Thursday, October 31, 2013

Former college head coaches could have leg up in A11FL


When thinking about who might make a successful A11 Football League head coach, one of the top pool groups would have to be former college football head coaches.

Why? Simple – recruiting.

When an A11FL head coach goes out and looks for free agents – both prior to the first season in 2015 and during, due to injuries and such – he won’t have the advantage of paying a player more than another team might.

So how will said head coach convince the players he wants to add to come to his team, not another A11FL team? Good old-fashioned recruiting, just like in college.

There have been three major professional spring outdoor football leagues prior to the A11FL – the United States Football League (1983-85), the World League of American Football (1991-92, 1995-97)/NFL Europe (1998-2007) and the XFL (2001). The WLAF/NFLE and XFL had fixed salaries, while the USFL didn’t.

Ex-collegiate coaches, therefore, had a financial leg up in the USFL. So this isn’t quite comparing apples to apples, but here is a list of some spring pro head coaches who found success coming right out of the college ranks:

-       Prior to being named the head coach of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, Steve Spurrier was an assistant coach at the University of Florida (his alma mater), Georgia Tech and Duke. Spurrier then created “BanditBall,” and he led the Bandits to a 35-19 regular-season record and two postseason berths over three seasons.

-       Pepper Rodgers had been out of football since 1979, his last year as head coach at Georgia Tech, before being named the head coach of the USFL’s Memphis Showboats, starting in 1984. After a disappointing 7-11 expansion season, Memphis went 11-7 in 1985, and was one step away from the 1985 USFL Championship Game.

-       Jack Bicknell went right from the Boston College sidelines in the fall of 1990 to guiding the new Barcelona Dragons in the WLAF in the spring of 1991. The result was an 8-2 regular-season record and a spot in the league’s first World Bowl. Bicknell went on to be a head coach in every season of WLAF/NFLE except for the final one in 2007.

-       Al Luginbill was Marshall Faulk’s head coach at San Diego State, and had been a college coach off-and-on since 1968, prior to beginning his professional head coaching career in the reborn WLAF with the Amsterdam Admirals in 1995. His rookie season in pro ball was a major success, as Luginbill led the Admirals to a league-best 9-1 record and a spot in World Bowl ’95.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Setting The Scene – Texas at Florida


It’s Sunday, March 15, 2015, at approximately 3:45 p.m.

The first weekend of A11 Football League play is coming to a close with its fourth game in three days – Texas at Florida. After plenty of fanfare and pomp and circumstance pre-game, culminating in A11FL Commissioner Scott McKibben bringing the two teams’ captains to midfield for the inaugural coin toss, the two teams got down to business.

Texas spoiled the Florida party early thanks to veteran quarterback Vince Young turning in a performance reminiscent of his 2006 Rose Bowl National Championship Game effort. Lining up in shotgun with backup quarterback Graham Harrell, Young ran for an 11-yard touchdown on a sweep, then he ran a sprint option and pitched to ex-Canadian Football League tailback Brandon Whitaker for a 20-yard score and threw a 55-yard screen-and-run score to fellow ex-Longhorn Jordan Shipley for a 21-0 lead by the middle of the second quarter.

The partisan Florida crowd was stunned, but not deterred.

Why? Because it still had Tim Tebow on its side.

The strong-willed Florida signal-caller never wavered, and started to bring his team back. At the end of the first half, Tebow, making his much-anticipated return to professional football, shrugged off Texas linebacker/defensive end Sergio Kindle, himself making a return to pro ball, and scrambled five yards to cut the halftime deficit to 21-7.

After a scoreless third quarter, Tebow and Florida made it a 21-14 game when he found running back Chris Rainey in the flat for a 7-yard touchdown pass. On the next series, Young was intercepted by former Central Florida and CFL standout cornerback Joe Burnett, who returned the ball 66 yards for the tying score.

But just as Florida fans were whipped into a frenzy, Texas return man Quan Cosby quieted them with a 70-yard kickoff return which set up a 41-yard field goal by ex-UTEP strong-legged kicker Jose Martinez.

Down 24-21, this sets up Tebow for yet another comeback with 3:22 left in the game.

Starting at the 15-yard line after a block in the back on the kickoff return, Tebow runs an option to his right for a gain of eight yards. But then…

-       2nd-and-2, Florida 23 – Tebow misses wide receiver Carlton Mitchell on an out pattern.
-       3rd-and-2, Florida 23 – A false start costs Florida five yards.
-       3rd-and-7, Florida 18 – Tebow goes through his progressions, then scrambles to find Rainey on the sideline for a 10-yard pass and a first down.

Rainey gains five yards on a draw play, and Florida uses its last time out with 2:17 left in regulation. On 2nd-and-5 from the Florida 33, Tebow and Mitchell connect for a 30-yard pass down the left seam, and at the two-minute warning, Florida is in business at the Texas 37-yard line.

Tebow comes out of the timeout with a handoff to ex-Detroit Lion Kevin Smith, who only gains three yards to the Texas 34. But Texas then is able to slow down Florida’s momentum when outside linebacker Brandon Williams, an ex-Dallas Cowboy fourth-round pick, sacks Tebow for a 7-yard loss.

