The USFL season is just around the corner and the Birmingham Stallions are ready to defend their title. The Stallions have a loaded roster with staters returning on both sides of the ball along with head coach Skip Holtz and defensive coordinator John Chavis.
There’s plenty of reason to be excited this time of year. Here are the top 10 players that will have a big impact for the Stallions this season.
QB J’Mar Smith
J’Mar Smith is entering his seventh season playing for coach Holtz, dating back to his time as a freshman at Louisiana Tech back in 2016. Smith has endured plenty of success at the college and professional level where he owns a 21-2 record under Holtz.
Smith finished last season with 1,573 passing yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 187 yards and two scores on the ground. The Stallions will gladly bring back the quarterback that helped lead them to a championship in 2022.
QB Alex McGough
It may seem odd to have two quarterbacks listed when only one will be the starter but there is reason to believe that both Smith and Alex McGough will play at some point in 2023. He was the original starter for the Stallions last season before the emergence of Smith when McGough went down with an injury.
Ultimately, McGough replaced Smith, who went down with an injury, in the championship game and completed seven of 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He finished the year with 460 passing yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in seven games.
If either quarterback gets injured, the Stallions have the depth and experience to plug and play without dropping in firepower.
RB Bo Scarbrough
Bo Scarbrough signed with Birmingham in May of last season and played a big role on the team down the stretch. He finished with 352 yards, the 10th most in the league, and one touchdown. The 28-year-old helped the Stallions win the first USFL championship, as he rushed for 135 yards and one score in the game.
Scarbrough was a two-time national champion in college with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Now in Year 2 with the Stallions, he is expected to receive the bulk of the carries in 2023 and has the potential to lead the USFL in rushing yards.
WR Marlon Williams
Marlon Williams is now set to be go-to man in Birmingham as Victor Bolden Jr., the team’s top receiver last season, now plays for the Arlington Renegades in the XFL. The Stallions will also be without Osirus Mitchell, who started a handful of games last season and played a major role in the playoff run.
Williams was the No. 2 option a year ago but still led the Stallions with 474 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2022. Without Bolden, Williams is expected to have a massive year and will need to rise to the occasion, as he’s the only returning receiver with more than nine receptions.
TE Jace Sternberger
Jace Sternberger was a consensus All-American at Texas A&M in 2018 where he caught 48 passes for 832 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He signed with the Stallions in January after a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His best year in the NFL was in 2020 with the Green Bay Packers where he caught 12 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown.
At 6-foot-4, 251 pounds and 32-inch arms, Sternberger is a massive target that can be especially useful in the passing game and on run-blocking downs. With some inexperience at wide receiver, he has the opportunity to become one of Smith’s top options.
TE Thaddeus Moss
Along with Sternberger, Thaddeus Moss is another tight end the Stallions brought in for the 2023 season. Moss, the son of the legendary NFL receiver Randy Moss, starred and won a national championship at LSU where he caught 47 passes for 570 yards and four scores.
Moss went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft but is a freak athlete with outstanding hands as a pass catcher. Paired with Sternberger in the Stallions passing game, Moss is set to be one of the best weapons on a stacked offense.
LB Scooby Wright III
As aforementioned, there’s plenty of talent returning from last year’s championship roster and none may be as impactful as Scooby Wright III. For those that followed the team last year, Wright is a familiar name that made the game-clinching pick-six in the title game to secure a 33-30 victory over the Philadelphia Stars.
Wright finished with 52 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and three pass breakups a year ago. The University of Arizona product will be leading the charge again in 2023 and is a USFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Wright makes an impact at every phase on defense and will command a confident defensive unit for the Stallions.
S JoJo Tillery
JoJo Tillery returns as the team’s starting safety but has the opportunity to play in an expanded role on defense. While he’s listed as a safety, he’s much more versatile than that and can play nickel and linebacker at a high level. He finished with 56 tackles and one sack last season.
DE Jonathan Newsome
Jonathan Newsome hung up the cleats in March of 2021 but came out of retirement less than a year later and was selected by the Stallions in the 2022 USFL Draft. The 32-year-old proved to have plenty of juice left as he finished with 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one interception.
The former Ball State standout hadn’t that level of success since his rookie season with Indianapolis Colts where he totaled 28 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
With DeMarquis Gates, the Stallions leading in tackles and sacks last season, gone and now playing for the Chicago Bears, Birmingham is going to need a somebody on the edge to step up and create pressure. Newsome has plenty of experience and could rejuvenate his career if he fills the void.
DT Willie Yarbary
Willie Yarbary returns for a second season with the Stallions after finishing with 35 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2022. Yarbary played a massive role on defensive in the USFL Championship game, as he finished with five tackles and two sacks. He’s one of the handful of defensive starters returning and is expected to play an even bigger role than last year.
Prior to his time in Birmingham, Yarbary had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2021. He played in two preseason games and tallied seven tackles.