Bears News: Previewing the USFL: Houston Gamblers

Bears News: Previewing the USFL: Houston Gamblers

by - Senior Writer -

They say that things are always bigger in Texas, which proves to be the case in football. Take high school and college football out of the equation, where they seem to have endless teams; the state of Texas has a quintet of professional teams for fans to flock to.

The most well-known of those teams play in the NFL, where the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans reside. Then you have the XFL with the Arlington Renegades and Houston Roughnecks. However, there is another professional football that calls Texas home, and they are part of the USFL in the Houston Gamblers.

Unlike last season where all USFL games were played at one stationary hub, the 2023 USFL season is expanding to four cities, and the Houston Gamblers will call Memphis home for the season. After struggling out of the gates in 2022 and going just 2-8, former head coach Kevin Sumlin elected to step down in the winter forcing the Gamblers to find a new head coach.

Curtis Johnson will be the new man in charge, as this will be his first professional coaching gig. Johnson is no stranger to the coaching world, having nearly three decades of experience, including several seasons as an NCAA head coach. During his tenure as the Tulane Head coach, Johnson struggled to get much done and posted a 15-34 overall mark. He did manage to make a bowl game once, but apart from that, his track record is not that appealing.

If Houston wants to improve upon their rough showing in 2022, Johnson must rely on his staff to put the team in the best position to succeed. Johnson will have Eric Price calling the shots on offense, with Chris Wilson running the defense. Wilson has the most experience on the coaching staff among the assistants and spent the past two seasons at the University of Colorado as the defensive coordinator.

Although the coaching will help, it can only take you so far, as it is up to the players to do most of the work. A lot of the USFL players are not going to amount to much or even garner an NFL tryout, but there are some players to keep an eye on with every team for the Bears to look at down the road.

Houston has three QBs in place right now, with Terry Wilson, Montrell Cozart, and Kenji Bahar as the guys under center. Bahar is the favorite right now after seeing plenty of time last season and throwing for 541 yards and two scores a season ago.

Bahar will need to improve those numbers, but he has one of the better WR groups that should help him do that. Most notable is Teo Redding, who has become a spring league veteran for the past few years. Redding is not only a big play waiting to happen, but has been among the league leaders in both the XFL and USFL in recent seasons.

Redding will be joined by JoJo Ward, Deontez Alexander, and Tyler Palka, as all four guys should help elevate the passing game. Throw in another spring league veteran Brandon Barnes at the TE position, and Bahar has the weapons to make things happen this season.

However, it will be up to the Houston running game to help the offense out, and right now, that is the one thing they lack. Mark Thompson and Benny LeMay could be the favorites right now, but both of them have a limited amount of experience to bring. They need to elevate their game sooner rather than later if they expect this offense to take the next steps.

Defensively is where this team struggled a season ago, and it may not get any better this season. Tim Bonner and Reggie Walker will be the leaders in the trenches, as they will be tasked with getting after the QB. Apart from them, there is not a ton of NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball, as this will be a work in progress.

Brandon Brooks (CB) and Jeremiah Johnson (S) could be two X-factors on the defensive side of the ball as they will look to solidify the secondary. What Houston lacks on defense, they can make up in special teams, with Nick Vogel being one of the better kickers in the league. This is a big year for Houston as they must improve last season's record.

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