For professional football fans that are looking for their football fix this weekend, don’t need to panic. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) kicks off their inaugural season starting this weekend. The Salt Lake Stallions will be traveling to Arizona to take on the Arizona Hotshots. The game will be this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET airing on the NFL Network. Alliance of American Football week one preview: Salt Lake Stallions vs. Arizona Hotshots.
Alliance of American Football Week One Preview: Salt Lake Stallions vs. Arizona Hotshots
New teams playing in a new league. Because there isn’t any history, we will highlight three things to watch for each team.
Salt Lake Stallions
Dennis Erickson Back Returns to the Sidelines
Erickson was recently inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame. Known for his time at the University of Miami (FL), he is also a former two time NFL head coach (Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers). He was a very successful head college football coach, but never had the same type of success at the pro level. He is hoping to turn that around now that he is in charge of the Stallions.
Keep an eye on the type of offense he will implement with the Stallions. While at Miami, his spread passing attack achieved a lot of success. His offensive coordinator for the Stallions will be former NFL assistant Tim Lappano. Lappano has a long history working in Erickson’s offenses. Along with being Erickson’s running backs coach when he was in charge of the Seahawks and 49ers, he was also Erickson’s offensive coordinator when Erickson was the head coach at Oregon State.
Stallions Ground Game
It appears that the Stallions will have a very deep corps of running backs going into their opening game.
The projected starting running back for the Salt Lake Stallions will be Joel Bouagnon. The former Northern Illinois product has spent time on three different NFL teams practice squads (Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and New York Jets). Last preseason, he led the Packers in rushing with 95 yards and had one rushing touchdown.
Backing Bouagnon up will be former Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata. Asiata spent five seasons with the Vikings. He was a core special teams player for the Vikings and was also their short yardage/goal line running back. In 2014, he rushed for 570 yards and had nine rushing touchdowns.
Experienced Defensive Coordinator
Erickson will have a very experienced assistant in charge of his defense. Donnie Henderson has a very long resume with being a defensive backs coach as well as a defensive coordinator.
He was the Jets defensive coordinator from 2004-2005. He followed that up by being the Lions defensive coordinator in 2006. His most recent job was the defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills from 2013-2016.
Trevor Knight and his Accuracy
The Arizona Hotshots selected Knight with their sixth overall pick of the AAF’s “Pick or Protect” quarterback draft. All signs are pointing to Knight being their opening game starter.
Knight’s athletic ability has never been questioned. While playing three seasons at Oklahoma University and one season at Texas A&M, he was known for his scrambling and running ability. In 2016 for Texas A&M, he rushed for over 600 yards. He also has been clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.5. While he has the athletic prowess to play in the NFL, his accuracy has prevented him from making the jump.
His highest completion percentage in college came in 2013 with Oklahoma. That season, he had a 59 percent completion rate. Every season after that though, it dropped.
It will be up to Hotshots head coach Rick Neuheisel to help improve Knight’s accuracy. Luckily for Knight, Neuheisel has had success with quarterbacks while he was the head coach of the University of Colorado, University of Washington, and at UCLA.
Who will call the Offensive Plays for the Hotshots
When Neuheisel started to fill out his coaching staff, one of his fire hires was former University of Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze as his offensive coordinator. Unfortunately for Neuheisel, that didn’t last long.
Liberty University hired Freeze as their next head coach. With Freeze out of the picture, there will be a question who will call the offensive plays for the Hotshots. All signs are pointing to Neuheisel calling his own plays. But he will get help from quarterbacks coach Steve Axman. Axman has been an offensive coordinator at four different universities during his long coaching career.
Familiar Names on Defense
The Arizona Hotshots will have some familiar faces on their defense.
Defensive tackle Will Sutton will be a part of the Hotshots defensive line. He is a former standout at Arizona State. His play at Arizona State helped him be selected in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. Sutton never reached his potential with the Bears and is hoping for a second chance with the Hotshots.
The Hotshots linebackers will also have some familiar names for Arizona football fans. Carl Bradford, a stand out pass rusher at Arizona State and a former fourth-round pick of the Packers, will be a part of the Hotshots linebackers. Joining Bradford will be former University of Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright.
In Wright’s final season at Arizona, Wright was showered with awards. He won the Bronco Nagurski trophy, Lombardi award, as well as the Chuck Bednarik award for his standout play in 2014. To go along with that, he was named All Pac-12, All American, and was the defensive player of the year for the Pac-12.
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