Football Season Over? Not so fast says the XFL
Updated: Feb 17
One week after Super Bowl 57, the XFL kicks off it's latest iteration and this time they have a team in Orlando. But who is on the team and why should you be watching?
The spring is usually, in sports anyways, a time for basketball and hockey to begin taking center stage as the NBA and NHL seasons begin to wrap up and the NCAA mens and womens teams begin focusing on where in the bracket they may position in. Even baseball gets back into the picture as Spring Training begins across Florida and Arizona and colleges begin their seasons. But in our football crazed society, the NFL still reigns supreme with talks of free agency and the Draft still occupying most of the segments from the talking heads on sports TV and radio. And why not? The NFL just hosted its annual "largest television event in history" contest they have with themselves every year, and none of the other sports leagues in the US even come close. But instead of just talking football between now and September, why not play some football? And that is where the XFL is hoping to capitalize. And it just so happens, they'll have a team in Orlando this time around. So lets take a look at who will be making up the Orlando Guardians this season.
Tell me who is coaching first!
Former Florida State star and NFL Pro-Bowler Terrell Buckley will be taking on the position of Head Coach for the first time in his coaching career when the Guardians take the field against the Houston Roughnecks on Saturday. Buckley has been primarily a secondary coach in college, most recently at Ole Miss under Head Coach Lane Kiffin. This is a role that Buckley believes he was "long overdue" for and is excited for the challenges being the first head coach for this team might present. And he has surrounded himself with some other names from Florida college football history your may recognize, including QB coach and former Gator great Shane Matthews and WR coach and former Hurricanes standout Lamar Thomas,
Hey, I know those names! What about the team? Anybody I'll know?
During their last run, the XFL produced some quality players that ended up playing in the NFL these last few seasons, including QBs Taylor Heinicke, PJ Walker, and Josh Johnson. Orlando is hoping to be the next team to have a guy take that leap and they have the talent in the QB room to possibly do it. A QB competition, that still hasn't been decided, between former Florida State QB and Olympia High School (Orlando) standout Deondre Francois and former 1st round pick and Trinity Christian Academy (Deltona) alumnus Paxton Lynch. Coach Buckley has been adamant about having a fast, modern offense in his interactions with the media so the QB that wins out will have to be able to move the pocket and make plays down field as well as with their legs.
Outside of the QB position, the offense is filled with former top college stand outs as well as former NFL players in WR Eli Rogers and Cody Latimer. Rogers may have one of the more interesting stories heading into the season after being a major target for Ben Roethlisberger in 2016, he was out of the league by they end of the 2018 season.
If you are looking for a skill position player to watch on offense, I would pay close attention to Devin Darrington. He was one of the top backs in the Ivy League in 2019 but lost out on 2020 due to the Ivy League canceling the season due to the pandemic.
How does the defense stack up?
If names like Nick Coe, Matt Elam, Terrance Plummer, and Terrance Smith mean anything to you, you'll like this defense. A strong mix of stand out college players with NFL and other professional league experience with young, unproven talent, this is the strength of this team. And with a Head Coach who was as tenacious on defense as anyone in the league, you can expect a physical, playmaking style of defense.
I do want to take a moment to focus on Terrance Plummer though. The UCF standout from their first New Years bowl game back in 2014, Plummer, who last played for the Tampa Vipers of the XFL before the league was suspended due to the pandemic, has floated through the various pro leagues before settling here in Orlando. And while he may be one of the more mature players on this team, Plummer was one of the smartest players on that UCF team and I still think has a lot to prove to the football public about his abilities. Expect him to be a focal point of this defense and it's success this season.
Ok, a few guys I know. But a lot we don't. Why should we watch if I don't know these guys?
We have all been a fan of a guy on a team that you just absolutely knew, if he got his shot he would make it to the NFL and succeed. And unless you are a fan of Alabama or Georgia recently, most of the guys on your favorite college team never get that next chance to showcase their skills. That is what Spring Football is about, that guy who got overlooked, stashed on a depth chart or practice squad, got injured, or just decided to move on. That's what this XFL season will be for those guys, That next chance and with the direct connection this league has with the NFL Alumni network, it really gives them access to the best opportunity to date to make it to the NFL.
And that is why we will be covering the Orlando Guardians all season here on mySports Florida, including the Stand Guard podcast where every Monday we will review the previous weeks game and storylines and the upcoming week. And maybe even a few interviews mixed in here and there if we get lucky. Follow the link below or you can find it on all your favorite homes for podcasts!