The USFL 2023 season is upon us. After going 9-1 in 2022 but falling one step short of a championship game to rival Philadelphia in the playoffs, the New Jersey Generals have unfinished business in year two of the revived league.
USFL 2023 Season
We have entered uncharted territory in the modern era of spring pro football in the United States—year two.
While there have certainly been changes across the board amongst USFL teams during the offseason, the great thing about the upcoming second season is that there are established teams with fully formed identities.
Something that didn’t exist a year ago when teams were all brand new and being built from scratch.
For the most part, USFL coaches and players worked together for the very first time in 2022. And tried to gel quickly in a short period. It’s one of the many challenges that upstart leagues and new teams have.
As is the case with any pro sports league, changes are inevitable from year to year. But it’s no surprise that three of the top four projected USFL teams in 2023 are returning with many of their best players and, most importantly, their leadership structure from 2022 intact.
New Jersey Generals Head Coach Mike Riley
Despite some significant changes and departures in the offseason. Including that of the USFL’s greatest success story in 2022, league MVP and Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl player KaVontae Turpin. The oddsmakers are banking on the New Jersey Generals being a championship contender again in 2023. A big reason for that is 2022 USFL Coach of the Year, Mike Riley.
Anyone who has followed non-NFL pro leagues closely over the last several decades wouldn’t have been surprised by Mike Riley’s success in 2022. He has a successful history of connecting with players and building solid foundations from the ground up.
Notwithstanding his experience, coaching for nearly five decades, with a winning record in college. Riley also has a winning resume as a head coach in four professional football leagues: the USFL, WLAF, AAF, and the CFL, where he won two Grey Cup championships.
You don’t win games without quality players and assistants on your team. But there’s no doubt that the Generals won nine games last year, in large part because of Mike Riley’s leadership.
The been there, done that head coach, did it again.
However, the book in 2022 is closed; it’s time to turn the page and start a new chapter in 2023.
Can Riley’s troops repeat what they did last season? And ultimately finish the job, hoisting a USFL championship trophy when the smoke settles on the Generals 2023 campaign.
New Jersey Generals 2023 USFL Preview
The New Jersey Generals will have a new playing hub in 2023, and they will share Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, with the newly christened black and yellow Pittsburgh Maulers. The Generals and Maulers will kick off their first game together in Canton in Week 2 of the new season.
A year after playing an entire season as primarily a neutral site participant. The Generals will have some home games in 2023. When they are not playing division rival Pittsburgh in Canton, that is.
It’s an improvement from last season and a big difference this year.
There are four hubs in USFL 2023, so there will be teams at a more competitive disadvantage than others playing in road game environments.
Memphis and Michigan join Birmingham as the three USFL teams with a genuine unencumbered home-field advantage with local fans in attendance.
It will be interesting to see how many tri-state area fans of New Jersey travel to root on the Generals in Ohio. Inevitably, some Canton locals will adopt the Generals as their USFL team.
Hall of Fame Village’s historic and beautiful setting will host the North Divisional Final and USFL Championship game in 2023. So the hope for New Jersey is that they stay in their new playing hub for the playoffs. Perhaps, that’s where being at home will pay its greatest dividends.
USFL 2023: New Jersey Generals Schedule
Just like a season ago, the New Jersey Generals draw the short straw having to play Birmingham in the Stallions’ home opener. The 2022 USFL champions and their home crowd should be supercharged for Saturday night’s coronation.
The week one rematch from 2022 will be a great measuring stick for how good the Generals will be in 2023. Last season, New Jersey nearly spoiled Birmingham’s debut but ultimately fell short. The team rebounded nicely by rattling off nine straight victories. So it’s not the end of the world if the Generals lose their opening game. However, New Jersey can silence many doubters by knocking off the champs.
The Generals have one true home game in the first six weeks of their season. In Week 4, when they host the New Orleans Breakers. However, from week seven to ten, New Jersey stays in Ohio. Three of their last four games will be against divisional teams. How the Generals fare down the stretch will determine if they continue playing in Canton once the regular season concludes on June 17th.
USFL 2023: New Jersey Generals Returning Stars/New Additions
New Jersey Generals head coach Mike Riley is returning key members from his offensive staff, like OC Steven Smith, who successfully installed and executed a smash-mouth scheme in 2022. The Generals dominated the trenches last season, rushing for over 160 yards per game.
There are some tweaks to the overall coaching staff. But the most important one is at defensive coordinator. Coaching lifer Ted Cottrell takes over the Generals’ defense.
