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USFL 2023: Michigan Panthers Roster Preview: Defense and Special Teams

After completing our roster preview of the Michigan Panthers Offensive side of the ball, we turn our attention to the Panthers Defense. The Panthers defense will be led New Head Coach Mike Nolan, along with newly hired Defensive Coordinator Steve Brown leading a unit that saw talented players like, Tino Ellis, Jameson Houston, and T.J. Carter transition to NFL teams after the 2022 season.

Defensive Line:

Ron’Dell Carter, Garrett Marino, Vantrell McMillan, Jamal Milan, Walter Palmore, Breeland Speaks, Tre Williams, Ethan Westbrooks

The Panthers return Walter Palmore, Tre Williams, and Vantre McMillan while adding four new defensive linemen three of which have professional football experience. The Defensive Line looks to be anchored by newcomers Garrett Marino, Ron’Dell Carter, and Breeland Speaks with 2022 returnee Ethan Westbrooks adding much needed support now that Cavon Walker has departed to the Vegas Vipers. Overall, the Panthers have upgraded the position that last year ranked in the bottom half in sacks.


Paddy Fisher, Frank Ginda, Noah Dawkins, Santrell Latham, Terry Myrick

Frank Ginda and Terry Myrick are joined by newcomers Paddy Fisher, Noah Dawkins, and the recent signing of the Panthers 2023 draft choice Santrell Latham. While it appears Latham may still be primarily used sparingly since he joined the team late, Fisher, Ginda, Dawkins and Myrick all bring a ton of experience to position, with former EMU Linebacker Terry Myrick expected to take a big step forward as he goes into his 2nd year as a professional.

Defensive Backs:

Corrion Ballard, Josh Butler, Keandre Evans, KiAnte Hardin, Lano Hill, Sean Mahone, Cory Rahman, Warren Saba, Levonta Taylor

CB Levonta Taylor and Safety Lano Hill highlight the newest additions the Panthers brought in during the 2022-23 Offseason. Taylor was a Five Star recruit who underwhelmed at Florida State but does flash a ton of elite potential. Hill, whose Brother Lavert plays for the St. Louis Battlehawks, returns to the state of Michigan, after spending almost five seasons in the NFL. One new addition CFL veteran KiAnte Hardin has already been ruled out of Week 1’s matchup with a L Hamstring injury and will have to wait to make his anticipated USFL debut.

The Safet position for the Panthers gets even more intriguing with Corion Ballard and Warren Saba returning after being released during the season in 2022. HBCU Alum Cory Rahman was a late signing in 2022, and made an impact for the Panthers as injuries began to affect the secondary. Expect all three 2022 alums to make an impact for the Panthers in the coming weeks.

Special Teams:

LS Shane Griffin, P Kyle Kramer, K Cole Murphy

After a bit of juggling with Michael Carrizosa, the Panther Kicking battery turned into the teams biggest strength as the season matured last year. Long Snapper Shane Griffin provides the Panthers with stability for the Panthers Kicking unit, with Kyle Kramer serving once a again as the teams Punter.

The biggest asset to the Panthers special teams unit is Cole Murphy returning. Murphy was a mid-season signing who immediately made his presence felt, winning USFL Special Teams Player of the Week in week 6 and 7. Murphy for a little while held the record for longest Field Goal in the USFL nailing a 60-yard attempt during the Panthers game against the Breakers in Week 7. His record would be broken by Ramiz Ahmed in week-8 by one yard.

Closing Thoughts:

Despite being 2-8, the Panthers, remained extremely competitive losing six games by seven points or less. With key additions at all three levels of their Defense, in addition to retaining an elite Special Teams corps, the Panthers are primed to put the league on notice and contend for a playoff spot in 2023.

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Pat Rifino is a former Security Contractor turned writer. He began his writing career talking about geo-politics, and the defense industry. Now Pat writes about alt-league football, while hanging out with his dogs in his off time.

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