It was an excellent first week of action for The Spring League, which debuted with their television contract with Fox Sports this week and a flurry of former NFL and CFL talents. The elite developmental league introduced two new teams this season – the Sea Lions and the Linemen – to the fold, and both teams were competitive in their opening games.
Here were the score from the week of action:
Alphas 23 Aviators 9
Conquerors 27 Linemen 20
Blues 15 Sea Lions 12
Generals 21 Jousters 19
The Spring League Week One MVP: K Lirim Hijrullahu, Generals
Not only does Lirim Hijrullahu lead the league currently in points after kicking 5 of 5 field goal attempts in the Generals 21-19 win over the Jousters, but he booted a career-long 59-yard kick to end the half and pat a halftime lead.
Hijrullahu, a former CFL star kicker, spent last season on a couple of practice squads in the NFL. His day certainly earned the attention of NFL teams, and he currently has the best chances out of anyone in this league play this season in the NFL.
Offensive Player of the Week: WR Ben Putman, Linemen
His team didn’t win the game due to some unlucky breaks, but Ben Putman, to me, was the most impressive offensive player of the week. Putman is a projected slot receiver (5’8″ 180 lbs) who showed some impressive route-running ability and consistent, strong hands. His after-the-catch run style is impressive, too, an adamant and physical player who’s difficult to catch in the open field.
Putman’s scrappy playstyle awarded him two touchdowns against the Conquerors, including a late touchdown on a contested football. Putman willed the ball more than anyone and went up for it. He flipped his hips upfield when he came down with it and scored the touchdown after the catch. It was an excellent opening week for the former Nevada receiver who spent last season as a graduate assistant at his alma mater.
Defensive Player of the Week: S Nick Washington, Conquerors
Nick Washington now leads The Spring League in tackles and interceptions after collecting 11 stops and 2 interceptions against the Linemen. One of those interceptions sealed the victory for the Conquerors and prevented any chance of a comeback for the Linemen.
What stands out about Washington is his instincts and pursuit angles. He “felt” the play better than any defender this week on the field. His production is a testament to that. Those two skills are the most important traits in his position, which he can add to his resume. You have to respect the performance he logged statistically and on tape because oftentimes, he was the only defender in space to make the play on the football.
The Spring League Week One Power Rankings
The Spring League saw a fairly even group of teams on paper start to separate themselves. That’s healthy. Now that we know what the teams look like, the power rankings are being added to the weekly report.
1. Conquerors (1-0)
The Conquerors were the highest-scoring team of week one and for a good reason. They featured the return of the previous season’s star quarterback, Kevin Anderson, who again flashed some mobility and big arm talent. The big game performance last week of RB Sola Olateju also showed that this team is dynamic and can move the football at will. Behind center John Yarbrough, this offense will be a force in the league this season.
Defensively, they surrendered the late touchdown to the Linemen that made the game seem closer than it really was. Nick Washington is a force on the backend, which will be a nuisance to all quarterbacks in this league. Linebacker Zach Hall flashed some ability as well is a good on-ball defender who thrives in the box.
Next week: VS (4) Alphas – 5/15 3PM (ET) on FOX
2. Generals (1-0)
Behind the arm of Ryan Mallet, the former backup to Tom Brady, and the leg of Lirim Hijrullahu, the Generals were able to pull a narrow victory from the talented Jousters squad, who threw everything that they had at them. They flashed some serious weapons in tight end Sal Cannella and a running back trio that didn’t separate from each other, but all logged good performances. If the chemistry and consistency continue to grow offensively, the Generals could have the best offense in the league.
Defensively, Nick Worthington was the star who sealed the game by intercepting Jousters quarterback Drew Anderson. He had an impressive day alongside edge rusher Carrol Phillips. Nevelle Clarke, who made the initial top ten list, didn’t see the field much, and Ethan Westbrooks showed promise from the defensive tackle spot. It’s a good roster, and they have room to improve.
Next Week: VS (7) Sea Lions – 5/17 7PM (ET) on FS1
3. Jousters (0-1)
The Jousters showed the ability to be a very good team in the league this week and were impressive enough to hold up at the #3 spot over a couple of teams who won their first game in action. Between quarterbacks Luis Perez and Drew Anderson, this team has many offensive weapons it can grow to utilize, with Johnathan Johnson and Anthony Ratliff-Williams on these teams.
Defensively, though, they are a “bend but don’t break” style of defense. They stalled four offensive drives from the Generals despite giving up some big plays and forced the Generals to win with their incredible kicker. The Spring League will continue to test the defense, and we’ll see if that’s something that will become an issue down the road.
Next Week: Vs (5) Blues – 5/17 10PM ET on FS1.
4. Alphas (1-0)
The Alphas were dominant against the Aviators on both sides of the football, logging a good performance. Offensively, running backs Brian Burt and Blake Morgan rumbled for over 100 yards and opened a lot of space for quarterback Brian Lewerke.