In one of the most astounding full-circle stories in USFL 2023. The 75-year-old Cottrell is back with the New Jersey Generals after coaching the team’s defensive line nearly four decades ago. The OG, Coach Cottrell, is still sporting his stripes from the mid-80s as he returns to be one of New Jersey’s top lieutenants.
New Jersey Generals 2023 Player Roster
|Alonzo Moore#13||WR||30||6’1″||195 lbs||Nebraska|
|Braedon Bowman#80||TE||29||6’4″||235 lbs||South Alabama|
|Brandon Haskin#76||OL||33||6’3″||315 lbs||Tennessee State|
|Calvin Ashley#71||T||25||6’6″||310 lbs||Florida A&M|
|Cam Carter#60||T||25||6’5″||315 lbs||Murray State|
|Cam Echols-Luper#18||WR||28||6’0″||195 lbs||Western Kentucky|
|Charles Jones#0||TE||26||6’4″||255 lbs||Tulane|
|Dakota Prukop#9||QB||29||6’1″||208 lbs||Oregon|
|Darius Victor#27||RB||29||5’8″||209 lbs||Towson|
|Darrell Stewart Jr.#82||WR||26||6’2″||217 lbs||Michigan State|
|De’Andre Johnson#1||QB||27||6’2″||188 lbs||Texas Southern|
|De’Morney Pierson-El#16||WR||27||5’9″||195 lbs||Nebraska|
|Evan Heim#69||C||26||6’3″||305 lbs||Minnesota State-Mankato|
|Isaiah Battle#75||T||30||6’7″||310 lbs||Clemson|
|Jake Lacina#68||OL||26||6’4″||300 lbs||Augustana (SD)|
|Kingston Davis#29||RB||25||6’0″||225 lbs||Miles (AL)|
|Kyle Lauletta#11||QB||28||6’3″||222 lbs||Richmond|
|Randy Satterfield#8||WR||27||6’4″||210 lbs||Lyon College (AR)|
|Robert Myers#70||OL||31||6’5″||325 lbs||Tennessee State|
|Saige Young#66||OL||27||6’4″||305 lbs||Vanderbilt|
|Terry Poole#72||T||31||6’5″||325 lbs||San Diego State|
|Trey Williams#3||RB||30||5’7″||200 lbs||Texas A&M|
|Warren Newman#15||WR||23||5’8″||175 lbs||Jackson State|
|Wes Saxton Jr.#17||TE||29||6’4″||240 lbs||South Alabama|
|Woody Brandom#88||TE||26||6’5″||260 lbs||Sam Houston State|
|Anthony Blue#40||CB||25||5’11”||185 lbs||Newberry|
|Blake Countess#26||CB||29||5’10”||185 lbs||Auburn|
|Bryson Young#56||LB||25||6’5″||250 lbs||Oregon|
|Chris Orr#2||LB||25||6’0″||227 lbs||Wisconsin|
|Christian Tutt#6||CB||23||5’11”||185 lbs||Auburn|
|D’Juan Hines#4||LB||28||6’1″||235 lbs||Houston|
|DJ Daniel#20||CB||24||6’1″||185 lbs||Georgia|
|Deyon Sizer#95||DL||26||6’4″||280 lbs||CSU Pueblo|
|Dravon Askew-Henry#7||S||27||6’0″||203 lbs||West Virginia|
|Hercules Mata’afa#93||DE||27||6’2″||252 lbs||Washington State|
|Jalen Choice#50||LB||25||6’3″||234 lbs||Jacksonville State|
|Kenneth Randall#59||DT||27||6’4″||300 lbs||Charleston (WV)|
|Kevin Thurmon Jr.#91||DT||26||6’3″||298 lbs||Arkansas State|
|Kolin Hill#55||LB||26||6’2″||235 lbs||Texas Tech|
|Meiko Dotson#25||CB||26||5’11”||195 lbs||Florida State|
|Mike Bell Jr.#12||S||25||6’2″||210 lbs||Fresno State|
|Paris Ford#24||S||24||6’0″||190 lbs||Pittsburgh|
|Shalom Luani#5||S||28||6’0″||201 lbs||Washington State|
|Toby Johnson#90||DL||31||6’4″||320 lbs||Georgia|
|Trae Elston#21||CB||29||6’0″||185 lbs||Ole Miss|
|Tyrone Truesdell#97||DT||23||6’2″||347 lbs||Florida|
|Tyshun Render#99||DE||26||6’3″||255 lbs||Middle Tennessee State|
|Willie Eubanks III#51||LB||24||6’2″||230 lbs||The Citadel|
|Brock Miller#19||P||32||6’0″||195 lbs||Southern Utah|
|Jordan Ober#44||LS||26||6’1″||225 lbs||Nebraska|
|Nick Sciba#28||K||23||5’9″||191 lbs||Wake Forest|
The New Jersey Generals have the most experienced roster in the USFL. They have 16 players who are 28 years of age or older, and seven of them are over thirty years old. The average age of the roster is 26.9.
