af2 2007 South Division preview
March 26, 2007 - arenafootball2 (af2) News Release
CHICAGO - The af2's eighth season kicks off this Thursday, March 29, when the expansion Laredo Lobos host the Bakersfield Blitz. Ten more games follow on the weekend, two on Friday and eight on Saturday. This week a special team-by-team preview continues for each division. The division profiled today is the National Conference's South Division, which features four teams: Alabama, Florida, South Georgia and Tennessee Valley.
Alabama Steeldogs (2006: 7-9)
Home Field: Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex (16,000)
Head Coach: Ron Selesky, 2nd year in Alabama, 4th year overall, 26-22 career regular season record
Rookies Invited to Camp: 17
Key Players Lost: DB Erick Harris, DB Bobby Keyes, FB/LB Terrell Browden, OL James Clark
Key New Faces: WR Markeith Cooper, K Nick Hayes
Key Returners: FB/LB Theo Sanders, QB Robert Kent, OL/DL David Daniel, OL/DL Deon Deboise, WR/LB Mareno Philyaw
Burning Questions: Can Ron Selesky's squad take the next step into the postseason? How well will QB Robert Kent do as the full-time starter? Who will replace DB Bobby Keyes in the defensive secondary?
Last Game: Loss to Tennessee Valley, 40-55
Comments: Head Coach Ron Selesky made the Steeldogs competitive in his first season leading the team, falling just short of a postseason berth. Alabama is looking to take it one step further in 2007. QB Robert Kent, who showed promise late in the season, should assume the full-time starting role with the departure of Ryan Hawk. Kent threw 24 touchdowns (five interceptions) and rushed for 159 yards and 14 scores on the season. The team also has a number of other solid returnees back, including leading rusher FB/LB Theo Sanders (217 yards, 8 TDs, 27.5 tackles, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries), OL/DL David Daniel (17.0 tackles, team-high 7 tackles for loss) and WR/LB Mareno Philyaw (263 receiving yards, 5 TDs in 10 games, 15.0 tackles). One new target that should become a major weapon for Kent is WR Markeith Cooper, a four-year AFL veteran. Cooper totaled 169 catches for 2,094 yards and 40 receiving scores in three seasons with Georgia and one with New York. His best year came in 2004 when he caught 85 passes for 1,089 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Force. He also had 1,162 return yards and two return scores that season as well. Alabama, however, will need to find a strong replacement for All-af2 DB Bobby Keyes, who moved up to the AFL's Dallas Desperados. Keyes led the Steeldogs in tackles (66.0), interceptions (8) and pass breakups (17) in 2006. A solid offensive and defensive front coupled with a steady and ready Kent will be the difference in whether Alabama makes a successful playoff push.
Florida Firecats (2006: 13-3; 1-1 playoffs)
Home Field: Germain Arena (7,128)
Head Coach: Kevin Bouis, 3rd year in Florida, 27-5 regular season record
Rookies Invited to Camp: 13
Key Players Lost: DB Cory Bailey, FB/LB Chris Morant, K Brandon Kornblue
Key New Faces: DB James McCoy, WR/LB Chris McKinney, FB/LB Darnell Small
Key Returners: WR Magic Benton, QB Chris Wallace, WR/LB Ethenic Sands, WR/DB Brent Burnside, LB Alfred Peterson, WR/DB Levy Brown, DB Quincy Sorrell, WR/LB Brittney Tellis
Burning Questions: Do the Firecats have the firepower to run away with the South again? Will the addition of Chris McKinney boost Florida's offense enough to make a run at the ArenaCup?
Last Game: Loss to Green Bay, 47-60, in American Conference Championship game
Comments: Florida again looks to be the team to beat in the South Division thanks to a healthy number of impact players returning to the team in 2007. The offense starts with QB Chris Wallace, who is coming off the finest af2 season of his career, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards (3,918) and 100 touchdowns. Wallace became just the second QB in af2 history to hit the century mark in TD passes, ranking second overall in the af2 behind Central Valley's Scott Rislov (106). His main target Magic Benton, the af2's all-time leading receiver and touchdown maker, is also returning. The veteran entering his seventh year in the league also had his best season in 2006, catching 111 passes for 1,612 yards and 40 scores. If that wasn't enough, Wallace will also have WR/LB Ethenic Sands (89 catches, 895 yards, 31 TDs), WR/LB Brittney Tellis (48 catches, 756 yards, 17 TDs) and WR/DB Brent Burnside (44 catches, 527 yards, 10 TDs) back as well. The Firecats also scored big with the addition of veteran WR Chris McKinney. McKinney had a stellar season in 2006 with South Georgia, catching 139 passes for 1,593 yards and 33 touchdowns. The Firecats line, which includes Comone Fisher, Antonio Dingle and Keith Drayton, looks to be rock solid again as well. The same can be said for the defensive secondary with the return of DBs Quincy Sorrell and Levy Brown. Overall, this team looks loaded from top to bottom.
