A View from the Cheap Seats by John Turner
Marc Trestman was hired early on to be the Head Coach and General Manager of the Vipers. I believe the hire is nothing short of brilliant because not only has he been coaching for close to forty years, he’s been to the top at the NCAA, NFL, and CFL levels, and he’s had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest coaches and players in the modern era along the way.
Let’s not forget that the XFL mantra of “Less Stall, More Ball” will bring about a shorter play clock and less timeouts. His time in the CFL for the Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts has already given him great experience with a faster paced game to go along with three Grey Cups- the most recent coming in 2017 with the Argos.
He’s brought aboard two Coordinators from North of the 49th parallel. Jaime Elizondo and Jerry Glanville have joined him. Both of these men have had their share of success over the years, and bring with them another unique dynamic of attitude and style. June Jones, who coaches the Houston Roughnecks, has coached with Glanville- not only in Hawaii, but also in Hamilton for the Tiger-Cats. Elizondo won a Grey cup in Ottawa for the REDBLACKS as an Offensive Coordinator in his first season at the position. He coached Quarterback Trevor Harris to arguably his best two statistical seasons in 2017 and 2018.
Thus far, Tampa has put together a solid core of players on both sides of the ball. I think it’s also important to not that this team has brought in quite a few key players that are quasi-local to the region. Locals have the advantage in dealing with Florida humidity, although, the league will end play the last weekend of April so it won’t be too terrible.
Georgia Bulldog Aaron Murray is your starting quarterback. He would have likely had a better season last year for the Atlanta Legends had he started from the beginning of the season and had less musical chairs going down on the coaching staff. With the new rule the league is introducing this year that allows multiple passes behind the line of scrimmage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see packages involving Quinton Flowers on the field at the same time to spice things up a bit.
His three primary toys to play with- if I were to be a guessing man- would be Mack Brown at Running Back, Antonio Callaway at Receiver, and the prize bull Nick Truesdell at tight end. Seantavius Jones and Jalen Tolliver are also going to be names to know as Trestman typically likes bigger bodied pass catchers.
Brown is a short and stocky physical guy that can catch. He’s spent a few years in Washington for the Redskins as a part of a crowded backfield. He’s also been in camps and on rosters with the Raiders, Texans, and Vikings, but he was never got to be the feature guy in any of those spots either.
Callaway signing a few weeks ago was a pleasant surprise by the league. He had a great rookie season for the Cleveland Browns after two highly productive years at Florida. His sophomore season was cut short due to suspension so he’s likely to be a one and done player for the XFL (a theme I feel will be common), and will head back to the NFL next season after he serves out the end of it. We hope he finds a home in the XFL though.
Truesdell is the player I think will emerge as this team’s Jason Witten. He has up to this point, played on 11 teams in seven years. This experience spans three camps in the NFL, five teams in Arena/Indoor Ball, and the Salt Lake Stallions of the Alliance of American Football. He’s 6’5″ and 250 with hands, and his Head Coach loves a security blanket tight end.
Seantavius Jones and Jalen Tolliver are two huge possession receivers that had outstanding college careers. I expect to see a lot of fade routes and stuff up the seems from these two guys. Combine the size at tight end and receiver with that of the offensive line, and this is probably the biggest team in the league across the board. With plenty of weapons for Elizondo and Trestman to use at their disposal, I believe this offense will be a sleeper.
Below is a look at the offensive packages we just might see in a couple weeks:
At first glance, the defensive side of the ball looks like a 3-4 base and appears to be undersized, so it’s actually likely to be a multiple front hybrid scheme thats nickel heavy. Nikita Whitlock from Wake Forest is a veteran and has played under Glanville in Hamilton. He’s got a low center to gravity at 5’10’ but he can apply pressure, and in a passing league… thats all that matters. He’s played Fullback as well, so I’d expect him to pull double duties. He’ll play along side of Deiontrez Mount and Ricky Walker. There’s 11 players total filling out the secondary, four of which come out of FBS Florida schools.
I believe we’re in for an offensive juggernaut with a bend but don’t break defense.
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Photo credit: @XFLVipers for feature photo