What can the Threshers do after finishing their expansion season, 5-11? This Threshers squad could very well compete for a playoff birth in an even Midwest Division. Their success might all hinge on a few key players on offense and defense.
At quarterback, Iowa returns 2017 territorial draft pick, CJ Beathard (7aaf) as the likely week one starter. 2018 was quiet rough for the rookie. He finished the 2018 campaign with a 45.9% completion rate, 2502 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT. He’s not much of a mobile quarterback, only contributing 171 yards, so Beathard must get better in the pocket. The front office went out and added former D2 star and 2016 2nd overall pick, Joe Callahan (6aa). While Callahan hasn’t lived up to the expectations of a QB drafted 2nd overall, the team thinks he can be a solid QB should the need arise. He doesn’t bring much SFL experience on the field. He will have a lot to prove during this weekends scrimmage and the team’s preseason game. The team also added rookie Austin Allen in the 8th round of the draft, out of Arkansas. Allen is a developmental type QB. He didn’t have a great campaign in the SFL D-League. For the Centurions, Allen didn’t see much action until late in the season. Head Coach Jeff Devaney obviously saw something, as he chose to leave him in during the playoffs and the team advanced to the quarterfinals. He had 476 yards and 3 TD to go along with 3 INT in a few late game starts. The coaching staff clearly saw enough of the two in practice to cut last years backup, Austin Davis, recently.
Orleans Darkwa (8aa) lit a spark on offense after he was signed during the 2018 campaign. The original plan was for Alfred Morris to carry the torch, but that plan backfired quite quickly. The former NFL Giants RB was had an injury plagged carrer but performed well when healthy at the games highest level. He added 744 yards and 5 scores on the ground and 102 yards receiving in 2018 for the Threshers. He looks to be the feature back that the offense will lean on to lead them to success in 2019. Behind him is a bit of a question mark. 2017 7th round pick, Justin Davis (6a), rushed for just 3 yards per carry in his rookie season. The other two backs are both rookies, Roc Thomas (6aa) and Akrum Wadley (6aa). Wadley looks to be the favorite to be the favorite to be the main backup. Thomas’ status on the team is up in the air after a recent arrest. He faces multiple felony charges stemming from a drug arrest that could land the Threshers rookie in jail, if convicted.
The receiving corp may start and end with star TE George Kittle (10). He was the team’s leading receiver during their expansion season, collecting 57 receptions for 916 yards and 3 TD. He is one of the young stars in the SFL. The receiving corp last year was led by veterans. You can say the exact opposite of this years crew. The group is led by 2nd Round Pick, Marquis Valdes-Scantling (7aa), out of South Florida. The team felt confident enough to keep him out of the D-League. At 6’4 206, he could quickly become a favorite of Beathard’s. One of the most intriguing camp battles will be for the #2 receiver. Kendrick Bourne (7aa) has taken the most reps in that spot, but CFL addition, Kenny Stafford (7a) as well as territorial draft pick Daurice Fountain (6aa) both have taken reps there. The slot job seems to be Charone Peake (6aa) to lose. His main competition will come from 6th round rookie JJ Jones (6aa), from small school West Georgia. Jones figures to also be his main competition for the backup return duties as well. The favorite seems to be safety Desmond King, so if either struggle at receiver there may not be many touches for them. Free agent acquistion Gehrig Dieter (6aa) and D-League signing Noel Thomas (6a) have been fighting all camp long for a roster spot and very well might get one in this inexperienced group.
The Threshers front office went out and invested heavily along the interior of the offensive front during the 2018-19 off-season. It was a group that struggled during the inaugural campaign. The Threshers inked longtime NFL veteran Jahri Evans (9d) to an expensive 2 year, $3.2 million dollar contract to be the anchor at offensive guard while the depth behind him develops. Iowa also added Casey Dunn, Sam Jones and Ike Boettger during the draft. The team returns four starters in LaAdrian Waddle (8ac$) and David Sharpe (7aa) at OT, Sean Harlow (7aa) at OG, and fan favorite James Ferentz (7aaf). Top substitute Jeremy Vujnovich (7aa) also is returning for a second season for the Black and Gold and could push Sharpe for the starting RT job. Kadeem Edwards (6a) returns for a second season in Iowa and will serve as emergency depth.
Here’s how we predict this group will shake out:
OT: Waddle / Sharpe / Vujnovich / Boettger
OG: Evans / Harlow / Jones / Edwards
C: Ferentz / Dunn / Jones