The Birmingham Stallions have officially made the necessary cuts to get to the roster limit prior to the 2024 season. This included bidding 17 players adieu with just two weeks remaining before the season. Many of these cuts were surprising to say the least, and some of them were shocking. 

Names on this include All-USFL players and starters alike. The truth is, this merger and the subsequent cut downs left many talented players available for other leagues to sort through. We should begin to see many of these players signing with the CFL, ELF, LFA, GFL, IFL, and AFL for the 2024 season. Many teams have already started to reach out to these players and some will be signed within days of their release. 

Let’s take a look at the players released and who is expected to take over the role they vacated. 

Are the Stallions Poised to Remove the Fullback from their Offense? 

Not so fast…Through two seasons the Stallions have run the ball 543 times for 2,570 yards and 23 touchdowns or 4.73 yards per carry. Part of their success has been the revival of an offense that has clung to life at the collegiate level but long since been all but eliminated at the professional level and that’s the Wishbone. 

A lot of times offenses are hesitant to even use a two-back set or true I-formation at this point due to the increased emphasis on the passing game. This has led to the a near death experience for the fullback position, and a move to using tight ends in this role. Bobby Holly has experienced this first hand as he was released by the Stallions after playing under Skip Holtz in college and for both Stallions championship runs racking up highlight reel plays along the way as a blocker, receiver, and on special teams. 

In 2024 it appears the Stallions are prepared to transition to running more true tight ends in that fullback role allowing them a bit more roster flexibility. Now I would argue Holly is talented enough as a receiver to truly serve as depth at tight end as well, so this move did still surprise me especially given the deeply rooted ties to Head Coach Skip Holtz and QB J’Mar Smith. 

The Stallions will go into 2024 with three tight ends, and their running back room doesn’t hold a player that is a true fit at fullback. If I had to guess, I expect Marcus Baugh to see snaps as the fullback option in 2024. At 6’4 245 pounds one of his complaints coming out of college is his hands left something to be desired as a receiver, but he was regarded as a decent blocker who was known for putting himself in the best position possible to make a block. Jordan Thomas strikes me as a bit too big to be a lead blocker in this capacity. Sternberger could also see snaps out of the backfield in 2024, although my assumption would be that would be more to scheme him open than it would be to utilize him as a blocker. 

Offensive Line

The offensive line saw a rather complete overhaul and due to this a couple players have been handed walking papers. Guard Calvin Ashley, Center Josh Sokol, and Tackle Larnell Coleman were let go. Now this will not cause the depth concerns on the interior you might expect, because the Stallions have loaded up on interior linemen that can kick outside to tackle. Even after these moves, they have four players listed at guard and one at center. 

Matt Kaskey is likely to be counted on to add depth at tackle, as will Christian DiLauro. Both of these men have played tackle in the past, but have the versatility and athleticism needed to play interior or exterior offensive line. With two true centers on the roster depth should not be of any concern up front in 2024. 

Defensive Line

This is where our first shocking cut came down. Hercules Mata’afa was one of the league leaders in sacks last season, he was also one of several pass rushers added to improve upon one of the few true weaknesses on this Stallions roster. What makes this move even more surprising is just days ago the Stallions swung a trade to acquire Chauncey Rivers a man who was likely to be released by the DC Defenders who they opted to keep over Mata’afa who had been with the team since the dispersal draft. 

Also released from this line were fellow ends Curtis Weaver, Owen Carney, and defensive tackle Caleb Sampson. Making the final roster at least as of now are:

Anree Saint-Armour

Jaylen Twyman

Dondrea Tillman

Carlo Kemp 

Chauncey Rivers 

The trait that sticks out to me about all of the players kept at end, is versatility. All of these guys are versatile enough to kick inside to tackle, or stand up and rush the passer as a linebacker. It is very clear Coach Chavis and company have a plan at defensive end. 

At defensive tackle they have opted to keep four players with only one true space eating nose tackle in Carlos Davis. Also kept are Marvin Wilson who could play the nose or focus on pushing the pocket too. Willie Yarbary returns, and Jordan Thompson was retained. There is no lack of depth up front due to how this roster has been assembled. 