The Generals could tweak their lineup several times during the 2023 season. So there’s always a chance for new arrivals and acquisitions during the season. After all, in pro football, attrition is inevitable due to injuries.
There could be tweaks to USFL rosters in the future, but for now, teams dress 40 players on game days while ten players go on the weekly inactive list. Coaching staffs will have to strategically decide who to dress on any given week.
New Jersey Generals’ 2023 Offense Overview
Two crucial questions emerge about the 2023 New Jersey Generals offense. Who will fill the giant cleats of league MVP KaVontae Turpin, and who will lead the way at quarterback?
- De’Andre Johnson (QB)
- Kyle Lauletta (QB)
- Dakota Prukop (QB)
One of the USFL’s most exciting players to watch last season when healthy was QB De’Andre Johnson. The Last Chance U star, who spent time at three different universities in college, was on the verge of breaking out as a major superstar last season before injuries slowed him down.
Johnson started only four games in 2022, playing in a QB rotation system. However, he produced over 1,000 yards on offense and scored six touchdowns.
After playing some in The Spring League in 2021, the 27-year-old Johnson, a dynamic open-field runner, grew as a passer in 2022. He completed 72 percent of his passes for a 102 passer rating.
Despite Johnson’s breakout potential, the Generals are hedging their bets at quarterback. Late last season, New Jersey claimed quarterback Kyle Lauletta off waivers. The former Richmond standout and fourth-round pick of the New York Giants provides excellent insurance for the Generals. He is more of a traditional pocket passer than Johnson. And it would not shock anyone if he plays a significant share of snaps at quarterback. That’s if newly acquired QB Dakota Prukop doesn’t also come into the equation.
Prukop, the First-team FCS All-American, is back in the States after spending six seasons in Canada as a dual-threat quarterback in the CFL. Prukop, who once upon a time nearly rushed for a thousand yards two seasons in a row at Montana State, could serve as the perfect complement to De’Andre Johnson.
The ancient belief system in football circles is that if you play multiple quarterbacks, you don’t have one worthy of starting. For parts of 2022, the Generals showed that you could defy convention successfully. Will Mike Riley and his offensive staff decide to roll with the same rotational system at QB again?
New Jersey Generals WR/TEs
- Alonzo Moore
- Randy Satterfield
- Cam Echols-Luper
- Warren Newman
- De’Mornay Pierson-El
- Darnell Stewart Jr.
- Woody Brandom
- Braedon Bowman
- Wes Saxton Jr.
The Generals lost two of their best receivers from 2022. KaVontae Turpin and Darrius Shepherd. Filling those shows will be challenging, even though New Jersey is a run-dominant offense.
Veteran Alonzo Moore, a Mike Riley disciple since college, Randy Satterfield and Cam Echols-Luper return from 2022. Each returnee could play significant snaps and gobble up more pass attempts than last season. And in this offense, run blocking is just as essential as pass-catching.
However, the offseason additions of De’Mornay Pierson-El, Darnell Stewart Jr., and Warren Newman carry the most intrigue and upside potential in the passing game.
Pierson-El has the veteran experience to factor in on special teams and as a pass catcher underneath. First-team FCS returner Jackson State’s Warren Newman and Michigan State’s Darnell Stewart Jr. both have a chance to emerge from the pack.
The Generals are returning the same trio they had last season at the tight end position. It’s a group that only caught 25 passes in ten games in 2022. But it doesn’t mean the position isn’t essential for New Jersey.
Veteran TE Wes Saxton is less of an in-line player than Braedon Bowman and Woody Brandom. That’s why the latter two play much more significant roles in the Generals’ dual TE sets. Bowman and Brandom are outstanding blockers. New Jersey not only utilizes their skill sets in the run game and as pass blockers but often to set up big gains in the screen game. Bowman and Brandom were the secret sauce to the Generals’ rushing attack and quick passing game a year ago.
- Darius Victor
- Trey Williams
- Kingston Davis
While there are question marks attached to the Generals’ pass game in 2023. There are no doubts about New Jersey’s ground attack.
USFL 2022 offensive player of the year Darius Victor and Trey Williams are a deadly duo at RB. The two teamed up in 2022 to produce 1,156 yards rushing and eleven touchdowns combined in ten games. Williams (579) and Victor (577) finished second and third in the USFL in rushing yards. If you factor in De’Andre Johnson’s running ability (310 yards, four touchdowns in 2022), you have an unstoppable trio in the Generals’ backfield that will give opposing defenses serious headaches.
