. But New Jersey won’t be playing him there. Although, based on last year’s inconsistencies at kicker, you never know. Initially, at Cincinnati, Wright played defensive end before switching to an off-the-ball linebacker in 2018. By 2019, he was a team captain and a first-team All-ACC player.
The 6’3, 238lb linebacker had 100 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and five passes defended in his senior campaign. The performance led to him signing with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. Unfortunately, Wright hasn’t been able to stick in the NFL. But he should get a grand opportunity to play with the Generals.
• OT Jahmir Johnson, Texas A&M/Tennessee
Jahmir Johnson (6-5, 290) was a graduate transfer from Tennessee who made his way to Texas A&M. Johnson started 11 games at left tackle for the Aggies in 2021. Before transferring, he was a 17-game starter at guard and tackle over three years at Tennessee. In 2021, Johnson allowed two sacks and 31 total pressures at left tackle for Texas A&M.
Johnson went undrafted but was signed by the Green Bay Packers earlier this year. Unfortunately, due to a knee injury, he was released by the Pack with an injury settlement in May and provided that he can stay healthy, Johnson profiles as a solid developmental lineman for New Jersey. The offensive line is where the Generals had a lot of success last season.
• OL Chibueze Nwanna, Charlotte/Arkansas
Chibueze Nwanna, pronounced Chih-BOY-Zee Nah-Wanna, is a 6’7, 340lb former Junior College player who was rated as the fifth-best tackle among those ranks playing at Lackawanna C.C.
Nwanna made his way to Arkansas first, but a lack of playing time led him to transfer. At Charlotte, he earned high marks, starting seven games at left tackle. Chibueze is a raw product, but he certainly fits the Generals smash mouth offensive style coordinated by line coach Steve Smith.
• WR Anthony Turner, Grand View
Grand View Star WR Anthony Turner is a genuine diamond in the rough. At 6’4″ 220 pounds, Turner is an NAIA All-American who had to go the JUCO route despite having interest from D1 schools. The two-time offensive player of the year in NAIA with the Vikings had a brief stint with the Green Bay Packers in rookie minicamp earlier this year. Because New Jersey loves to run the ball so much, a jumbo-sized receiver like Turner could find his way into the lineup.
• OL Bruce Trigg, NC Central/Morgan St.
Bruce Trigg is another raw prospect signed by the Generals to aid in the trenches. The 6’4, 300lb Georgia native transferred from Morgan State to NC Central in 2021. Trigg had a promising senior season, being voted All-MEAC Second Team.
• DB Hasan Muhammad-Rogers, Lincoln (MO)
The first official signing in the offseason by any USFL team. Hasan Muhammad Rogers is a small school player with plenty of versatility as a former dual-threat quarterback turned defensive back. The HBCU star has the versatility to play safety, cornerback, or as a returner, and has waited a long time for this type of opportunity.
• OL Jonathan Timmons, Alabama A&M
The 6’3, 330lb Timmons started his college career on the Junior college ranks before making his way to Charlotte and then ending up as a cornerstone lineman for one of the best HBCU offenses at Alabama A&M. Timmons is a road grader who is still developing.
* QB DaQuan Neal, Elizabeth City State
DaQuan Neal has been defying the odds for a while. With the Generals, despite having established pro veterans ahead of him on the depth chart. Neal is going to try it again.
Neal wasn’t a highly touted recruit coming out of high school. He ended up at ECSU and rose to stardom. Neal finished his senior season with 3,218 passing yards and 684 rushing yards and tallied 25 total touchdowns.
After college, the Vikings quarterback found very little pro-team interest. He had a few workouts but was left off the radar. The next step for him was the Indoor Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers.
In his first season in the IFL, Neal was named MVP of the league, leading the Barnstormers to a 12-2 record. In 2019, The 6’3, 200lb dual-threat signal caller Neal was the first rookie to win the league’s most valuable player award.
In 2021, the former IFL MVP played for the Tuscon Sugar Skulls, where he finished the season with 2,342 passing yards (second in IFL) and 50 passing touchdowns (tied for second), along with 310 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
Once upon a time, there was another Iowa Barnstormers quarterback who made history all the way to the pro football Hall of Fame. Chances are you might’ve heard of Kurt Warner. The odds are heavily against Neal repeating that anomaly. It’s not very probable. But leagues like the USFL create the existence of that possibility.
Indoor league, HBCU players, small school standouts, and talents who sought to play pro football across the globe are all getting their shot in the USFL. They are following a similar path set by the league’s MVP in 2022.