The Michigan Panthers begin their first UFL season at home taking on the St. Louis Battlehawks. The Panthers are regarded as underdogs heading into the first-ever meeting between these franchises.

Depth charts were released for the game late Thursday night finally revealing that EJ Perry won the battle to be named as Michigan’s QB1. Panthers fans will hope that Perry can lead to more success in Ford Field this season as the Panthers lost all of their home games throughout the 2023 season until Perry joined the team in week 10.

Game Details:

Date/Location: Saturday, March 30 /Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Kickoff Time: 4 PM ET, 1 AM PT
Channel: Fox
Spread: Michigan +6.5 (+100), St. Louis -6.5 (-120)
Moneyline: Michigan +230, St. Louis -280
Over/Under: 41.5 (Over -110, Under -110)

Michigan Panthers (0-0): 

The Michigan Panthers are coming off a 4-6 season in 2023 that saw them squeak into the playoffs with a week 10 win in what was EJ Perry’s first game with the franchise. The Panthers ultimately fell to the Pittsburgh Maulers in the North Division Finals in a 27-31 overtime thriller.

The Panthers have many key pieces returning such as quarterback EJ Perry and wide receiver Trey Quinn on offense as well as defensive end Breeland Speaks and linebacker Frank Ginda on defense. It was an offseason of changes as the XFL and USFL merged and the total teams reduced from 16 to 8. With the reduction of teams, the Panthers acquired some talent from teams that did not survive the merger. The Panthers have some new names among those starting such as runningback Wes Hills who led the USFL in rushing yards last season with the New Orleans Breakers.

St. Louis Battlehawks (0-0): 

The St. Louis Battlehawks are regarded as one of the strongest teams in the UFL. It is fortunate for the Panthers that this cross-division game is at home as St. Louis presented one of the hardest locations to play in last season as the Battlehawks averaged just over 35 thousand fans per game. The Battlehawks just missed the XFL playoffs last season on a tiebreaker despite finishing the regular season with a 7-3 record.

The Battlehawks had the most efficient passing offense across both the USFL and the XFL and have continuity with many of their talented receivers returning in addition to quarterback A.J. McCarron. McCarron was highly efficient last season averaging 7.3 yards per pass and recording 2,150 yards and 24 touchdowns with just 6 interceptions.

Panthers Keys to the Game

Get to McCarron Quickly

The Panthers will need to have an effective pass rush to limit the Battlehawks passing offense. St. Louis had success from all 3 of their starting receivers last year. It will be imperative to keep the Battlehawks passing plays short to make life easier on the secondary as they cover a formidable group of receivers.

Stop the Run Early

If Michigan needs to prevent Wayne Gallman and the Battlehawks’ run game from getting going and try to make their offense less dimensional early.

Run the Ball Effectively

Michigan absolutely needs to run the ball effectively to provide run support to EJ Perry and be a 2-dimensional offense. The Panthers are considered underdogs in this contest.

Possession Time

Ultimately Michigan needs to try to slow this game down a little and try to limit what St. Louis will be able to do offensively. It will be highly important for Wes Hills and Matthew Colburn to put together a strong run game for the Panthers in this one and help Michigan have some longer possessions. Additionally, EJ Perry will need to be an effective passer. St. Louis is not a good team to go three and out against.

Panthers to Watch

QB E.J. Perry

EJ Perry joined the Panthers last season in a must-win scenario helping them win their first home game of the season to close out the year defeating the Philadelphia Stars 23-20. In week 10 he completed 12 of his 23 passes for 121 yards and added 48 rushing yards and a touchdown. He put up serious numbers in the North Division playoff game passing for 370 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 interception. He was recently in the NFL this past winter to close out the season after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad on December 20.

WR Trey Quinn

Quinn played in all 10 regular season games with the Panthers last year and recorded 37 catches for 439 yards and 4 touchdowns. He then added 5 catches for 104 yards in the playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Quinn was signed by the Detroit Lions ahead of the 2023 NFL season and spent time on their practice squad until he was released in October.

RB Wes Hills

Hills was named to the All-USFL team last season after a strong year with the New Orleans Breakers He set a USFL single-game rushing record in week 3 when he had 191 rushing yards. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry last season and amassed 680 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He added 38 receptions for 278 yards receiving. Hills joined the Panthers this past offseason through the UFL Dispersal Draft. Hills has 1 NFL regular season game appearance which came with the Detroit Lions in 2019 in Ford Field which saw him pick up 21 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 carries.

LT Ryan Pope

Pope signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2019 following a collegiate career at San Diego State. He spent time in NFL practice squads until he was waived by the LA Rams ahead of the 2021 season. He was signed by the Birmingham Stallions this past June and traded to the Philadelphia Stars in November. The Stars did not survive the XFL-USFL merger and the Panthers acquired Pope in the UFL Dispersal Draft. He will be starting at left tackle against St. Louis in his first appearance with a USFL/XFL team.