Faced with a 3rd-and-14 from the Texas 41 and with time dwindling, Tebow dials up a pass, only to see the protection break down. He steps up, takes off, dodges one, then two, then three defenders, reaches out and…gets the first down on a 15-yard run to the Texas 26!

After spiking the ball to stop the clock with 59 seconds to go in regulation, Tebow finds veteran wideout Jabar Gaffney for an 8-yard out to stop the clock, then Roscoe Parrish for 5 yards out of bounds.

Florida has the ball 1st-and-10 at the Texas 13 with 48 seconds to go. Tebow calls two plays in the huddle, the first being an option right to Rainey, who gets the pitch and gains eight yards, but can’t get out of bounds. The offense hurriedly gets to the line to run the second play, which ends up being a fade-pattern to Parrish…TOUCHDOWN FLORIDA!

With 27 seconds left, Florida leads 28-24.

That doesn’t give Young much time for a comeback, and a field goal does no good. And after Cosby gets to the 24-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, there’s just 22 seconds to go. Young finds Shipley for back-to-back 12-yard gains, one out-of-bounds and one inbounds, which forces Texas to use its last timeout.

From its own 48 and with just 12 seconds left, Young tries to complete another out pattern, only to see Burnett step in the way of the pass, clutch it and go out of bounds to clinch the Florida win.

Tebow comes out one more time, takes a knee, and the game – the first A11FL contest in the state of Florida – is over.

One A11FL thriller is in the books – with many more in the years to come!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Territorial allocations could have strong impact on A11FL teams starting out


A new professional football league isn’t going to have a territorial allocation just to have local players playing on hometown teams. It will have a territorial allocation to place high-quality National Football League-caliber local players on hometown teams.

The A11 Football League is going to kick off its first season in the spring of 2015, and when it does, the majority of its players will be allocated among its eight teams via four drafts over 60 days through January of 2015:

-       A territorial allocation of players who were eligible for the National Football League Draft from 2009-14.
-       A common draft of non-territorial players who were eligible for the NFL Draft from 2009-14.
-       A territorial allocation of players eligible for the NFL Draft in 2015.
-       A common draft of non-territorial players eligible for the NFL Draft in 2015.

The territorial allocations will afford each A11FL team the opportunity to reserve the rights to both players not under contract to any other professional football league and those who are from the schools to which they are assigned.

As a “for instance,” let’s look at the Florida franchise.

There are seven Florida Football Bowl Subdivision football programs – Florida International, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Miami, South Florida and Central Florida. Not knowing how many colleges will be assigned to each team, let’s look at who the Florida team would have the opportunity to select in a territorial allocation:

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL – It is unlikely Indianapolis Colts wide receiver/punt returner T.Y. Hilton and Jacksonville Jaguars safety John Cyprien would be available, but defensive end/linebacker Tourek Williams (San Diego Chargers) and tackle Caylin Hauptmann (Seattle Seahawks), both from the 2013 draft class, might be.

FLORIDA – How about the quarterback duo of Tim Tebow and John Brantley reuniting in the A11FL? They could throw to former fifth-round tight end Cornelius Ingram, or the dual receiving-return threat of 5-foot-6 lightning bolt Brandon James. Running back Chris Rainey, who spent the entire 2012 NFL season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, would be a good option in the backfield, out of the backfield and on returns. A current Gator with great A11FL potential is senior Trey Burton, who could be a quarterback, running back or wide receiver with success.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC – Florida’s A11FL team won’t get a crack at Washington Redskins running sensation Alfred Morris, but former United Football League linebacker Frantz Joseph and longtime Tennessee Titans third-quarterback Rusty Smith would be nice additions.

FLORIDA STATE – If he could balance pro football and medical school, safety Myron Rolle would be a very good addition. Former second-round defensive end/linebacker Everette Brown may be available after a journeyman NFL career to date. A good receiving target would be current Canadian Football League wideout Greg Carr. On special teams, punter Shawn Powell has 18 games of recent experience with the Buffalo Bills.

MIAMI – “The U” also would be able to provide the Florida A11FL squad with top talent, such as CFL quarterback Jacory Harris and running back Javarris James, who ran for six touchdowns as a rookie for the Colts in 2010, but would need to clear up some off-field legal issues. Outside linebacker Spencer Adkins played three seasons (2009-11) with the Atlanta Falcons.

SOUTH FLORIDA – Rookie third-string quarterback B.J. Daniels (Seattle) could be a strong candidate thanks to his run-pass abilities, and wideout Carlton Mitchell has been in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and now is in the CFL. Defensively, inside linebacker Tyrone McKenzie has 19 NFL games under his belt after being a third-round pick in 2009.

CENTRAL FLORIDA – At 36 years old, and not having played in three years, quarterback Daunte Culpepper isn’t realistic now, let alone in the spring of 2015. However, someone who might be coveted and available is free agent nose tackle Torell Troup, a second-round pick by the Bills just three years ago. Joe Burnett, a fifth-round selection of the Steelers in 2009, is a cornerback/return specialist in the CFL.

This just scratches the surface of the type of talent the territorial allocations could bring to the A11FL. Imagine what the draft lists will look like in just more than a year’s time!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A11FL player drafts to follow past regional, common allocations


It is one of the questions at the top of the list for any new professional football league – how best to initially stock each of its teams with top talent in order to not only keep costs in line, but make sure each team is as even as possible early in the process.

