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2020 XFL Preview: Western Conference

by Fran Stuchbury
February 6, 2020 - XFL (XFL)

With the XFL's season set to start Saturday, February 8, team rosters are largely set as kickoff draws near. The XFL's Western Conference features the Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats and Seattle Dragons battling for a spot in the league's April 26 championship game. In the second of a two-part series, we preview the four teams looking to come out on top in the West.

Dallas Renegades

Dallas Renegades

Stadium - Globe Life Park in Arlington

Head Coach - Bob Stoops

Familiar Faces - QB Landry Jones, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, RB Lance Dunbar, WR Jerrod Heard, DL Hau'oli Kikaha, DE Frank Alexander, S Derron Smith

Player to keep an eye on - WR Jeff Badet

Dallas selected Badet in the first round, fourth overall, in the XFL Skill Players Draft. Badet played his senior season at Oklahoma in 2017, catching passes from Baker Mayfield. He competed for three seasons at Kentucky, averaging 16.5 yards per reception during his college career. His speed impressed Head Coach Bob Stoops, so look for him to be used as a deep threat.

Outlook - QB Landry Jones played under Stoops at Oklahoma where Jones threw 123 touchdown passes with the Sooners. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He suffered a knee injury during training camp and is limited in practice. Philip Nelson, who last played with the Alliance of American Football's San Diego Fleet, will start till Landry Jones is able to play.

Running back Cameron Artis-Payne was a fifth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. Lance Dunbar rushed for 4,224 yards at North Texas and played five seasons in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys.

Joining Jeff Badet at wide receiver for the Renegades is a player who Dallas fans should recognize, Jerrod Heard who played college football at Texas. Freddie Martino played three seasons with the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha was a second round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Defensive end Frank Alexander played at Oklahoma and was a fourth round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. Safety Derron Smith was a sixth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and was taken by the Renegades first overall in the XFL Defensive Backs Draft.

Houston Roughnecks

Houston Roughnecks

Stadium - TDECU Stadium

Head Coach - June Jones

Familiar Faces - QB Connor Cook, QB Philip Walker, RB Andre Williams, WR Sammie Coates, DE Kony Ealy, DL Gabe Wright, LB Carl Bradford, S Marqueston Huff

Player to keep an eye on - S Cody Brown

Brown played college football at Arkansas State and was a two-time All Sun Belt selection. Brown recently played with the AAF's Salt Lake Stallions where he made 37 tackles and grabbed one interception.

Outlook - At quarterback, the mobile Philip Walker be the starter. He passed for 10,688 yards and 74 touchdowns at Temple. Connor Cook, a fourth round pick 2016 NFL Draft selection by Oakland, was the second player taken in the XFL Skill Players Draft. Cook played at Michigan State will be the backup.

At running back for the Renegades, Boston College's Andre Williams was a fourth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Joining him in the backfield will be De'Angelo Henderson, a sixth round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.

The Roughnecks will utilize a run and shoot offense with no tight ends. Wide receiver Sammie Coates was a third round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kahlil Lewis had 2,116 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns in college at Cincinnati. Cam Phillips rolled up 3,027 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns at Virginia Tech.

Defensive end Kony Ealy was a second round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. Others with NFL looks include Defensive lineman Gabe Wright, a fourth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions; linebacker Carl Bradford, a fourth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers; and safety Marqueston Huff who was a fourth round pick by the Tennessee Titans.

Kicker Sergio Castillo played four seasons in the Canadian Football League, and was named a CFL All-Star after connecting on 41 of 45 field goals with the BC Lions in 2019.

Los Angeles Wildcats

Los Angeles Wildcats

Stadium - Dignity Health Sports Park

Head Coach - Winston Moss

Familiar Faces - QB Josh Johnson, RB Elijah Hood, WR Tre McBride, DE Devin Taylor, DT Montori Hughes, LB Will Smith, LB Anthony Johnson, S Jack Tocho, K Nick Novak

Player to keep an eye on - WR Nelson Spruce

At Colorado Spruce grabbed 294 receptions for 3,347 yards and 23 touchdowns. Spruce led the AAF's San Diego Fleet with 38 catches and 426 receiving yards.