Lurking in the shadows of NJ’s dynamic backfield is Kingston Davis. The 6’0, 225lb three-star recruit from Alabama, and HBCU standout at Miles College has had a unique path in his playing career. But he’s been getting rave reviews for his blend of speed and power since joining the Generals last May. Davis could become an X factor as the season progresses.
- Calvin Ashley (T)
- Terry Poole (T)
- Brandon Haskin (OL)
- Evan Heim (C)
- Jake Lacina (OL)
- Robert Myers (OL)
- Isaiah Battle (T)
- Cam Carter (T)
- Saige Young (OL)
After losing first-team All-USFL offensive linemen Garrett McGhin, it was imperative that New Jersey retained the services of another all-league player in OT, Terry Poole, and they did. Poole was one of the top-graded offensive linemen in the AAF and the XFL in 2020, and he carried that over to the USFL in 2022.
Generally, losing a standout offensive tackle, even if you retain the other, will put you in a difficult bind. However, the Generals have a lot of quality depth at OT. Calvin Ashley is a former five-star recruit who showed flashes of brilliance last season playing tackle and guard, and he has a chance to become a better pro this season.
Jake Lacina and Evan Heim are two of the better interior players in the USFL. Along with great play at tackle, they helped pave the way for the league’s most efficient offense. Very quietly last season, the Generals were second in the league in pass yards per game. Despite being last in the league in pass attempts. The team allowed only 16 sacks, the fewest in the USFL. Thanks to excellent coaching by Steven Smith, that play up front will make it easier to replace standouts from a year ago.
New Jersey Generals 2023 Defensive Overview
- Toby Johnson (DL)
- Hercules Mata’afa (DE/EDGE)
- Tyshun Render (DE/EDGE)
- Deyon Sizer (DL)
- Kenneth Randall (DT)
- Kevin Thurmon Jr. (DT)
- Tyrone Truesdell (DT)
Under Ted Cottrell, New Jersey will likely lean toward playing with three down linemen in their base. The team has the personnel with five interior d-linemen types to play a 3-4 specifically.
The Generals have quality interior run-stuffing players like All-USFL linemen Toby Johnson, who are highly stout at the point of attack. But a year ago, the unit produced a league-low ten sacks. Johnson led the team with two sacks in 2022. More production will be needed from tweener Hercules Mata’afa and Tyshun Render, who could be playing with their hands off the ground in 2023.
- Chris Orr (LB)
- D’Juan Hines (LB)
- Bryson Young (OLB/EDGE)
- Kolin Hill (OLB/EDGE)
- Jalen Choice (LB)
- Willie Eubanks III (LB)
Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell will also be coaching the team’s linebackers and inherits two of the USFL’s best off-ball players, Chris Orr and D’Juan Hines.
Jalen Choice and Willie Eubanks are two intriguing young prospects who should help provide depth behind Orr and Hines. But the key to the Generals’ success in their front seven will be Bryson Young and Kolin Hill taking a giant leap forward this season. Both players did a decent job setting the edge against the run but were nearly invisible as pass rushers, combining for only 2.5 sacks.
Texas Tech’s Kolin Hill has untapped potential. He broke out as a player, playing for the Berlin Thunder in the newly formed European League of Football in 2021. Hill was a menace in ELF, nearly winning defensive MVP honors after registering 11 sacks in ten games. The Generals, who also had another ELF standout last season on their roster in KaVontae Turpin, took notice and drafted Hill in 2022. Perhaps a change in defensive scheme for New Jersey could unlock Hill’s pass-rushing skills this season.
- Trae Elston (CB/S)
- Christian Tutt
- Anthony Blue
- Meiko Dotson
- DJ Daniel
- Blake Countess (CB/S)
Beyond the apparent loss of WR KaVontae Turpin, one of the hidden factors in why some people are not as bullish about the Generals in 2023 as they were a season ago relates to the losses incurred by New Jersey at cornerback.
New Jersey lost their two starting cornerbacks from last season, NFL veteran De’Vante Bausby and DeJuan Neal. The returning Trae ‘Trip’ Elston will be tasked with picking up the slack. DJ Daniel and Christian Tutt also return after showing some flashes in 2022.
Another important veteran is NFL vet Blake Countess. The heady pro was an elite special teams contributor in the NFL. But the well-traveled Countess, who has 37 career starts under his belt, could be leaned upon to provide stability in the secondary.
