USFL 2023 season preview: New Orleans Breakers are focused on return to playoffs

USFL 2023 season preview: New Orleans Breakers are focused on return to playoffs

Apr 11

By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Analyst

After reaching the USFL playoffs last year and falling just short against eventual champion Birmingham, the New Orleans Breakers have retooled with a new head coach and a new starting quarterback, and are poised to compete for the South Division title in 2023.

The Breakers, led by coach John DeFilippo, return their two best wide receivers in former Ohio State standout Johnnie Dixon and Arkansas State product Jonathan Adams, who combined for 69 catches and 768 yards last season.

Dixon and Adams will be joined in the passing attack by a pair of tight ends — Lee Morris and Sage Surratt — who will rival Birmingham for the best position group in the league.

Morris, who played college ball at Oklahoma, caught 21 passes — eight for TDs — in 2018 from Heisman-winning Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray en route to a Big 12 title and College Football Playoff bid. Surratt first turned heads in 2019 as a sophomore wide receiver at Wake Forest, where he caught 66 passes for 1,001 yards and 11 TDs.

With quarterbacks McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Aqeel Glass both brand new to the USFL, DeFilippo will have to take full advantage of his veteran receivers early in the regular season.

But DeFilippo will have an advantage of his own in Bethel-Thompson, a former Canadian Football League quarterback who passed for more than 4,700 yards with 23 TDs to just 15 INTs as a Toronto Argonaut last year. The product of Sacramento State adds a championship pedigree to the Breakers after winning two Grey Cups in six seasons in the CFL.

Bethel-Thompson, 34, is familiar with the style of offense DeFilippo is likely to run this season after spending training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 when DeFilippo served as quarterbacks coach.

Glass also brings a championship pedigree to the team. During a shortened 2021 spring schedule, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Alabama A&M product led the Bulldogs to their first Black College national title. The program finished 5-0 that year. One of those victories was a 52-43 triumph over Deion Sanders’ Jackson State squad. He completed 27 of 40 pass attempts for 440 yards in that game while also scoring seven TDs, six of them coming through the air.

Defensively, the Breakers have a chance to be stout with the return of linebackers Jerod Fernandez, who notched 48 tackles and two sacks in 2022 and Vontae Diggs, who had 51 tackles and an INT.

On the defensive line, the Breakers boast Reggie Howard, who recorded five sacks from his defensive tackle spot last year, and former All-Big 12 performer Greg Eisworth at safety.

Given the talent on the Breakers’ Week 1 roster, they should be considered a favorite to once again be a playoff team.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The Number One College Football Show." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube.

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