Outlook - The Wildcats will start Josh Johnson under center after nabbing him in the XFL Supplemental Draft. Johnson has been a journeyman backup NFL quarterback playing for 13 different teams. Chad Kanoff and Jalan McClendon will serve as backups.

Johnson will have some ball-carrying options in Elijah Hood, who played at North Carolina and was taken in the taken eighth by the Wildcats in the XFL Skill Players Draft, and DuJuan Harris, who spent time with five NFL teams, most recently with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

Joining Spruce as receivers are Tre McBride, a seventh round draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, Saeed Blacknall who played college football at Penn State, and Florida State's Kermit Whitfield.

Wildcats defensive end Devin Taylor, a fourth round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, most recently played with the AAF's Birmingham Iron. Also joining LA from the AAF is Montori Hughes, a fifth round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Linebacker Anthony Johnson was selected fourth by the Wildcats in the XFL Defensive Front Seven Draft. Defensive End Shawn Oakman had 17.5 sacks over the three seasons he played at Baylor. Safety Jack Tocho played at NC State and was the fifth player taken by the Wildcats in the XFL Defensive Backs Draft.

Nick Novak brings plenty of experience, having kicked 11 seasons in the NFL, most recently with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017. In addition to handling the kicking duties for the AAF's Birmingham Iron in 2019, Novak played in two other alternative football leagues with the United Football League's Florida Tuskers in 2010, earning special teams MVP, and NFL Europe's Cologne Centurions in 2007. Punter Colton Schmidt averaged 46 yard per punt with the AAF's Birmingham Iron.

Seattle Dragons

Seattle Dragons

Stadium - Century Link Field

Head Coach - Jim Zorn

Familiar Faces - QB Brandon Silvers, QB B.J. Daniels, RB Trey Williams, WR Keenan Reynolds, DT Will Sutton, LB Steven Johnson, S Steve Williams

Player to keep an eye on - WR Keenan Reynolds

An option quarterback at Navy, Keenan Reynolds holds an FBS record for QBs with 4,559 rushing yards and 88 career touchdowns. He spent a majority of the 2018 season on the Seattle Seahawks practice roster. With Seattle he will line up at wide receiver but could be used in other ways as well. With his experience behind center, he could be put in as a quarterback on short yardage situations or on conversions after touchdowns. The Dragons will find creative ways to get the ball in his hands.

Outlook - The Dragons named Brandon Silvers their starting quarterback. Silvers played college football at Troy and was also with the AAF's Memphis Express, where he passed for 799 yards and four touchdowns. At Memphis, he out-performed three QBs with NFL experience to take the starting job.B.J. Daniels, who spent a couple of seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, will be the backup.

Spearheading the Dragons' rushing attack will be Trey Williams and Kenneth Farrow who combined for 577 rushing yards for the AAF's San Antonio Commanders. Ja'Quan Gardner led the AAF's San Diego Fleet in rushing with 311 yards.

Kasen Williams played wide receiver in college at Washington and caught 162 passes for 1,915 yards in four seasons. Dontez Byrd is a familiar option for Silvers, having also played for the Memphis Express. Austin Proehl, son of former NFL wide receiver Ricky Proehl, had 1,265 receiving yards at North Carolina.

Dragons defensive tackle Will Sutton, a third round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, also played for the AAF's Arizona Hotshots. Defensive end Stansly Maponga was the third pick by the Dragons in the XFL Defensive Front Seven Draft. Linebacker Steven Johnson played with several NFL teams including the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers. His last team was the AAF's Hotshots. Safety Steve Williams was a fifth round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.

Read the XFL Eastern Conference Preview.

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