The A11 Football League is going to kick off its first season in the spring of 2015, and when it does, the majority of its players will be allocated among its eight teams via four drafts over 60 days through January of 2015:

-       A territorial allocation of players who were eligible for the National Football League Draft from 2009-14.
-       A common draft of non-territorial players who were eligible for the NFL Draft from 2009-14.
-       A territorial allocation of players eligible for the NFL Draft in 2015.
-       A common draft of non-territorial players eligible for the NFL Draft in 2015.

After those drafts, each A11FL team will have a pool of players – most available to those teams immediately, but also some who will make up a team’s reserve list for potential signing down the line.

“We’re not creating anything new,” said A11FL President & Chief Operating Officer Michael Keller, who has previous managerial experience in the United States Football League, World League of American Football and XFL at both the league and team levels. “The only real different thing that was done with the other leagues (USFL and XFL) was adding a territorial aspect to it.

“Teams would get a first shot at better players at universities in their region. The National Football League just has an open draft. We changed that in the United States Football League, where we added a territorial component.”

The 1983 USFL territorial draft saw each team pick draft-eligible players from a list of five colleges. Some of the teams had more natural college allocations than others (one of the Boston Breakers’ territorial schools was Nebraska, one of the New Jersey Generals’ territorial schools was Tennessee, etc.), so the final five-college lists for each team were evened out in terms of college productivity over a period of time.

“It was all done to create a level playing field. As a new league, we weren’t going out and getting stars, necessarily. When we initially started, we had a salary cap,” said Keller, adding that eventually went by the wayside with the signing of players such as Heisman Trophy running back Herschel Walker by the Generals.

The USFL saw each team owned singularly. The A11FL will be a single-entity league, meaning costs will be controlled, and territorial drafts will have more impact.

“Keep your popular players at home, and you can tap into the talent that is developed in the region,” Keller said. “That’s what we’re going to be doing in the A11, as well. It will help us to market and brand our teams and the league.”

Keller was the XFL’s Vice President of Football Operations, and that league used the territorial and common draft approach, as well.

“In the XFL, it was a true single-entity (league),” said Keller. “We signed all the players and had them allocated. We’re doing the same system now that we did in the XFL. We may make an attempt to sign some high-visibility players, but not at the expense of the A11’s future.

“We all know that there are just so many talented players coming out of our colleges and universities with no place to go. The opportunity that the A11 provides will be coveted.”

What the A11FL won’t do is mirror the WLAF’s approach to its initial draft in 1991, which included a “draft matrix” in which teams randomly picked a letter which had a predetermined draft slot for each player position group.

“We did the tryouts and the draft in the same period of time,” Keller said.” We brought them in, worked them out and at the finish of the combine or the workouts, we went right in and drafted the players. Ours (draft process) is going to be much more simple.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Michigan A11FL team won’t have problem filling roster with local talent


Today is the latest in a series of stories about potential A11 Football League players, by state, using a regional approach. The players are taken from a list of free agents from thesidelineview.com on October 7, and doesn’t reflect any changes in status that may have occurred since then.

It is easy to get stuck in the minutia of putting together a new professional football league – where is the money going to come from, where is the television contract going to come from, where will the teams be, etc.

All of that is for the leaders of the A11 Football League to continue to work on. The fun part is thinking ahead – who might be the players who will fill the rosters of the eight A11FL teams come the spring of 2015? We don’t know who will be available when players begin to be acquired, but we know who’s available now.

So let’s take a look at some players a Michigan-based A11FL team might want to pick up:

Perhaps the best fit for Michigan at quarterback would be ex-Central Michigan standout and current Canadian Football League pivot Dan LeFevour. LeFevour spent two seasons (2010-11) in National Football League training camps and practice squads, and his high-quality run-pass ability has been a success in limited CFL duty. Another intriguing possibility would be former Michigan Wolverine Tate Forcier, a California native might be more comfortable out of the West Coast.

If healthy, a Michigan team would have a very good running back option in former Michigan State standout and ex-Tennessee Titan Javon Ringer. Of course, if cats and dogs can get along, and ex-Ohio State players were part of a potential regional assignment, then Chris “Beanie” Wells, who was a 1,000-yard rusher just two years ago, also would be in the mix.

At wide receiver, there could be ex-Wolverine and NFLer Braylon Edwards, who boasts 359 career catches and would be 32 years old when the 2015 A11FL season kicks off. Another available former Michigan standout is Steve Breaston (61 catches for Kansas City two years ago), while Saginaw Valley State’s Ruvell Martin has logged seven years of NFL time, as well.

Defensively, Michigan can come with a pair of ex-Buckeye linebackers – Thaddeus Gibson (fourth-round pick in 2010 NFL Draft) and Brian Rolle (sixth-round pick in 2011). It also could try to pluck defensive end Charleston Hughes, formerly of Division II Northwood and one of the top sack artists in the CFL.

