It was a disappointing Tuesday for fans of one of one of the most highly regarded Quarterbacks in the USFL coming into the 2023 season. Carson Strong of the Michigan Panthers was placed on the teams injured reserve list late Tuesday evening, in a move that surprised fans and media alike. The former Nevada QB has had a series of knee injuries over his young career that many believe took him from guaranteed 1st round draft pick, to a UDFA in 2022. To replace him, the Panthers brought in Brian Lewerke a former Michigan State Quarterback who has spent time with Two NFL teams, in addition to playing in The Spring League and XFL earlier in 2023. The team also announced the release of their 2023 3rd round draft pick Santrell Latham, who appeared in one game for the team this season.
Lewerke was a UDFA in 2020, spending training camp with the New England Patriots before being released during final cuts. In 2021, Lewerke would find himself playing in the Spring League with the Alphas throwing for 618 passing yards with a TD:INT ratio of 4:5. Lewerke would then spend 2022 with the New York Giants bouncing between the active roster and practice squad earning $167,400 in his NFL career. Lewerke also spent part of 2023 with the Seattle Sea Dragons before being released in favor of the 2023 draft eligible Harrison Frost. During his time at MSU Lewerke would throw for over 8,000 yards and 47 touchdowns in 37 starts and looks to be the teams QB3 for the foreseeable future. @USFLshadow on Twitter was the first to confirm that Lewerke joined the team.
Strong’s time with Michigan was highly anticipated at the time of his signing. Once regarded as a 1st-Round Pick in the NFL knee injuries led to him falling out of favor with NFL scouts. After spending training camp with the Eagles, in addition to a quick Practice squad cameo for the Cardinals, Strong signed with the Panthers in mid-March, backing up Josh Love over the first Five weeks of the season. Strong’s playing time increased over weeks 4 and 5, however it appears a lingering Knee injury per source has sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Strong finishes 2023 throwing for 266 Yards 1 TD and 2 INTs in his first professional opportunity.
The Panthers also released Santrell Latham their 2023 3rd round pick. Latham was the first Panthers draft pick to sign with the team from the 2023 draft class. After an injury to Noah Dawkins, Latham was active for the first time in 2023, totaling Four tackles in his lone appearance. Moving forward it appears Terry Myrick and Paddy Fischer will continue to fill in while Dawkins remains sidelined with an injury.
As with all levels of football, injuries continue to mount for teams as a season progresses. With the loss of Strong, it appears Josh Love will once again be given full control for the 2-3 Panthers for at least Week 6. While the USFL’s North Division weak play continues to allow the Panthers to have a fighting chance of making the playoffs, it’s not out of the question to see Offensive Coordinator Eric Marty turn to former EWU standout Eric Barriere in hopes of providing a spark to continue push the Panthers forward into the final half of the season.