AAF 2019, Week 1 Recap: Spurrier’s Apollos Dominate In Debut, Wolford Is The Face Of The League

Atlanta Legends at Orlando Apollos

Orlando defensive end Ryan Davis Sr. (95) celebrates after a sack during the Atlanta Legends at Orlando Apollos Alliance of America football game at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando on Saturday, February 9, 2019. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

Apollos dominate on both sides of the ball

AAF History was made in this game as the first points in league history were scored. Atlanta opened up the scoring with an early field goal, kicked by a familiar face to most fans of the game, Former LA Chargers Kicker Younghoe Koo. Steve Spurrier’s Apollos turned up the volume after they fell behind in the first quarter, tallying up an impressive 40 points. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert was named Offensive Player of The Game after throwing for 277 yards with 2 TDs. The most notable touchdown for Orlando was actually a reception by their QB, turning the “Philly Special” into the “Orlando Special”.

There wasn’t much to be excited about when it came to the Atlanta Legends. Both Quarterbacks ended up throwing an interception, including a pick-six thrown by backup QB Aaron Murray. Their starter, Matt Simms, may have thrown his hopes at a professional career away with a horrific performance.


San Diego Fleet at San Antonio Commanders

Mekale McCay splits defenders after a catch as the Commanders host San Diego at the Alamodome in the opening game for the Alliance of American Football league on February 9, 2019 (Tom Reel, Staff / Staff photographer )

The Commanders rally to take the lead in the 4th

While the game in Orlando was full of exciting action on offense, this game was just the opposite. Both defenses shined as there were multiple turnovers throughout regulation, including a game-sealing pick in the end zone by Cornerback Zack Sanchez.

One of the most thrilling parts of this game was the showcase of real football finally making a return. San Diego’s QB Mike Bercovici took an absolutely brutal hit early in the first quarter, giving many football fans a lot to be excited about.

While the offense was lacking, San Antonio led an impressive drive late in the 3rd quarter and scored to begin the 4th. Runningback Kenneth Farrow helped the Commanders take the league with a touchdown run in the red zone. This wasn’t the prettiest win for San Antonio, but their ability to finish strong will give Head Coach Mike Riley plenty of confidence moving into their contest next week against the impressive Orlando Apollos.


Memphis Express at Birmingham Iron

Former Alabama running back Trent Richardson runs as the Birmingham Iron defeated the Memphis Express 26-0 in the Alliance of American Football’s debut at Birmingham’s Legion Field on Feb. 10, 2019. (Vasha Hunt | AL.com)

Birmingham’s defense is as strong as Iron

I told you all to watch Trent Richardson in my ‘Players To Look Out For’ post, and I’m going to allow my head to become as big as possible here. Richardson looked like his rookie self in the Iron’s debut on Sunday afternoon. Though he didn’t rack up as many rushing yards as I thought he could, he was a bruiser at the goal line scoring 2 TDs and finishing with 72 all-purpose yards. Another impressive player on the Iron was Quarterback Luis Perez, who threw for 252 yards with a completion percentage of 58%.

For Memphis, the Quarterback position was a problem and that may cause my head to deflate a tiny bit. Last week, I told you to watch out for Quarterback Christian Hackenberg. You probably keep an eye on him, but for the wrong reasons. Hackenberg had a terrible day completing just 47% of his passes and throwing a wacky interception that you can’t quite pin on him:

Hack was later replaced to start the 4th quarter by backup Brandon Silvers, who threw an interception of his own. The Memphis Express have a real issue at the Quarterback position, and have made an attempt at solving it quick. Their new signing, JaMarcus Russell, is a familiar name to most. The Memphis coaching staff will have to put a real emphasis on maintaining possession of the football.


Salt Lake at Arizona

Wolford picks apart Salt Lake’s defense

This may have been the AAF Game Of The Week. Both teams played tremendous D through the first few drives. Arizona managed to take the lead late in the 1st Quarter, with Salt Lake Running Back Asiata pounding the goal line to tie it to start the 2nd. After Salt Lake Quarterback Josh Woodrum went down with a hamstring injury just before halftime, it all went downhill. Arizona Quarterback John Wolford had himself a day, throwing for 275 yards and 4 TDs. Most of those yards came from one man, Wide Receiver Rashad Ross, who racked up 103 receiving yards with an average of 20.6 yards per reception and caught two TDs. If Salt Lake remained healthy on offense, this may have been a more competitive game down the stretch. Unfortunately, key players for the Stallions were out before halftime allowing Arizona to dominate.

The Stallions should hope for their starting Quarterback to get healthy as fast as humanly possible. If not, they will have a very long season.


Who To Look Out For On Every AAF Squad

The Alliance Of American Football kicks off its inaugural season on Saturday, February 9th. In this blog, I’m giving you the one guy you should keep an eye on for each team when watching the games this weekend.