There will be plenty of high-quality talent for every A11FL team to choose from when the time comes. Given the history of programs like Michigan and Michigan State, and being able to pluck players from smaller programs, a Michigan A11FL team will have no trouble finding high-quality, NFL-caliber talent that fits the A11FL game.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New York-New Jersey A11FL team may go out of the area for a ‘name’ quarterback


Today is the latest in a series of stories about potential A11 Football League players, by state, using a regional approach. The players are taken from a list of free agents from thesidelineview.com on October 7, and doesn’t reflect any changes in status that may have occurred since then.

It is easy to get stuck in the minutia of putting together a new professional football league – where is the money going to come from, where is the television contract going to come from, where will the teams be, etc.

All of that is for the leaders of the A11 Football League to continue to work on. The fun part is thinking ahead – who might be the players who will fill the rosters of the eight A11FL teams come the spring of 2015? We don’t know who will be available when players begin to be acquired, but we know who’s available now.

So let’s take a look at some players a New York-New Jersey-based A11FL team might want to pick up:

The quarterback position may be one where a marquee name might be brought in for a marquee market (JaMarcus Russell?). Russell, who will be 30 after the first A11FL season ends in 2015, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 National Football League Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He started just 25 games over three seasons for the Raiders, has a career NFL passer rating of 65.2 and hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2009.

As for whom somebody like Russell could hand off to, there is ex-Syracuse standout Delone Carter, who was a backup running back for the Indianapolis Colts in both 2011 and 2012, as well as a current Canadian Football League standout in Chad Kackert (New Hampshire). Some top receiving targets could be former Buffalo Bull and Buffalo Bill Naaman Roosevelt, as well as a pair of current CFLers – Taj Smith (Syracuse) and Ernest Jackson (Buffalo).

Defensively, a New York-New Jersey team could look to ex-New England Patriot Ron Brace (Boston College) for help at defensive tackle, along with a slew of CFL players such as linebackers Diamond Ferri (Syracuse), Anton McKenzie (Massachusetts) and Renauld Williams (Hofstra), and defensive end Keron Williams (Massachusetts).

There will be plenty of high-quality talent for every A11FL team to choose from when the time comes. There is potential for having more big names moved to this market than any other for obvious reasons, but there could be a strong regional presence, as well.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Illinois A11FL team will have plenty of regional talent to draw from


Today is the latest in a series of stories about potential A11 Football League players, by state, using a regional approach. The players are taken from a list of free agents from thesidelineview.com on October 7, and doesn’t reflect any changes in status that may have occurred since then.

It is easy to get stuck in the minutia of putting together a new professional football league – where is the money going to come from, where is the television contract going to come from, where will the teams be, etc.

All of that is for the leaders of the A11 Football League to continue to work on. The fun part is thinking ahead – who might be the players who will fill the rosters of the eight A11FL teams come the spring of 2015? We don’t know who will be available when players begin to be acquired, but we know who’s available now.

So let’s take a look at some players an Illinois-based A11FL team might want to pick up:

As of now, the best option for Illinois at quarterback is former Northwestern and Philadelphia Eagle Mike Kafka – definitely a dual run-pass threat. Looking next door at Indiana, another intriguing option is Canadian Football League pivot Joey Elliott (Purdue).

At age 31 now – and age 33 when the first A11FL season starts – Northern Illinois alum Michael Turner may not have enough tread left on the tires (1,639 carries in nine National Football League seasons). A much younger nearby option would be ex-Notre Dame and Chicago Bears back Armando Allen.

The top Illinois-based wide receiver available is NFL veteran Laurent Robinson (Illinois State), who has caught 112 passes the last three seasons but has had recent concussion issues. Looking to its northern neighbor, Illinois could find a tight end in former New York Giant Travis Beckum (Wisconsin), who caught 26 passes from 2009-11.

The Illinois team also could look on the other side of the border to the Iowa Hawkeyes for linebacker A.J. Edds, who played 11 games with Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots in 2011, and ex-Northern Iowa standout linebacker L.J. Fort, who played all 16 games with the Cleveland Browns in 2012. In the secondary, Illinois could reach to South Bend, Indiana, for ex-Notre Dame and Baltimore Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski.

On special teams, the Illinois squad can look across the border to bring in former Ball State punter Reggie Hodges, who spent five seasons in the NFL with five different teams.

There will be plenty of high-quality talent for every A11FL team to choose from when the time comes. With a bevy of talent in the surrounding states, as well as its own, the an Illinois team would have a shot at success early.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Texas A11FL team could end up with strong Longhorn influence


Today is the latest in a series of stories about potential A11 Football League players, by state, using a regional approach. The players are taken from a list of free agents from thesidelineview.com on October 7, and doesn’t reflect any changes in status that may have occurred since then.

It is easy to get stuck in the minutia of putting together a new professional football league – where is the money going to come from, where is the television contract going to come from, where will the teams be, etc.

All of that is for the leaders of the A11 Football League to continue to work on. The fun part is thinking ahead – who might be the players who will fill the rosters of the eight A11FL teams come the spring of 2015? We don’t know who will be available when players begin to be acquired, but we know who’s available now.

So let’s take a look at some players a Texas-based A11FL team might want to pick up:

How would Texas football fans like to see quarterback Vince Young line up in the shotgun again in the spring and summer months? The ex-Longhorn and Tennessee Titans standout easily is the best of a group of possible quarterbacks that includes former Dallas Cowboy Stephen McGee (Texas A&M), ex-Texas Tech gunslinger Graham Harrell and Jordan Palmer (UTEP), brother of longtime National Football League starting quarterback Carson Palmer.

