USFL 2022: What to watch for in Generals vs. Stallions

USFL 2022: What to watch for in Generals vs. Stallions

Apr 14, 2022

By RJ Young
FOX Sports Writer

As the inaugural United States Football League gets under way, I am breaking down one thing I look forward to seeing from each of the four Week 1 matchups. 

First up is Saturday's season-opening contest between Skip Holtz's Birmingham Stallions and Mike Riley's New Jersey Generals, which will be played on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX and NBC/Peacock.

(For the rest of the Week 1 matchups, go here.)

Birmingham Stallions: Are these Scooby’s Stallions? 

The Stallions have the honor of opening the season in prime time at home against the New Jersey Generals at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama. Coach Skip Holtz wants that night to be special for his players and USFL fans.

Holtz has been boisterous and brimming with optimism since he was announced as one of the eight head coaches in the USFL, and he has built a coaching staff and roster that have me sharing his enthusiasm. 

Former All-American linebacker Scooby Wright will lead Holtz's defense and perhaps be the heartbeat of his team. 

"You can watch film [and] watch him run sideline to sideline, watch him hit people, see the energy that he plays with," Holtz said of Wright. "But when you talk about intangible things, when you talk about the leadership, the passion, the energy, the way that he plays the game, I think those are things that really excite me. When you're looking at a quarterback, you want a leader. When you're looking at a [middle] linebacker, you want a leader." 

Holtz — one of three former Conference USA coaches getting their first professional head-coaching chance in the USFL — wants to give Stallions fans a night to remember. He also wants to make the case that the USFL championship trophy has no reason to leave the state — at least once it's handed over at the conclusion of the season on July 3 in Canton, Ohio.

New Jersey Generals How good can Riley’s QB be? 

Generals head coach Mike Riley is renowned for his skill at evaluating and developing quarterbacks. That's why all eyes should be on New Jersey quarterbacks De'Andre Johnson and Luis Perez

Perez was signed after the Generals’ No. 1 pick, Ben Holmes, was released after he suffered an injury. But it always seemed likely that if a QB got hurt, Perez would find a way into the USFL — because he's just too good not to. 

Riley met Perez when both were working in the Alliance of American Football, and he has watched Perez's career continue since then. 

"I thought that Luis Perez would help our team," Riley said. "And even though we didn't have him, nobody else had selected him. I know everybody else looked at him real hard. I knew that he could help us. So I wanted to get him here." 

Johnson, having spent more time with the team, is the projected starter. In Thursday’s scrimmage, he made a couple of throws, and one play with his legs, that served as reminders of what a legitimate talent he is. He unofficially ran 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash and, with Riley at his side, could blossom into a polished quarterback in the USFL.