Arizona Hotshots

Trevor Knight in practice with the Hotshots

Trevor Knight – QB

In the AAF QB Draft, the Arizona Hotshots took a chance on a local former NFL longshot. Trevor Knight went undrafted in the 2017 NFL draft, and signed a 3 year, $1.66 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Knight failed to win the backup job, and was subsequently waived. He was later signed to the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad, only to end his season early undergoing back surgery. During his Senior year at Texas A&M, Knight threw for 2,432 yards, 19 TDs, and 7 INTs with a passer rating of 123.2.

Although he didn’t succeed in Arizona the first time, Knight returns with a chip on his shoulder. Look for him to take some big shots down the field as he scrambles out of the pocket.

Atlanta Legends

Stephen Hill with the New York Jets in 2012

Stephen Hill – WR

The WR who scored the highest broad jump in the 2012 NFL Combine is making a return to the spotlight. 28 year-old Stephen Hill struggled in his first two seasons in the league, despite having a decent highlight reel at Georgia Tech. However, the grizzled vet will face a new challenge with the Atlanta Legends where he will be tasked with leading a very young WR core.

Head Coach Brad Childress resigned a month before kickoff, after implementing an air raid playbook to his offense. There hasn’t been much time to redesign an entire offensive scheme, so make sure to watch the 6’4, 210 pound receiver as he will be targeted in many different ways.

Birmingham Iron

Trent Richardson with the Cleveland Browns in 2012

Trent Richardson – RB

He hasn’t been around football in over a year, but Trent Richardson is ready for a comeback. The 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft is probably the most intriguing player in the entire Association. With a troubled past, including a third-degree domestic violence charge in 2017, Richardson is hoping to look towards the future while replicating his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns where he averaged nearly 4 yards per carry and racked up 11 TDs.

Once regarded as a “sure-thing player”, and now a total NFL bust, Richardson seeks to silence his doubters. Keep an eye on him as he can be lethal once he gets in open space.

Memphis Express

Christian Hackenberg with the New York Jets in 2016

Christian Hackenberg – QB

Last week, Christian Hackenberg was named as the starting QB for the first time in his professional career. Selected in the 2nd round of the AAF QB Draft, Hackenberg outperformed 1st round selection Troy Cook to win the job. The 23 year-old former New York Jet believes he has fixed the issue with his throwing motion that kept him off the field during his time in the NFL.

“I don’t think I’ve ever thrown the football this good. I wish I had this five years ago. But the good news is I’m 23, not sure that I could do it and I did it. Now it’s just about going out and playing.”

Christian Hackenberg to Pennlive.com

This gunslinger has plenty of potential and can only get better at such a young age. Look for him to connect deep with his veteran WR Chris Givens.

Orlando Apollos

Frankie Hammond Jr with the Florida Gators in 2011

Frankie Hammond Jr. – WR

Two National Champions are teaming up on this Orlando squad. WR Frankie Hammond Jr. will be the centerpiece of an offense run by former Florida Gators Head Coach Steve Spurrier. Unfortunately, one of Hammond’s key attributes is his talent on special teams. The AAF has removed kickoffs from the game entirely, so his capabilities as a return specialist no longer add to his skillset.

Hammond has game breaking speed and will be targeted early and often. Look for him to beat his man off the line and make multiple people miss on his way into the endzone.

Salt Lake Stallions

Tenny Palepoi with the Chargers in 2016

Tenny Palepoi – DE

After being drafted in 2014 by the Chargers and starting in all 16 regular season games, Tenny Palepoi would go on to have an injury-riddled professional career. To make matters worse, he was suspended in 2016 for PEDs. With a rocky road behind him, Palepoi is now the star of the Salt Lake Stallions front seven.

Opposing offensive lines will have a tough time keeping Palepoi from getting in the backfield. Expect a few tackles for loss in his AAF debut.

San Antonio Commanders

Kenneth Farrow with the San Antonio Commanders in the 2019 preseason

Kenneth Farrow – RB

Former Houston Cougar and San Diego Charger, Kenneth Farrow, is a human truck stick. His junior year highlight tape is nothing but good ole’ fashioned bulldozing. Not only that, but he packs some quickness in his step as well. Farrow gets another shot at showcasing his running ability with the Commanders, after flaming out as an undrafted free agent in the NFL.   

“You really have to know the front of the defense just because it gives you an idea of the way a play is going to unfold. As a running back, things change all the time. It’s an instinctual position so you can’t rely on just the play call. You have to have a pre-snap idea of where everyone could be instead of where they are now.”

Kenneth Farrow on the RB position

When the Commanders are at the goal line, watch Farrow. He will get the ball, and he will lower his shoulder for the touchdown.

San Diego Fleet

Josh Johnson with The Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008

Josh Johnson – QB

Josh Johnson played for an NFL team for the first time in 4 years in 2018. The veteran QB nearly kept the Washington Redskins’ playoff hopes alive in week 16, but fell apart mostly because of their defensive performance. The San Diego Fleet will rely heavily on Johnson’s leadership abilities to help guide their young roster.

Johnson’s highlights from Week 15 of the 2018 NFL season

Look for Johnson to use his legs more often than not, allowing him to keep the defense honest when he actually does decide to pass.