Young could hand off to veteran running back Cedric Benson (Texas), who posted all three of his 1,000-yard NFL rushing seasons from 2009-11. Whomever the quarterback and/or running back is could benefit from a fullback like Jorvorskie Lane (Texas A&M) or veteran Ahmard Hall (Texas). One available wide receiver who could thrive in an A11FL offense is former Longhorn Jordan Shipley.

Ex-New England Patriot and New Orleans Saint David Thomas, yet another Longhorn, would be the leading available tight end after 95 catches over the 2009-10 seasons.

The top potential Texas A11FL defensive lineman is former NFL first-round pick Ty Warren, who spent a decade in the league with the Patriots and Denver Broncos but has dealt with triceps issues in recent years. In the secondary, cornerbacks Stanford Routt (Houston) and Joselio Hanson (Texas Tech) each have logged eight NFL seasons.

There will be plenty of high-quality talent for every A11FL team to choose from when the time comes. A Young-to-Shipley passing combination would be formidable, and a Texas A11FL team would benefit greatly from the NFL-caliber athletes from state colleges and universities.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

California’s A11FL team will have boatload of homegrown talent to choose from


Today is the latest in a series of stories about potential A11 Football League players, by state, using a regional approach. The players are taken from a list of free agents from thesidelineview.com on October 7, and doesn’t reflect any changes in status that may have occurred since then.

It is easy to get stuck in the minutia of putting together a new professional football league – where is the money going to come from, where is the television contract going to come from, where will the teams be, etc.

All of that is for the leaders of the A11 Football League to continue to work on. The fun part is thinking ahead – who might be the players who will fill the rosters of the eight A11FL teams come the spring of 2015? We don’t know who will be available when players begin to be acquired, but we know who’s available now.

So let’s take a look at some players a California-based A11FL team might want to pick up:

While these three ex-California-college quarterbacks don’t necessarily entirely fit the A11 style of play, Matt Leinart (USC), David Carr (Fresno State) and Trent Edwards (Stanford) certainly would bring veteran presence to the squad. Combined, Leinart, Carr and Edwards have 23 years of National Football League experience.

If he weren’t still dealing with concussion issues, former California running back Jahvid Best could end up as the best back in the A11FL. A California team also could pick from ex-New York Jet Joe McKnight (USC) and ex-Chicago Bear Kahlil Bell (UCLA), both of whom still have plenty of gas left in the tank at age 25 and 26, respectively. A versatile fullback in ex-Stanford Cardinal and Cleveland Brown Owen Marecic could provide help in blocking, on special teams and even perhaps at linebacker.

At wide receiver, former San Diego State Aztec and Oakland Raider Chaz Schilens is the best of an available bunch which also includes Matt Willis (UCLA) and seven-year NFL veteran Greg Camarillo (Stanford). California also could add a 6-foot-6 hybrid tight end/wide receiver in ex-Brown Evan Moore (Stanford).

A California team’s defense could see the likes of defensive end/linebacker Antwan Applewhite and inside linebacker Matt McCoy (both San Diego State) leading the front seven, and might have to look outside the state – or perhaps attract some former Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers – for some regional flavor.

Potentially leading the special teams charge could be longtime Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe (UCLA), who spent eight seasons in the Twin Cities after being undrafted in the NFL.

There will be plenty of high-quality talent for every A11FL team to choose from when the time comes. A California team should be able to stock a good portion of its team with easily-recognizable names and faces from college football seasons past.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pennsylvania A11FL team would have some homegrown talent, need to branch out


Today is the latest in a series of stories about potential A11 Football League players, by state, using a regional approach. The players are taken from a list of free agents from thesidelineview.com on October 7, and doesn’t reflect any changes in status that may have occurred since then.

It is easy to get stuck in the minutia of putting together a new professional football league – where is the money going to come from, where is the television contract going to come from, where will the teams be, etc.

All of that is for the leaders of the A11 Football League to continue to work on. The fun part is thinking ahead – who might be the players who will fill the rosters of the eight A11FL teams come the spring of 2015? We don’t know who will be available when players begin to be acquired, but we know who’s available now.

So let’s take a look at some players the Pennsylvania-based A11FL team might want to pick up:

The pickings for quarterback from Pennsylvania-based colleges are slim, which means the team would have to go to surrounding states for help. Ex-Pitt Panther Tino Sunseri is in the Canadian Football League, and isn’t the mobile run-pass threat another current CFLer is – Josh Portis from California (Pa.).

Looking to the running game, there is one available player who was a Penn State quarterback and a National Football League fullback – Michael Robinson. A former Pro Bowler, Robinson hasn’t run the ball much in his pro career (114 attempts in seven seasons), but has caught 73 passes, thrown two passes, returned 30 kickoffs and made 75 total tackles on special teams. Another CFLer – Tim Brown (Temple) – would be a very good run/catch/return option.

At wide receiver, former Nittany Lion Deon Butler caught 36 passes for four touchdowns three years ago for the Seattle Seahawks, while fellow Penn Stater Jordan Norwood caught 23 passes for the Cleveland Browns just two years ago.