DE Breeland Speaks

Speaks is a game wrecker. He was a 2nd round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018. Last year was his first USFL and he nearly had a sack a game as he racked up 9 sacks over 10 regular season games. He also had 25 solo tackles and 28 assisted tackles. He signed with the San Fran Cisco 49ers ahead of the 2023 NFL season although he was waived just ahead of final roster cuts.

LB Frank Ginda

Ginda was the USFL Defensive Player of the Year last season which saw him lead the league in tackles. Over 10 regular season games he contributed 51 solo tackles, 53 assisted tackles, 3 interceptions, and a sack. He was with the Atlanta Falcons this past training camp although he was released at final roster cut and later brought back to their practice squad. He made 3 solo tackles and 9 assisted tackles in 2 NFL preseason games last year with the Falcons and was the 45th highest-graded linebacker per Pro Football Focus over the preseason. Ginda has a knack for being everywhere on the field.

S Kai Nacua

Nacua had the 2nd highest grade from Pro Football Focus for the Panthers last season. Nacua recorded 22 solo tackles, 9 assisted tackles, and a sack last season.

CB Keith Gipson Jr.

He played for the Pittsburgh Maulers over the last 2 seasons and was acquired by the Panthers in the UFL Dispersal Draft. Last season he made 19 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, and 2 interceptions over 10 games. He will be starting at right corner against St. Louis.

Battlehawks to Watch

QB A.J. McCarron

McCarron completed 68.8% of his passes last season for 2,150 yards and 24 touchdowns with 6 interceptions last season.

RB Wayne Gallman

Gallman will be the starting running back for the Battlehawks in week 1 in what is his first game in the league. He spent the 2023 season on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad. He has 51 NFL games to his name over which time he has rushed for 1,548 yards and 9 touchdowns, primarily with the New York Giants from 2017 to 2020.

WR Hakeem Butler

All three of the Battlehawks’ starting receivers pose a large threat as they all had success last season. Butler had 51 catches for 599 yards and 8 touchdowns over 10 games last season.

WR Darrius Shepherd

Shepherd caught 48 passes for 519 yards and 6 touchdowns over 10 games with the B-Hawks last season.

WR Blake Jackson

Jackson played for the Seattle Sea Dragons last season where he caught 45 passes for 440 yards and 2 touchdowns over 10 games.

3 Defensive Battlehawks Players for Panthers Fans to Watch For

I asked my colleague Pat Rifino (@ByPatRifino on Twitter) who is our correspondent covering the St. Louis Battlehawks what 3 Battlehawks players he recommends Panthers fans pay attention to this week.

MLB Mike Rose

Rose returns to St. Louis after recording 15 solo tackles and 20 assisted tackles with the team last season over 8 games.

Edge Pita Taumoepenu

Taumoepenu was the third highest-graded player by Pro Football Focus on the XFL’s Vegas Vipers last season. According to PFF, he had 38 total quarterback pressures. He recorded 19 solo tackles, 5 assisted tackles, and 6.5 sacks with the Vipers last season.

DE Austin Faoliu

Faoliu played for Seattle last season in the XFL starting in all 10 regular season games and recording 11 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, and a sack. Following the XFL season, he signed with the Seattle Seahawks where he spent most of the season on the practice squad and dressed in 2 games.

Depth Charts, Injuries, Inactives

Michigan Inactives:

1. 19 ..Brian Lewerke…..QB

2. 23 ..De’Gabriel Floyd …OLB

3. 28 ..Nate McCrary …..RB

4. 36 ..Adonis Alexander…CB

5. 65 ..James Walker…..OL

6. 72 ..Chim Okorafor ….OL

7. 82 ..Derrick Deese Jr….TE

8. 96 ..T.J. Carter………..DE

St. Louis Inactives

1. 2 ….Keylon Kennedy…CB

2. 12 ..Brandon Silvers….QB

3. 13 ..Jeff Thomas ……WR

4. 21 ..Mataeo Durant….RB

5. 50 ..Teton Saltes ……OL

6. 59 ..Callahan O’Reilly…LB

7. 62 ..Abdul Beecham….OL

8. 96 ..Kobe Smith ……DT

St. Louis Injuries

Jahcour Pearson WR (March 7: out at least 6 weeks)

Johnny Buchanan ILB

Sage Doxtater OT

Jack Snyder OT

Score Prediction:

I’m going to make a bold prediction and predict the Panthers to win by a score of 27 to 24. If they can control possession in this game and continue to play strong defense I believe they can win this contest. While the Battlehawks arguably have the stronger roster the fact that there is no preseason somewhat levels the playing field this early in the season. It was not a long training camp for these teams so if Michigan plays well they can surprise St. Louis and start with a win at home.

author avatar
Jonathan Clink
Jonathan Clink will work as UFL News Hub's primary correspondent covering the Michigan Panthers for the 2024. He has written over 250 articles covering the Canadian Football League prior to joining UFL News Hub. Clink is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba and currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has a background in several other sports as well having played soccer, basketball, and hockey competitively.

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