South Georgia Wildcats (2006: 3-13)
Home Field: Albany Civic Center (8,034)
Head Coach: Derek Stingley, 1st year in South Georgia, 3rd year overall, 14-12 regular season record
Rookies Invited to Camp: 10
Key Players Lost: WR/LB Chris McKinney, DB James McCoy, FB/LB Tim Robinson
Key New Faces: OL/DL Ed Wangler, WR Chavis McCollister, QB D. Bryant, FB/LB Derrick Lloyd, WR Scott Cloman,
WR/LB Jamaal Garman
Key Returners: QB Julian Reese, WR/DB Alvin Ray Jackson, FB/LB James Harris
Burning Questions: Has new Head Coach Derek Stingley brought enough talent with him to build a winner in South Georgia? Will QB Julian Reese and WR Chavis McCollister return to their old form from 2005 that made them arguably the most potent 1-2 combination in the af2?
Last Game: Loss to Florida, 40-46
Comments: The South Georgia Wildcats might be the team to provide the most opposition to Florida in the South. Yes, South Georgia, the same team that has endured back-to-back 3-13 seasons. This year the team looks noticeably different. New Coach Derek Stingley, who coached Macon for the past year and a half, has brought a number of the Knights best players with him to join the Wildcats. Those players include OL/DL Ed Wangler (13.0 sacks in 2006), WR Chavis McCollister (62 catches, 907 yards, 22 receiving TDs in just 7 games), FB/LB Derrick Lloyd (194 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs, 33.0 tackles) and WR/LB Jamaal Garman (456 receiving yards, 7 TDs, 23.5 tackles, 4 INTs, 4 fumble recoveries). All four will be major factors for South Georgia. Stingley also brought a group of veteran lineman over from Macon as well. Another addition is QB D. Bryant, who threw 59 TD passes with the Manchester Wolves in 2006. Add this cast to returnees like QB Julian Reese, WR/DB Alvin Ray Jackson and FB/LB James Harris, and South Georgia fans should have a lot of reasons to be excited for 2007.
Tennessee Valley Vipers (2006: 3-13)
Home Field: Von Braun Center (6,642)
Head Coach: Milt Theodosatos, first year in Tennessee Valley
Rookies Invited to Camp: 21
Key Players Lost: QB Chris Gunn, WR Torrey Day, DLS Farouk Adelekan
Key New Faces: WR/DB Troy Graham, WR/DB Gary Elliot
Key Returners: WR/DB Travis Blanchard, WR/DB Henry Freeman, QB Tony Colston, K Steven Lee
Burning Questions: Can Head Coach Milt Theodosatos bring the winning tradition back to Tennessee Valley in 2007? Will Tony Colston develop into a difference maker under center for the Vipers?
Last Game: Win at Birmingham, 55-40
Comments: From 2000-04, the Tennessee Valley Vipers were among the most successful teams in af2 history, right up there with Tulsa and Quad City. After a year away from the league in 2005, Tennessee Valley endured a rocky return to the af2 in 2006. The team made a coaching change late in the season from rookie coach Chris Williams to longtime Vipers assistant Milt Theodosatos. This year Theodosatos is back, and his presence brings back a bit of needed stability to the team. Tennessee Valley fans will also be glad to see some of their favorite past players returning to the team, most notable among them WR/DB Henry Freeman. Freeman ranked second on the team in tackles in 2006 and led the team in tackles and interceptions in 2004. Two-way standout Travis Blanchard (team-best 47.5 tackles, 1,208 all-purpose yards, 10 total TDs) is another notable returnee for Theodosatos. Young gunner Tony Colston from Tusculum looks to be new leader of the offense. His play, and that of the offensive and defensive lines, will be what to watch for with the Vipers in 2007. If they can step up, Tennessee Valley will be much improved over a year ago.
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