In the defensive front seven, one player who could use the A11FL as a redemption shot is ex-Penn State end/outside linebacker Aaron Maybin. A former first-round pick in the NFL, Maybin made just one start over four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, recording six sacks (all in 2011), 36 total tackles and five forced fumbles.

There will be plenty of high-quality talent for every A11FL team to choose from when the time comes. Pennsylvania’s football fans will have some homegrown talent to root for one the ball is kicked off in the spring of 2015, and depending on who would be available by then, the team might need help from surrounding states like Ohio and West Virginia to fill out the majority of the roster.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Florida A11FL team will have no shortage of talent to choose from


Today is the first in a series of stories about potential A11 Football League players, by state, using a regional approach. The players are taken from a list of free agents from thesidelineview.com on October 7, and doesn’t reflect any changes in status that may have occurred since then.

It's easy to get stuck in the minutia of putting together a new professional football league – where is the money going to come from, where will the television contracts come from, where will the teams be, etc.

All of that is for the leaders of the A11 Football League to continue to work on. The fun part is thinking ahead – who might be the players who will fill the rosters of the eight A11FL teams come the spring of 2015? We don’t know who will be available when players begin to be acquired, but we know who’s available now.

So let’s take a look at some players the Florida-based A11FL team might want to pick up:

Any discussion of a Florida A11FL team’s offense would begin and end with quarterback Tim Tebow. His past performance at the University of Florida and when given a chance with an offense built around him with the National Football League’s Denver Broncos, as well as his skill set, are a perfect match for the league. And Tebow’s mere presence with the Florida A11FL squad would be not only an emotional lift for the team, but a popular choice among fans.

Alongside Tebow in the backfield could be a running back like former Detroit Lion Kevin Smith (Central Florida), who, at age 27 in December, would have plenty of tread left on his tires. Smith has proven to be a productive professional back (2,346 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing over part or all of five seasons), and he also can go out and catch passes (80 grabs in his first two seasons).

Another interesting running back choice would be ex-Pittsburgh Steeler Chris Rainey (Florida), a speedster who played all 16 games as a rookie last year but has run into legal problems. If those are cleared up, he would be valuable as a back and return specialist.

If the Florida team was seeking a veteran wide receiver, it could do much worse than Jabar Gaffney (Florida), who caught 68 passes in a season just two falls ago and has 447 career NFL catches over 11 seasons. Another receiver who also could double as a successful return specialist is Roscoe Parrish (Miami), who caught 33 passes just three years ago and has career NFL averages of 11.6 yards per punt return and 23.4 yards per kickoff return.

Defensively, the Florida A11FL team could come at opposing quarterbacks with ex-NFL end/linebacker Jarvis Moss (Florida), who had six sacks in an underachieving career as a first-round pick over five NFL seasons. The front seven also could feature former Gator linebacker Brandon Siler, still young by football terms at 28 in December. Siler played five NFL seasons, recording 180 total tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

In the secondary, safety Kenny Phillips (Miami) could fit the bill, after playing five seasons with the New York Giants as a first-round pick and intercepting eight passes.

There will be plenty of high-quality talent for every A11FL team to choose from when the time comes. Florida’s football fans will have a lot of homegrown talent to root for one the ball is kicked off in the spring of 2015.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spring outdoor alternative pro football leagues have done initial draft procedures differently


Prior to the kickoff of the A11 Football League in the spring of 2015, there have been three other major spring outdoor alternative professional football leagues – the United States Football League (1983-85), World League of American Football/NFL Europe (1991-92, 1995-2007) and the XFL (2001).

Those leagues had to decide how best to initially stock each team’s roster -- the A11FL will have to do the same. In the case of the USFL and the XFL, the league went with a dual approach of a territorial/regional draft and a common draft. The WLAF, having four teams not based in the United States, went with a “draft matrix” approach, followed by a supplemental draft.

-       The USFL had a territorial draft prior to the common draft before training camps opened for the 1983 season, and each of the 12 charter teams were assigned territorial colleges from which they could secure players’ rights prior to the common draft. A lot of those territorial colleges made sense (Arizona and Arizona State for the Arizona Wranglers, Alabama and Auburn for the Birmingham Stallions, etc.), but some didn’t (Nebraska for the Boston Breakers, Texas Tech for the Denver Gold, et al.).

The goal of the territorial draft, obviously, was to bring some local flavor to each team, while also keeping the pizazz of having big-name talent at the top of the common draft. In that respect, the USFL was successful. Here are some of the top players to out of the territorial draft that year – tight end Mark Keel (Arizona Wranglers, Arizona), defensive tackle Jackie Cline (Birmingham Stallions, Alabama), guard Tom Thayer (Chicago Blitz, Notre Dame), wide receiver Anthony Carter (Michigan Panthers, Michigan), running back Kelvin Bryant (Philadelphia Stars, North Carolina) and offensive lineman Nate Newton (Tampa Bay Bandits, Florida A&M).

-       The higher-ups with the WLAF had to decide how best to divvy up players for 10 teams – six in the U.S., one in Canada and three in Europe. Since the territorial approach wouldn’t work, the league came up with a “draft matrix” – each team selected one of 10 letters, and each letter represented a selection sequence. For instance, the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks selected the “H” position, which meant they selected first during the wide receiver portion of the draft, and had predetermined positions in the first round of other position groups.

