The list of players I’d like to put on this list if 45 strong, and after the Stallions’ wild championship ride each of these guys truly deserves a shot. Yet for the sake of brevity, we’re going with the first ten that came to my mind here. The USFL’s undisputed greatest team in the league’s return to play, the Stallions flexed incredible depth all year long, but their stars shone bright atop the league.
From their highly efficient offense, to their aggressive swarming defense and sterling special teams units, this team had it all. We’ve already seen USFL players like Channing Stribling and Christian Sam make it to NFL team’s, and it’s only a matter of time until we see some Stallions play for the shield.
1. LB Demarquis Gates
Of all the players on this team who deserve a shot, Gates strikes me as the highest impact, and the most ready for NFL action. He was all over opposing offenses this season, from the pass rush, to the run game, and even dropping back in coverage. His burst off the snap was fantastic, he played smart and took his angles well, and was effective off the ball. The 26 year old OLB has been with Cleveland, Washington and Minnesota in the NFL, but has really made a name for himself in Spring Football. His performances in the AAF, XFL, USFL and even CFL have been incredible, and he could immediately come into an NFL camp to compete for a rotational role.
2. QB J’Mar Smith
Coming into this season, Smith was a bit of an unknown quantity under center. Though he had a great run at Louisiana Tech and improved his numbers each year, we had yet to see him take the field in the pros. Stops in New England and Hamilton showed that there was interest around the football world, and his former college coach Skip Holtz was quick to bring him into Birmingham. The rest is history.
When Alex McGough went down week one, Smith answered the call, and it was clear that he had the goods. As a leader, a shot-caller, passer and athlete, Smith did it all this season, and it was great to watch his rise. These kinds of storylines are what make watching Spring Football so much fun, and what keeps us in the media on our toes. While I had the feeling Holtz would kick the tires on his trusty college QB at some point this year, his incredible performances took the USFL by storm.
Of course there’s room to grow, as with all young passers, but I fully expect him to get looks from an NFL team.
3. LB Scooby Wright III
The other half of Birmingham’s two-headed monster off the ball, Scoob was a force to be reckoned with all year. Though he missed a few games due to nagging injuries, he still finished 3rd on the team in tackles and always seemed to come up big in big moments. The 27-year old vet has also played in the NFL, AAF and XFL, and was one of the best, if not the best defenders in college football back in the day. Now, he could be an option for any NFL team looking to boost their run defense, especially, their goal line packages.
4. WR/RS Victor Bolden Jr.
The USFL Championship MVP/All-USFL selection was nothing short of electric all year. While the Stallions’ QB’s were pretty good at spreading out the ball on offense, Bolden was often the spark to light things up. His ability to get open over the top, as well as underneath made him a very QB friendly option, and he was a consistent option all year. He also led the league in All-Purpose yards, and his abilities as a returner were apparent, and Bolden broke a lot of big ones this year. None were bigger than that 90-yard kickoff return TD in the playoffs that put B-Ham up even more on New Orleans.
Having been on NFL rosters for the past 6 years Bolden Jr is a proven commodity at returner, and his USFL tape shows his skills as an offensive weapon as well.
5. DB Jojo Tillery
The Stallions secondary was stifling this year, and Jojo Tillery’s presence over the middle was a big part of that. He was good vs the pass but really shined against the run, and was 2nd on the team in tackles. Tillery seemed to be involved in just about every big defensive stop, and was nothing short of fantastic as a downhill safety. His size (6’2″, 210 pounds) and speed made him an intriguing raw prospect when he signed with the Titans a couple years back, but now that he has a wealth of tape I’d expect him to get more looks from the NFL.
6. RB CJ Marable
CJ was perhaps an unsung hero of this season, as often happens with running backs who operate in a platoon. However, Marable led the team in rushing with 401 yards, and was 3rd leaguewide with 5 rushing TD’s. He flashed chops all year, showing quick feet, good decision making, and sneaky power in addition to pass catching/blocking skills. He went to Chicago as an UDFA last year, but now I’d expect him to wind up somewhere looking to bring a young, versatile back into the room.
7. CB Brian Allen
Brian Allen had already been around the NFL for some time, as a 5th Round Draft Pick from 2017. Yet it was in Birmingham that he really got to see significant playing time, and he ran with it. During the 2022 campaign, Allen was one of the most consistent corners I saw, especially in light of the fact that Stallions’ opponents were often playing from behind, airing it out. Allen always had the tools as a 6’3″ corner with ~4.4 speed, but now he’s proven he can be a starter in the pros, and quality cornerbacks are always a commodity.
8. RB Bo Scarborough
Already established as an NFL commodity after a 2019 campaign where he put up 377 yards and a score with the Lions, Scarborough bounced around depth charts the last couple years before the Stallions lucked out and landed him midseason. From there, he became a major factor in this offense. Scarborough finished the regular season with 352 yards and a score, and his 135 yards (10.4 YPC) and a score in the USFL Championship were a big reason why they came out on top. As the injury bug whittles away at NFL depth charts in the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up on a team. Could see him thriving in a Shanahanian Outside Zone scheme.
9. CB Tae Hayes
Tae Hayes is yet another prospect who’s been around the NFL ever since school, but hadn’t quite broken into significant playing time yet. He was rock solid across from Brian Allen this year. Hayes had one interception and 8 passes defensed in the regular season, and came up big in the playoffs with another pick vs New Orleans to help seal their round one win.
A young CB prospect with NFL experience and a full season as a starter in the USFL under his belt, Hayes would be a great get for any defense.
10. G Cameron Hunt
The Stallions offensive line was not often spoken about, but it was clear that they did their jobs well. Though Birmingham QB’s took the second most sacks leaguewide, their O-Line also paved the way for the second most yards/game on the ground. Cameron Hunt was a big part of that, and for his efforts was awarded All-USFL honors for his efforts. The 27-year old was a 4 year starter at Oregon, and has played for the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and (then Oakland) Raiders. OL Depth is something teams are always looking for, and starting experience, with accolades in the pros could compel him onto a roster.
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