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Back-to-back USFL champions will try to maintain an unmatched level of excellence in the UFL this season with HC/OC Skip Holtz returning for his third straight season. Though we don’t have USFL charting data for the entirety of the 2023 season as we did for its XFL counterpart, we can look back to the five-game sample we did track to see that Holtz posted a 60.5% situation-neutral pass rate and a 58.5% True Pass Rate over 277 plays, right at league average, which is consistent with his 52.7% total pass rate from his 2022 season where the league average was 53.7%. Holtz routinely deployed a 3-WR set, utilizing 11-personnel groupings at the league’s highest rate (83.9%) in the sample we tracked.

After leading the team to a USFL championship in 2022, J’Mar Smith started the 2023 season as the team’s QB1 before suffering an injury to his non-throwing ring finger that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. 2022 backup Alex McGough would go on to take over the starting role and lead the team to its second consecutive title.

McGough has since moved on from the team and Smith returns for the 2024 campaign fully healthy, but it won’t be without competition, as the team used the offseason to add Matt Corral and Adrian Martinez to the QB room and provide some competition. Despite Birmingham’s overall success, Smith’s USFL tenure hasn’t been quite as awe-inspiring; he’s completed 55.5% of his passes for a modest 6.8 YPA and an 11:7 TD:INT ratio. Yet, given the familiarity with Holtz’s offense, I suspect Smith to open as the team’s Week 1 starter, though that leash may be shorter than expected given the depth behind him.

In the receiving corps, Victor Bolden returns to his spring football home where, in 2022, the Stallions’ first season, Bolden led the team in target share (25.7%) and Air Yards share (29.5%), serving as the team’s primary slot receiver. He would parlay that success into a brief NFL stint in 2022 before returning to spring football in a limited capacity with the XFL’s Arlington Renegades last year. With 2023 Stallions slot maven Davion Davis no longer with the team, Bolden should get the first crack at those opportunities this season.

The team also returns Myron Mitchell, Marlon Williams, and Deon Cain from last year’s championship squad, all three of whom are capable of filling in on the perimeter, where they did most of their damage in 2023. In 2022, Williams was second on the team in target share (18.8%) behind only Bolden, and he has shown an ability to play both inside and outside, providing more positional fluidity.

One of the few UFL teams to deploy a legitimate pass-catching threat at TE, Jace Sternberger actually led all Stallions receivers in target share (26.7%) during our tracked sample last year and was second in Air Yards share (23.7%) while running a route on 91.2% of dropbacks, 78.4% of which came from the slot. Sternberger should be an early favorite to lead the team in volume.

Prior to the team’s final cuts on March 23, Birmingham is rostering nine total receivers including Amari Rodgers, Binjimen Victor, Slade Bolden, Gary Jennings, and Kevin Austin. While there may be a few casualties here on final cutdown day, we should expect the team to deploy somewhat of a rotation, at least early on, as six WRs in 2023 saw at least a 34.0% route participation rate.

Birmingham brings back 2023 starter CJ Marable in the backfield after he led the team in rushing share (50.0%) last season, going for 85/380/1 on the ground while adding another 13.3% target share as a receiver. He should be expected to open as the team’s starter this season, though competition was added in the form of former Los Angeles Charger Larry Rountree and the return of 2023 Stallions backup Ricky Person Jr. After posting a 33.9% rush share in 2022 and 50.0% during our tracked sample in 2023, Marable should have the inside track for a lion’s share of the team’s backfield opportunities, but Rountree and Person should be expected to siphon at least some opportunities, particularly between the tackles.