Following the selection of players in the common draft by position group, the WLAF also had a supplemental draft and an allocation of international players, known as “Operation Discovery.”

-       The XFL’s eight teams went back to a USFL-type method of player allocation – a territorial draft, and a common draft. While USFL teams drafted college players in both drafts, the XFL drafted available free-agent professional players in theirs. Some of the top players to come out of the XFL territorial draft included Birmingham Thunderbolts running back James Bostic (Auburn), Chicago Enforcers quarterback Kevin McDougal (Notre Dame), Los Angeles Xtreme quarterback Tommy Maddox (UCLA), Memphis Maniax kicker Jeff Hall (Tennessee), New York/New Jersey Hitmen quarterback Wally Richardson (Penn State), Orlando Rage linebacker James Burgess (Miami) and San Francisco Demons quarterback Mike Pawlawski (California).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Crystal Ball – no shortage of quality quarterbacks for the A11FL taking


Eighteen months seems like a long time. That’s because it is-- especially for those of us at the A11 Football League who have to wait that long for the start of our first full season.

And the list of high-quality, National Football League-caliber players available to play for the League in the spring of 2015 will expand and contract countless times between now and then.

But it is fun to look ahead, isn’t it?

The engine that runs any offense is the quarterback. But given the concepts of the A-11 offense, which will be integrated full-time in professional football for the first time thanks to the A11FL, those quarterbacks are going to be pushed to a higher gear than has ever been seen before.

Imagine the Texas-based A11FL team having former Longhorn and NFL quarterback Vince Young running its offense with his skill set. He will be just shy of age 32 when the first A11FL ball is kicked off, and will have a lot of tread left on his tires. And what if a younger quarterback is desired? Why not go with recent Kansas State dual threat Collin Klein, who, at age 25 when the league begins, seems to have been made for its style of play.

Let’s head to Illinois, where there would be quite a few good choices for its A11FL pivot. Former Northwestern and Philadelphia Eagle Mike Kafka would be the most veteran of those choices, but here’s a name to remember – current Northern Illinois senior Jordan Lynch. Lynch is NFL-quality, but if teams simply look at his height (6-foot) and believe he can’t make it, they would be making a mistake – one the A11FL would love to capitalize on.

As for the Michigan-based A11FL team, a couple of Canadian Football League quarterbacks would look really good here – former Cincinnati Bearcat and current Toronto Argonauts dual threat Zach Collaros and ex-Central Michigan star and Hamilton Tiger-Cats short-yardage specialist Dan LeFevour. Reaching back into the not-so-distant University of Michigan past, there’s the run-pass combination of Tate Forcier.

Out west, for the California A11FL squad, there is one quarterback who would make the most sense from a regional and skill set perspective – former Oregon Duck and Pittsburgh Steeler Dennis Dixon. There are actually several quarterbacks available who played at California colleges, such as Matt Leinart, David Carr and Trent Edwards, but none of them have the run-pass mix called for in an A11FL offense that Dixon does.

Which quarterback would make the most sense for the New York/New Jersey-based A11FL team? If a local pivot is desired, former Arizona Cardinal John Skelton (Fordham) would do the trick. Of course, if a splash is wanted, headlines would be made if someone like former No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick JaMarcus Russell were to come aboard. Russell still wouldn’t be quite 30 years old when the A11FL kicks off, but his weight and his knees (probably because of his weight) still could be issues.

How about Pennsylvania? One option people may not know much about is Josh Portis, who currently is in the CFL and played collegiately at California (Pa.). Portis spent a couple seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, but is with the Argos presently. Another intriguing possibility is Virginia Tech senior Logan Thomas, who at 6-foot-6 and 254 pounds, would be the A11FL’s version of Daunte Culpepper.

Finally, there is the Florida A11FL team. And, of course, the best-case scenario at quarterback would be the one player made for this league – former Gator and Denver Broncos first-round pick Tim Tebow. Tebow would create not only excitement for the team off the field, but his skill set and sheer force of will would make the offense zing. Another good choice here would be former United Football League backup Ryan Perrilloux, who still is raw, but has experience in the NFL, UFL and CFL.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Past spring leagues showed glimpses of A11FL’s coming player versatility


The A11 Football League will launch with showcase games next spring, and will play its first full season in the spring of 2015.

Prior to this, there have been three major spring outdoor alternative professional football leagues – the United States Football League (1983-85), the World League of American Football/NFL Europe (1991-92, 1995-2007) and the XFL (2001).

And in those leagues, there have been glimpses of the player versatility that will be commonplace in the A11FL:

-       Prior to the debut of the USFL, professional football in the United States was loathed to feature any quarterback who wasn’t of the “pocket passer” mold. In fact, in the strike-shortened 1982 National Football League regular-season (nine games), the leading quarterback rusher was David Woodley of the Miami Dolphins with 207 yards. And, only Woodley, Tampa Bay’s Doug Williams (158 yards) and Washington’s Joe Theismann (150) ran for as many as 150 yards from the QB position that year.

