On Sunday the Michigan Panthers begin the 2022 USFL season with a game against Kevin Sumlin’s Houston Gamblers. The Panthers coached by Jeff Fisher come into the season as favorites along with the New Orleans Breakers and the Tampa Bay Bandits according to CBS.
Once again fans of football will see the third attempt of spring football in four years as the USFL is the latest to establish itself as a consistent professional league. This time it seems with the backing of FOX the USFL may be able to stick around and provide fans another outlet of professional football.
Jeff Fisher seems to be the most experienced and successful Head Coach out of the USFL hires. His 178 career wins rank only second but to Mike Riley, however Fisher’s wins all come from the NFL unlike Riley’s. The Panthers also sport a combination of experience and young faces with their coordinators as names like Jeff Imamura and Neil Callaway have coach at extremely high levels while coordinators Eric Marty and Dan Carrel are young and ready to take advantage of this great opportunity.
One word can define the Michigan Panthers offense for 2022; potential. Not much is known about the Panthers offense. Coach Fisher has teased about playing both Quarterbacks ala 2006 Florida Gators. However, despite all the unknowns Paxton Lynch was still a top QB prospect in 2016 and could provide a solid physical rushing attack to go with Stevie Scott and Reggie Corbin. The receiving corps will be led by Jeff Badet who was a stud at Oklahoma but hasn’t managed to solidify himself on an NFL roster most recently getting cut off the Raiders Practice Squad in 2021. Lance Lenior provides a nice complimentary piece while Conor Davis and Marcus Baugh are two tight ends who have NFL experience. The Offensive line also boasts questions as Maea Teuhema seems to be the leader of an extremely inexperienced group. Ultimately, the Panthers season rest on Shea Patterson. Though he was the number one pick he was definitely a surprise to most. With the league looking to be driven by solid QB play I would rank Patterson in the back half of the eight teams. Patterson’s experience may be in question but obviously the Panthers staff believed in him enough to select him first overall. It also does hurt having a Michigan Wolverine leading the Michigan Panthers for marketing reasons.
The Panthers Defense excites me with XFL Sack Leader Cavon Walker looking to sure up an otherwise uninspiring defensive line. Reality TV Star Chase DeMoor could be a breakout star as he is extremely raw and athletic, however with the release of Tre Threat the Edge Pass rushing unit has been extremely hampered. LB Frank Ginda is a tackling machine who should be a stalwart sideline to sideline. Despite being only 24 Ginda is in his fourth Pro League, playing in the NFL, AAF, XFL and now the USFL. The Panthers secondary is rounded out by Tino Ellis and Jameson Houston. The most unproven position group on the team will likely land Head Coach Jeff Fisher a lot of criticism if they do not perform to standard. Fisher’s secondary is vastly inexperienced as most of his DBs have never played in a professional regular season game. Look for Fisher who was a former DB with the 85 Bears and defensive coordinator to be extremely involved with this group as they are definitely the weakest link on the defensive side of the ball for the Panthers.
As of right now the Panthers do not have a Kicker with the season opener only four days away. They do have Michael Carrizosa a Punter out of San Jose State, who has never made a field goal in his college career. He was an all-conference punter and solid Kickoff Specialist resulting in touch backs in 68% of the time. Hopefully, the Panthers actually sign a kicker before the season, I did here Taylor Russolino is available. Long Snapper Ryan Griffin is a supplemental draft pick who not only Long Snapped but also played Offensive and Defensive Line. Another professional football rookie Griffin will be a part of an inexperienced Special Teams unit coming into the 2022 season.
Overall, the Panthers team boast a solid team though not perfect. I expect a dynamic rushing attack with plenty of RPO’s in addition to a stout front seven. I predict a 6-4 record for the Panthers this season as I believe they go 4-2 in their conference games and split their out of conference opponents. Either way whether the Panthers will or lose I am personally excited to see Football back this spring.