On to another surprise

The surprise here isn’t that they released wide receiver Chris Lacy, it’s that they only released one receiver leaving nine on the roster for 2024. If we are looking for a position to cut players and add depth midseason wide receiver has to be the leading position group to pull from. Most NFL teams carry 6 receivers, sometimes 7 counting the practice squad, but that’s a 69 man roster total. Despite the smaller roster the Stallions must have really liked the players they have at wide receiver.

Linebacker

One position group, I was expecting to see very few players cut from was linebacker. The Stallions went out and targeted several big-name players to bring in at linebacker in order to improve this unit. This was in spite of the fact that they arguably, had one of the best linebacker units in all of the USFL the past two seasons. 

Travin Howard out of TCU was the only linebacker released this go around and if I had been asked he would have been my pick for most likely to move on. In a unit that includes Kyhava Tezino, Chris Orr, and Demarquis Gates, and Sharkdog himself it seemed as if the four of six positions were sewn up before camp even started. As depth the Stallions chose to keep:

DaMarcus Mitchell– Mitchell is a player that could put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer at times when called upon as well.

Elijah Sullivan 

Damon Lloyd 

We could potentially see Chauncey Rivers take some snaps as a linebacker even though I foresee the majority of his playing time coming on the line. 

Secondary Cuts Run Deep

The Stallions cut five players in their secondary. Channing Stribling, Terrell Bonds, and Mark Milton at cornerback, as well as safeties James Wiggins, and Tj Carter. Stribling and Bonds impressed in 2022 enough to sign with NFL rosters, and find XFL interest in 2023. Stribling stuck it out in the USFL, and Bonds went to the XFL. Now just one year removed from being on an NFL roster the talented defensive backs are looking for a new home. Watch for both to receive interest from other UFL teams and possibly CFL teams as well. 

Mark Milton was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Carolina Panthers following the 2023 NFL draft. He was released before the season was up, and landed with the stallions in December 2023. For now it appears Milton will have to look elsewhere to continue his career. Sources close to the situation have informed me teams in other leagues have begun to reach out to the second year defender. 

James Wiggins is one player I wasn’t sure would even report to camp for the Stallions. Signed by the Edmonton Elks in December of 2023, I anticipated him pursuing the steadier of the two opportunities before him. He however decided to pursue the UFL first. This led to him ultimately being released. Perhaps Edmonton circles back and brings Wiggins in. Perhaps that was the plan all along? 

Tj Carter was another somewhat surprising cut. Having entered the 2022 NFL draft Carter went unselected but signed with the Rams for the 2022 season. He would spend the majority of the year on the practice squad before being elevated in week 16. He would log one tackle in a blow out victory for the Rams before returning to the practice squad. He later signed a futures deal but was let go by the Rams before the 2023 draft. He wouldn’t see any significant NFL interest and was left to look into other options when the Stallions came calling. Playing in all ten games collecting 31 tackles, and 1 interception. Now he will seek out his next opportunity either UFL or CFL.

“You can love this game all you want but at the end of the day, the game can’t love you back because it’s not a person; it’s a ball.”

Bo Scarbrough, full-time running back, and part-time poet has opted to retire from football after two years with the Stallions. Scarbrough spent 2023 on injured reserve after suffering another injury, one of many throughout his career that were disclosed, who knows how many the 230 pound back played through.

Set to turn 28 in September Scarbrough reported to camp for Birmingham after choosing to give it one last go. It appears his body told him it was time to shut it down for good, walking away while he still could. Scarbrough walks away with 353 total carries for 1,863 yards and 21 touchdowns while representing the state of Alabama with the Crimson Tide and Stallions. He aced another 95 touches for 408 yards and 1 touchdown in the NFL with various teams. 

I will say that it’s an interesting thought that if not for the Stallions surviving the UFL merger, Scarbrough wouldn’t have had the opportunity to step away as a member of the only pro team in his home state. That’s easily one of the more heartwarming stories to come out of the UFL in 2024 during a season that watched 400 men forced out of jobs, one legend got to give his career everything he had left before he chose to walk away. In turn he opened a roster spot for another player to continue his career. One small silver lining to this year. 

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Sam Just

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