The mold was broken beginning with the 1983 USFL campaign, as Birmingham Stallions rookie Reggie Collier made his pro debut with 253 rushing yards and a 6.5-yard average in just seven games. But in 1984, there were two rookie QBs who ran for more than 500 yards, providing their teams with high-quality run-pass dual-threats – Memphis’ Walter Lewis (552 yards) and Los Angeles’ Steve Young (515). And by 1985, Collier, who was with the Orlando Renegades, was running for 606 yards and a dozen touchdowns.

Consequently, the USFL had a hand in changing who/what constituted a quality quarterback. By 1986, the NFL’s leading rushing quarterback was a part-time starter – Philadelphia Eagles youngster Randall Cunningham (540 yards, five touchdowns, 8.2 yards per carry).

-       Long before there was a player in the NFL like Danny Woodhead, who is as productive catching passes out wide as he is taking handoffs, the WLAF featured Eric Mitchel of the Orlando Thunder. In the 1991 season, playing in Head Coach Don Matthews’ four-wide pass-happy, Canadian Football League-style offense, Mitchel spent most of the first half of the season as a slot receiver and most of the second half as a running back. And he racked up yards no matter where he lined up – 281 rushing yards and three touchdowns, 312 receiving yards and one TD and 276 kickoff return yards and another score. Mitchel averaged a whopping 11.4 yards on his 76 touches, and scored five touchdowns.

-       And while the NFL now has running back/receiver types moving all over the field – including as a quarterback in direct-snap/Wildcat situations, the XFL had perhaps the most versatile player of the spring outdoor alternative pro football genre in Memphis Maniax running back/quarterback/wide receiver/special teamer/defensive back Beau Morgan. A quarterback at the Air Force, Morgan ran 17 times for 37 yards, caught 10 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, returned six kickoffs for 106 yards and made two total tackles.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Examining the A11FL chops of up-and-coming college football quarterbacks


Now that the A11FL Magazine has completed its look at the Bleacher Report’s Top 25 quarterbacks of the 2013 college football season, it’s time to analyze some of the fast-risers, freshmen and overlooked among this year’s college pivot crop.

Bryce Petty, junior (RS), Baylor – Coming into the 2013 season, Petty had thrown a total of 14 collegiate passes. Through the weekend, he is the top-rated quarterback in the Football Bowl Subdivision (239.5 passing efficiency). In just three games this season, Petty is 50-for-67 for a whopping 1,001 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. It is questionable, however, whether Petty (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) would fit into an A11FL offense, having run for just 65 yards on 24 attempts in 14 career games.

Jameis Winston, freshman (RS), Florida State – Winston (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) spent a year learning from Buffalo Bills first-round pick E.J. Manuel, and, so far, he’s proven that he’s learned his lessons well. Now second in the FBS in passing efficiency (209.49), Winston has posted 1,048 yards and 12 touchdowns in the air in his first four collegiate games, while also running for a net of 111 yards (162 gained, 51 lost) and two scores. Winston has a lot of collegiate action ahead of him, but his skill set seems to fit the A11FL perfectly.

Blake Bortles, junior (RS), Central Florida – Bortles has been flying under the radar despite putting up some impressive numbers in Orlando. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Bortles displays the accurate passing and athleticism A11FL offensive coordinators will be looking for. In 28 collegiate games through the weekend, Bortles has thrown for 5,191 yards, 40 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, while completing 65.2 percent of his passes. He also has run for 323 yards and 10 scores. So far in 2013, Bortles is a 70.8-percent passer with 1,174 yards, nine touchdowns and three picks in four games.

C.J. Brown, senior, Maryland – Although listed as a senior, Brown (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) will have this year and next available to him in terms of eligibility after missing 2012 with a knee injury. His most extensive playing time prior to 2013 came as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, as he played in 10 games (started five), passed for 842 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions, and ran for 574 yards and five scores. Coming back from the knee injury this year, Brown has been better than before – 1,043 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception passing, a 66.7 completion percentage and 283 yards and six scores on the ground.

Nathan Scheelhaase, senior, Illinois – The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Scheelhaase has the qualities A11FL coaches will look for – a ton of experience, an accurate arm and high-end mobility. Through the weekend, Scheelhaase has played in 40 college games, and has been responsible for 62 touchdowns (46 passing, 16 rushing). In four games so far in 2013, he is gunning for his best season, completing 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,162 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. As a freshman in 2010, Scheelhaase ran for 868 yards and five touchdowns.

Keith Price, senior, Washington – Price (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) is an accomplished passer for the Huskies, and he certainly has pro potential. In the last two full seasons, Price piled up 5,789 yards and 52 touchdowns through the air. So far in 2013, he has racked up 1,044 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions in four games. Price, however, doesn’t look to go outside of the pocket often, as his 46 rushing yards this season would be a career-high – meaning A11FL coaches most likely would look elsewhere.

Kenny Guiton, senior, Ohio State – An unknown outside of Columbus, Ohio, before this season, Guiton (6-foot-3, 208 pounds) has burst on to the scene in recent weeks – and become an intriguing pro prospect in the process. Playing in place of an injured Braxton Miller, Guiton displayed the dual threat excitement that the A11FL will be looking for. In five games this season, Guiton has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 664 yards and 13 touchdowns, and ran for 186 yards and another score. He also has accounted for a pair of two-point conversions – one running and one passing.