Two weeks into the Alliance season and we are slowly inching closer to the Alliance Championship, however, the ultimate goal of all these players is one more shot at the NFL. Despite limited information, these are the players that have the best shot at making it on to a 53-man roster come this fall.
5. DE Karter Schult, Salt Lake Stallions
I wish I could say this was my first-time hearing about Karter Schult, unfortunately, he terrorized my South Dakota Coyotes and the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference during my tenure.
The 8-man football (yes, that is a real thing) product out of Tripoli High School (Iowa) has proved he belongs among the best in the Alliance through two weeks. The former University of Northern Iowa Panther and Buck Buchannan Award winner (FCS’ top defensive player) has 10 tackles and is tied for the league in sacks with 3.
Despite being torched in their Week 1 matchup, the Stallions rebounded with a Week 2 of only allowing 12 points. Schult’s three sacks, six tackles, forced fumble, and 18.2% Pass-Rush Win % (per PFF_AAF) are a major reason why. He has been the most consistent defensive figure for the Stallions through two weeks.
With a 6-4, 270 lb frame, I firmly believe this former Panther will get a chance to make his mark. I spoke to a former Missouri Valley Football Coach who argued he is the best defensive lineman in the FCS not playing in the NFL. This another opportunity for a small school player (like another player on this list) to get a chance to crack an NFL roster.
4. QB John Wolford, Arizona Hotshots
Call it great coaching or whatever you want, but the bottom line is the signal caller for the preseason favorite Arizona Hotshots is delivering as expected.
The undrafted Wake Forest grad started all four years in college and holds nearly every passing record for the Demon Deacons. Despite being cut by the Jets before Week 1, he has proved himself, beating out former Oklahoma Sooner (sorry Holz) Trevor Knight and winning Week 1 AAF Offensive Player of the Week for his 275 yard, 4 touchdown performance against the Stallions. In a quarterback driven league, these extra snaps are only going to make Wolford more experienced when we get closer to the season.
You absolutely cannot count John Wolford at getting a chance to not only make a roster in the NFL, but could step in and play if the opportunity arises. People forget Tommy Maddox (former Steelers QB) was the league MVP for the lone season of the original XFL.
3. QB Luis Perez, Birmingham Iron
Luis Perez is everything the Alliance embodies and is the best developmental prospect in the league.
The 2017 Harlon Hill (Division II POY) and National Championship quarterback for the Texas A&M-Commerce Lions has made headlines across the AAF for his unique past. Perez quit football due to constantly switching positions and instead was a top amateur bowler in California (12 perfect games). He decided to attend Southwestern College (Junior College) in his hometown, choosing to walk-on and went from 9/9 on the depth chart to the starter. He then transfered to Texas A&M-Commerce where he put up video game numbers enroute to his historic senior year.
After his senior year at Texas A&M-Commerce, he was on the LA Rams, but was waived before the regular season.
Redemption is the game of the game.
Perez has led the Iron to a 2-0 record, throwing 43 for 71 racking up 436 passing yards while garnering buzz among NFL personnel. According to Ben Kercheval, the Iron quarterback has been contacted by as many as 8 NFL teams. What’s not to love about a 6’3″ kid with loads of potential and knows how to sling the rock?
2. WR Jalin Marshall, Orlando Apollo
In ten years from now when you are playing sports trivia, wait until you can impress your friends with “Who scored the first touchdown in Alliance football history?”
Jalin Marshall, the former Buckeye, has exploded into one of the biggest offensive receiving threat through Week 2. While Charles Johnson, the league leader (and fellow Apollo WR) has racked up an impressive 252 yards through two weeks, the 23 year-old Marshall is the more appealing option for teams looking to invest in a young talent for the upcoming years.
In the 2016 season, Marshall was 4th on the depth chart for the New York Jets (it feels like every one of these players was on the Jets at one point) and was a solid receiver for them. In 2017, he was suspended for 4 games after testing positive for PED’s and was cut from the Jets.
Here we are, 6 receptions, 135 yards, and 2 touchdowns later, Jalin Marshall has evolved into the talk of of the league. With his previous success in the NFL, look for a young player like him to make a roster this fall.
1. CB Keith Reaser, Orlando Apollo
If you were to give me a vote for MVP of the Alliance, through Week 2 my MVP would be Keith Reaser. The 27 year-old originally out of Florida Atlantic was a 5th round draft pick for the San Francisco 49’ers in 2014. He appeared in 30 games combined for the 49’ers and the Chiefs, but only logged a total of 7 pass deflections in his career. Five years later and here he is playing for the Orlando Apollo knowing this is his last chance to work his way back into the league.
So far, so good.
According to @PFF_AAF, Reaser has graded out at an unbelievable 93.3 over the first two weeks, over 7 points higher than the closest corner at 85.9 (Jamar Summers who has also been impressive). While it is one thing to grade out well, making plays is what the game is all about.
Sunday was no exception.
A game-winning pick six? It doesn’t get any bigger than that. This was the difference in a 37-29 road victory in a hostile Alamodome. Nothing is going to be a better resume than showing a consistent and effective body of work, he has done that two weeks in.
I fully expect Keith Reaser to get a shot at the NFL in the preseason and make a 53-man roster.