Defensively, defensive end Youhanna Ghiafon appears to be the force upfront that teams will have to scheme around. Ghiafon forced and recovered a fumble with a ferocious hit and was a general nuisance all game.
Next Week: VS (1) Conquerors 5/15 3PM ET on FOX.
5. Blues (1-0)
The Blues played two quarterbacks, between Diondre Francois (the former Florida State quarterback) and Connor Kaegi. This team is still searching for its identity on offense but flashes some real upside. Running backs Marcelias Sutton and Deshawn Walker both looked solid as explosive backs capable of breaking big plays. Then, between wide receivers Cedrick Byrd and Davion Davis, they have the ability to stretch the field and create explosive plays.
Defensively, they too will have their challenges ahead of them, as the Sea Lions proved to be competitive but not complete. We will see how well they will be able to hold up this season in action.
Next Week: VS (3) Jousters – 5/17 10PM ET on FS1.
6. Linemen (0-1)
The Lineman has many good players on this team, but the Achilles heel against the Conquerors was the quarterback position. Ryan Willis struggled tremendously in his debut, struggling to be on time and make good decisions throughout the game. Regardless, with Tre Minter at running back, wide receivers Ben Putman and Kwadarius Smith making plays outside, there is the potential if they can figure out how to utilize their quarterbacks best.
Defensively, there is some talent too. Defensive backs Vince Calhoun and Manny Bunch both have the ability, but the front seems to be the issue for the Linemen, who (for the most part) were bullied defensively. I’m not sure that they have the keys on the roster to get past that.
Next Week: VS (8) Aviators – 5/15 7PM ET on FS2.
7. Sea Lions (0-1)
The Sea Lions were competitive with the Blues on Friday night but ultimately struggled to consistently move the football. Throwing it seems to be the problem, as they played two solid running quarterbacks, Nick Fitzgerald and DeAndre Johnson, but struggled to make plays on anything other than breakout runs. Running back LaDarius Galloway looked tremendous in action, someone that I told you all to watch.
Defensively, Jordan Guest and Levonta Taylor are the big names who made plays at times in week one but struggled and surrendered big plays. Taylor gave up the touchdown pass while Guest struggled to get in the backfield consistently. There’s potential in this group, but ultimately a lot of holes that will be difficult to overcome.
Next Week: VS (2) Generals – 5/17 7PM on FS1.
8. Aviators (0-1)
The Aviators logged the least impressive week one. A lot of that is attributed to quarterbacks Keller Chryst and Seth Suida, who both struggled with a lack of arm talent and mistiming throws.
They have by far the weakest roster in the league and will probably struggle for the remainder of the season.
Next Week: VS (6) Linemen – 5/15 7PM ET on FS2.
Post Week One The Spring League Prospects NFL Big Board
The initial big board entered week one with 20 prospects listed on it. This week will feature 36. Aviators quarterback Keller Chryst was removed from the big board after a lackluster performance opening night against the Alphas for simply not displaying the arm talent needed to play at the next level. Outside of that, 17 new names debut on the board after good performances and a solid review of the tape.
- K Lirim Hajrullahu, Generals
- OL John Yarbrough, Conquerors
- TE Sal Cannella, Generals
- WR Kendrick Rogers, Sea Lions
- RB Tra Minter, Linemen
- DB Nicholas Washington, Conquerors
- WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Jousters
- CB Levonta Taylor, Sea Lions
- RB LaDarius Galloway, Sea Lions
- OL Hunter Watts, Jousters
- OL Drew Richmond, Linemen
- DB Evan Worthington, Generals
- CB Nevelle Clarke, Generals
- WR Ben Putman, Linemen
- RB Brian Burt, Alphas
- WR Johnathan Johnson, Jousters
- QB Luis Perez, Jousters
- DB Vince Calhoun, Linemen
- DL Jordan Guest, Sea Lions
- RB Sola Olateju, Conquerors
- DL Youhanna Ghiafon, Alphas
- EDGE Carrol Philips, Generals
- QB Kevin Anderson, Conquerors
- RB Marcelias Sutton, Blues
- WR Davion Davis, Blues
- OL Abdul Beachum, Blues
- DL Ethan Westbrooks, Generals
- RB Chris James, Generals
- WR Kwadarrius Smith, Linemen
- QB Deondre Francois, Blues
- DB Manny Bunch, Linemen
- WR Cedrick Byrd, Blues
- LB Zach Hall, Conquerors
- RB Deshawn Waller, Blues
- QB Brian Lewerke, Alphas
- RB Paul Terry, Generals
The biggest riser to note is Generals kicker Lirim Hijrullahu, who we selected as the Most Valuable Player of the week. This isn’t hyperbole. When a kicker boots a 59-yard field goal with room to spare, NFL teams take notice.
Out of the top ten, John Yarbrough, Sal Cannella, and Nicholas Washington all flashed the ability to be good deep end talent in the NFL this week. I think all of those guys find themselves on an NFL roster.