Bears News: Previewing the USFL: Michigan Panthers

Bears News: Previewing the USFL: Michigan Panthers

by - Senior Writer -

Unlike the original USFL from the 1980s, which had the Chicago Blitz part of the 18 teams, Chicago no longer has a USFL team for fans to cheer for. However, if you are going to cheer for one, the closest would be the Michigan Panthers, as they are looking for better results in 2023.

Let's get this straight. This Panthers team is a far cry from the one that won the USFL title under Jim Stanely in 1983 and was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, disappointments last season. With Shea Patterson and Paxton Lynch at the QB position and the long-time NFL head coach Jeff Fisher leading the charge, many expected the Panthers to be contending for the league championship.

Instead, you had a team with no identity and one that struggled to get anything done as they finished the season 2-8. Throw in Fisher resigning as the Head Coach in January, and things will look much different in 2023. Replacing Fisher at the Head Coaching position is another long-time NFL coach Mike Nolan.

The defensive-minded Nolan has a reputation as being one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, but has struggled as a head coach. Going back to his days as the San Francisco Head Coach, which spanned from 2005-08, Nolan posted an 18-37 mark and hasn't been a head coach since. With an opportunity to prove his worth as a head coach yet again, Nolan takes the perch after 15 years and will look to get the Panthers back to the promised land.

Joining Nolan on the coaching staff will be offensive coordinator Eric Marty, who has 64 games of collegiate coaching experience and posted a 34-30 mark during that time. Former Houston Oilers DB Steve Brown will call the shots on defense after registering 18 interceptions during a brief nine-year playing career. Nolan has plans to add more to his staff, and it will be interesting to see what he does.

When you look at the way the roster sits right now, a lot has changed, but the one constant will be the rushing attack of the Panthers this season. Led by Reggie Corbin and Stevie Scott, Michigan has arguably the best 1-2 punch in the USFL, and both of these guys will shoulder a ton of the responsibilities.

That will be crucial this season as Michigan has to replace both Lynch and Patterson at the QB position.

Duel threat QB Eric Barriere is the favorite to land the starting job out of camp, but don't count out Josh Love, who brings a more traditional approach to that position.

You also have former Nevada University QB Carson Strong as an option, as he could be the wildcard of this group. Strong put up great numbers for the Wolfpack and threw for better than 9300 yards and 74 TDS in four seasons.

Whoever will be the QB has their work cut out for them, as leading WR Lance Lenoir is no longer with the Panthers. Despite that, Michigan has a great group of WRs capable of making plays including Ishmael Hyman, AJ Richardson, and Trey Walker. You also have former Indiana University stud Whop Philor getting an opportunity after previously spending time on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad.

Marcus Baugh also returns at the TE position and will, at the very least, be the safety net the new QB needs.

With Nolan as the new head coach, look for Michigan to be a much more defensive-minded group this season. That starts with Ron'Dell Carter, Garrett Marino, Breeland Speaks, and Ethan Westbrooks as the main guys in the trenches. Behind them, you have Noah Dawkins, Paddy Fisher, and Frank Ginda at the LB position, as all three could be playmakers this season. Leon Jacobs is another LB to watch, but he is currently on the IL.

The secondary position is the biggest question, where Levonta Taylor (CB) and Lano Hill (S) appear to be the locks. Hill has the most experience in the secondary, logging 64 tackles and one interception during his time in the NFL. Josh Butler and Jalin Burrell are two other names to watch in the secondary, as their play could make this defensive group elite.

Whether this team is a playoff team or not, this season will come down to the coaching. However, this will be a fun team to watch in 2023 and could be one of the most, if not the most, improved team in the USFL this season.

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