As the new-look Houston Roughnecks kick off the 2024 UFL season, there’s a lot for Houston fans to look forward to. The USFL’s Houston Gamblers have been rolled over into the UFL as the Roughnecks, and they’re poised to continue growing under Curtis Johnson’s leadership.

The Houston Roughnecks under June Jones and Wade Phillips made a huge impact with players like PJ Walker, Cam Phillips, Brandon Silvers, Max Borghi and more, and now this unit is positioned to carry the torch. This team has its own stars for Johnson to utilize, including the 2023 USFL OPOY in RB Mark Thompson, and the 2022 DPOY in DE Chris Odom, and they have a promising young QB at the helm in Jarrett Guarantano.

Coach Curtis Johnson has an extensive resume in football, and has coached alongside some big names across the landscape. He famously recruited Marshall Faulk to San Diego State as their WR coach, and even Ed Reed while at Miami.

With the Hurricanes as wideout coach from 1996-2005, he brought up NFL legends like Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, Santana Moss and Devin Hester while helping the team on its incredible run to the 2001 National Chip. His next gig was as Sean Payton’s WR coach in New Orleans, where he helped the team win a Super Bowl with one of the most consistently prolific passing attacks in the NFL. Johnson’s WR corps, catching passes from Drew Brees had multiple 5,000 yard seasons, and guys like Marques Colston and Michael Thomas had their best years with him on the staff.

Johnson earned the job as Tulane’s head coach in 2012, and took The Green Wave to a Bowl game in 2013, but after a couple down seasons headed back up to the pros. He took a 3-7 Houston Gamblers team from 2022 and led them to a 5-5 season that showed growth in the young league. Now, they’ll look to build and contend in the new 8-team UFL, in the USFL Conference.

The Staff

Eric Price – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

Price has been an offensive four times in his career, at UTEP, Alabama, Memphis and Tulane. He was Johnson’s OC at Tulane, and has also been a positional coach in the NFL for the Chiefs, Jets and Jaguars. His unit last year with the Gamblers ranked 3rd overall in Points/Game, and were 2nd in Rush Yards. Their passing offense ranked 5th, and Price will hope to continue developing their offensive identity around young QB Jarrett Guarantano and Mark Thompson.

Garrett Chachere – Running Backs/Special Teams

Another Tulane connection, Chachere played ball for the Green Wave in the 80s before getting into coaching. He’s been all over, coaching at his alma mater, Memphis, Arizona, Cal, and just about everywhere in between. Chachere has experience all around position groups, has been an OC, and has largely focused on RB stables, where he’ll keep Mark Thompson & Co. rolling. He also has 11 years of experience coaching special teams.

Bob Connelly – Offensive Line

Connelly has thirty years of experience coaching OL groups, and has been everywhere from Texas A&M to Alabama and USC. He’s often been Assistant Head Coach and Run Game Coordinator, and will bring invaluable experience to this staff. His players at Alabama particularly went on to do well in the NFL, from Justin Smiley to Evan Mathis, Antoine Caldwell and Andre Smith.

Jordan Higgins – Tight Ends

Jordan Higgins played Center for Texas Wesleyan and was a two time All-Conference selection. He’s moved into coaching and spend the past several seasons as an assistant and Offensive Line Coach.

Chris Wilson – Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

The Gambler’s DC from the 2023 season is back this year, and he brings three decades of experience coaching defense. He’s been DC at stops with Mississippi State where he coached guys like Darius Slay, KJ Wright and Fletcher Cox, and at Colorado. He’s got tons of experience on the front seven as well, and as a position coach helped Leonard Williams (USC) en route to his 6th overall selection. Wilson’s resume helping defenders reach their potential will be huge as he gets to work with 2022 USFL DPOY Chris Odom, who’ll be making his return to Houston this year, and I’m interested to see what he can do with Reuben Foster. The Gamblers unit allowed the 2nd most points in the USFL in 2023, but the infusion of new talent should take them far.

Kwahn Drake – Defensive Line

Drake worked with Curtis Johnson at Tulane as an Assistant and Defensive Line coach, and also worked with Chris Wilson at CU Boulder. He’s also coached at Memphis, Eastern Illinois and Kansas, and knows Johnson and Wilson well. This is a talented defensive line, and I have high hopes for the unit.

Brett Maxie – Defensive Backs

Maxie knows defensive backs, because he is one. From 1985-1997 he played in the NFL, making over 100 starts and picking off opposing QB’s 23 times in that span. He jumped immediately into coaching at the NFL level, and has been a DB coach for the 49ers, Falcons, Dolphins, Cowboys, Titans, Buccaneers and Gamblers in the pros. He’s also served the role at Vanderbilt and Colorado, where he crossed paths with Chris Wilson. Maxie is as experienced as they come, and Houston is lucky to have him.

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author avatar
Matthew Nagashima
Matt Nagashima has been covering Spring Football with News Hub since the XFL's 2019 Draft, and received Press Credentials to cover the Dallas Renegades in 2020. He has also covered the NFL with Pro Football Doc, and received his Bachelor of Arts in History from Colorado State University.

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