The Generals staff is high on D2 standout Newberry’s Anthony Blue and FAU/FSU rookie Meiko Dotson. Both players are very intriguing. Dotson led the FBS with nine interceptions at Florida Atlantic in 2019 before transferring to FSU. But things didn’t go as planned for him with the Seminoles, and Dotson played in just ten games at FSU due to injuries. He has the physical tools to recapture his early career form if he can stay healthy.
- Shalom Luani
- Dravon Askew-Henry
- Mike Bell Jr.
- Paris Ford
The Generals’ safeties were fantastic in 2022, and they will need to be again in 2023 because of uncertainty at cornerback.
All-USFL player Shalom Luani, who led the league in interceptions last season, and Dravon Askew-Henry complement each other so well. Luani is a true centerfielder who can play in the box and be a big hitter. DAH is the ultimate hybrid player who can double as a slot cornerback. That versatility could open up more snaps for Mike Bell Jr. and Paris Ford—two talented DBs who should see more playing time this season.
- Nick Sciba (K)
- Brock Miller (P)
- Jordan Ober (LS)
- Cam Echols-Luper/De’Mornay Pierson-El (KR/PR)
What held the Generals back last season from having the best special teams in the USFL was their shaky kicking game.
In 2022, the Generals ran through multiple placekickers and were second to last in the USFL in field goal percentage at less than fifty percent. (10/21). New Jersey’s kicking game also registered five missed extra points last season.
The Generals think they have solved their kicking woes by signing Wake Forest’s all-time leading scorer Nick Sciba. The highly efficient kicker comes with an impressive college resume.
After setting an NCAA record in 2021 with 89.9% field goal accuracy and consecutive kicks made, Nick Sciba finished his collegiate career connecting on 80 of 89 field goal attempts. Also, he made all 193 of his extra-point attempts. As a rookie in the NFL, Sciba was a perfect 3/3 on kicks for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season.
The Generals brought back standout punter Brock Miller, a favorite of NFL teams on the workout circuit in 2022. Miller worked out for over a dozen NFL squads before landing with the Los Angeles Rams. The left-footed specialist finished the year on their practice squad but returns to the USFL for another run.
It will be challenging to replace you know-who in the punt return game. But it’s lost on many that although the league MVP went on to become a pro bowl kick returner for the Dallas Cowboys. The player who led the charge for New Jersey returning kicks in 2022 was WR Cameron Echols-Luper. A year ago, he was second in the USFL in kick return yards (748) and second in kick return average with 28.8.
However, there’s still the question of who will be returning punts. The leader in the clubhouse could be veteran De’Mornay Pierson-El. After all, his prolific history as a punt returner in college (904 yards, three touchdowns) with Nebraska helped lead him to eight different stints with teams on the pro level.
Pierson-El’s head coach with the Cornhuskers was Mike Riley. If the Generals’ coach decides to deploy De’Mornay strictly at receiver. Perhaps Warren Newman, the FCS All-American returner who returned two punts for scores during his collegiate career, could get the nod.
USFL 2023: New Jersey Generals Season Prediction
All the top teams in the USFL lost standouts from 2022. That’s the byproduct of having star players in a league like the USFL. These players shine on a grand stage, and then doors and more opportunities open elsewhere. NFL teams took notice of players like Kavontae Turpin, Maurice Alexander, DeMarquis Gates, etc
New stars will emerge with playing time in 2023. The same way those players did, and that’s inevitable, however unpredictable, as for whom they will.
The Generals are in the same boat as good teams like the Stars, and Stallions, looking to replace top-flight players from last season. But even if New Jersey wasn’t, it’s hard to repeat the same level of regular season success they had in 2022.
The Generals made going 9-1 look easy a year ago. The path to doing so was made more accessible by the bottom teams in the Northern Division. The 1-9 Pittsburgh Maulers and 2-8 Michigan Panthers. Both those teams have made significant changes in the offseason to get better. And they should be improved by default in 2023.
Therefore, I can’t see New Jersey as dominant as they were in 2022. The Generals won’t fall to the bottom of the pack. But a slide closer to the median could be coming.
As a bonus prediction. Although it would send shockwaves throughout the USFL if New Jersey were to beat the champion Stallions in their home opener. I think Birmingham, favored by five this coming Saturday night, will debut 2023 in style by beating the Generals 26-23.
Because of their leadership, the Generals are still a legit playoff contender. And that’s what I project for them in 2023. But the best team in the North begrudgingly goes to the Philadelphia Stars, who knocked out New Jersey last season, and look improved defensively from a year ago.
The Generals will have to get through Philly again in the playoffs, and I predict they won’t. The Stars seem headed for another shot at a USFL championship in July.