Mike Riley, New Jersey Generals focused on continued growth
As the USFL turns to a second season, New Jersey head coach Mike Riley sees a bright future for his team and the league.
By Eric Williams
FOX Sports Football Reporter
The New Jersey Generals won nine straight games to finish out the regular season but then ran out of the gas in the playoffs, falling to the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL semifinals.
Generals head coach Mike Riley says he’ll look to rekindle some of the magic that led to a nice run last year.
"You are always looking for growth," Riley said. "We had a good year. We positioned ourselves and we got in the playoffs, and just didn’t finish it. We had a good foundation. The goal right now is just evaluating that foundation and building on it. … There is a comfort level going into Year 2. We’ve got 75% of our players back. I’ve got some real continuity in the coaching staff, which is comforting. Going in, you have a better knowledge and foundation of what you want to start out with, that’s comforting."
[Everything to know about New Jersey Generals 2023 schedule]
New Jersey will have to do so without its best player in electric return man and receiver KaVontae Turpin. The USFL MVP earned a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl as a returner with the Dallas Cowboys in 2022.
"We’ve spent a lot of time looking at Turpin-like guys that can play that type of role on our team," Riley said. "And so, fitting people together in the offense with their abilities is going to be a real training camp issue that we have before the start of the season."
Riley’s Generals also will be without quarterback Luis Perez and go-to receiving target Darrius Shepherd. However, New Jersey’s dynamic duo in the backfield of Trey Williams (579 rushing yards) and Darius Victor (577 rushing yards, league-high nine rushing TDs) returns.
Riley said the second of his two-quarterback combination of De’Andre Johnson is back. He will have competition from Kyle Lauletta and Daquan Neal.
"We went in with Perez and Johnson last year, and that was it," Riley said. "I just gave them every other rep. So at least they got a lot of turns. The more quarterbacks you have, the less turns they get. So, I don’t really want to do that. We’re going to stick with three right now."
Riley said he looks forward to playing home games in his team’s new HUB of Canton, Ohio. But he’ll also miss all eight teams being in one place last season in Birmingham.
"I understand they have long-term goals of what they want to do. I’m looking forward to it and seeing what it’s like. I will say this — I loved the experience in Birmingham so much, I could have done that again in a minute. I really enjoyed it. The simplicity of life was great. The comradery with the other players from other teams and other coaching staffs was great. It felt like we were all in it together, and we will have that feeling again, but it will be different. But I enjoyed all that."
That said, Riley also sees a bright future in the growth of the USFL.
"I’m looking forward to establishing a good second year that can lead into the future, that one day sees our team playing in New Jersey," Riley said. "That’s exciting. You can kind of get a picture of what they want to do. And I really think there’s a place for it. It provides an opportunity, and the viewership numbers were so good, it’s kind of proven that this thing can work."
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
More on the USFL schedule release from FOX Sports:
- The full week-by-week 2023 USFL schedule
- Michigan Panthers schedule | Interview with coach Mike Nolan
- Pittsburgh Maulers schedule | Interview with coach Ray Horton
- Birmingham Stallions schedule | Interview with coach Skip Holtz
- New Jersey Generals schedule | Interview with coach Mike Riley
- Memphis Showboards schedule | Interview with coach Todd Haley
- Philadelphia Stars schedule | Interview with coach Bart Andrus
- New Orleans Breakers schedule | Interview with coach John DeFilippo
- Houston Gamblers schedule
- A conversation with USFL VP of Operations Daryl Johnston
- 2023 USFL schedule: Best early games, title odds and more!