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6:45 PM - May 14, 2012 #21

LONG ISLAND MEAN MACHINE

After a season that saw Long Island at the very least win the Gravy Bowl, Mean Machine fans are demanding better. One fan noted in an email to your humble editor "there's no **** reason a team in New York City should be running out of money." But they did. And, owner Jeff Rosenberg has learned from it...I think. Never can tell, and signing Francis Anthony to a $180K/week contract might refute that claim. Unsure at this time.

Gary Blackwell returns for his second Mean Machine campaign as quarterback, and expectations have heightened for the fifth-year player, as well he knows. "I've not played on a team that had expectations like this since high school. It's a lot of pressure on me, but I'm up for it." Blackwell will have perennial all-star Marlin Otis behind him in the backfield (4,513 yards last three years, fifth in the OIFL), with all-everything RB Kevin Mintz in the fold. Blackwell, who can also run (1,724 yards in his career) also has a fair receiving corps to work with, including E1-1 pick Kevin Sherman, Jeffrey Bradley, Deondre Alexander, Willie Berry, and a couple backups the team will depend on for significant minutes. Depth will be an issue in the skill spots this year, but the offense should be solid.

The Mean Machine line is where the team has improved by leaps and bounds. Anthony comes in to anchor a line group that includes Daniel Beard, Donta Ellis, Sydney Weisgarber, Clifton Rhodes, and Michael Dubroff. Mean Machine head coach Fred Vanderbilt, who knows a thing or two about winning in the OIFL, said how important the line was. "Especially with how we can run the ball with the QB and backs, we gotta have a good line, and we do. It'll make life easier for Gary (QB Blackwell) and Marlin (RB Otis), no doubt about it."

Defensively, the Mean Machine will be improved. If they want to use OS Brad Goodalle as a receiver, Marlin Otis will have to play LB, and that's not terribly positive, but he can do it if he has to. Berry and Mack Jacobs will probably be the team's corners, but they have some depth in the defensive backfield. They won't be world-beaters, but last year's terrible defense will not repeat itself. Hershcel Blessig is going to likely start at linebacker, and his ability to be pretty good at every single thing defensively will provide versatility for an improving unit.

The schedule plays out OK for the Mean Machine. They open the season in Buffalo, but New England and Norfolk are at home. Long Island misses Evansville and Texas by virtue of the AFC East playing the AFC West, but they do have to travel to Detroit, Rocky Mountain, and Fort McMurray. Eugene, Washington, and Corpus Christi come to the Island. Certainly, the Mean Machine schedule could be worse.

Management knows the OIFLCup isn't happening in 2012 without an unbelievable amount of luck. But the playoffs are a stated goal; another double digit loss campaign will not be tolerated by this management group. An 8-8 season probably won't be good enough, but after last year, fans would probably at least be able to handle it. Blackwell's development on a team with real goals will probably be the key to the campaign; time will tell if he can live up to it.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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7:26 PM - May 14, 2012 #22

LOS ANGELES PREDATORS

After a disappointing 8-8 campaign that saw the Predators miss the playoffs for the first time since they were the Barracudas, Los Angeles come into their 2012 campaign with higher hopes, helped by a few key acquisitions. Colin Schraeder-Bidwell has always been aggressive in working to improve his team, sometimes to a fault. Given the way last season went, the moves were probably necessary.

B.J. Rayburn comes in to likely be the starter for a team that's actually pretty stocked at quarterback. Of course, the three-deep at QB costs the team $270,000 per week, so that's a little looney. If something happens to Rayburn, either Stephen Weeks or future hall-of-famer Tommy Maddox can easily step in. Jeff Porter and Otis Linton will tandem at RB for the Predators, with Roxwell Logiovino likely coming in for two-back sets as the OS (translation - if he has to play much defense, LA's in trouble). Rayburn, one of the more protective quarterbacks in league history (222 TDs and 31 INT in his career), has a reasonably strong receiving corps that includes Kyle Vidoteca, Paul Rose, Shelton Warren (who was once a sleeper), Achilles Byron, and rookie Bernhard Schraeder. Given Rayburn's ability to run as well as throw, it could be a wide-open LA offense.

The line is improved over 2011's group as well. Orlando Rodriguez and Kadeem Davis lead a line group that goes seven deep (eight with rookie Magellan Weingardner, though he's probably not going to see the field much). 11th year veteran Anthony Smith will stick around given his history in the OIFL (60 sacks, 25th in league history), but he'll be on the bench. Chris Wier and his 114 career sacks (6th all time) will also be on the bench, creating a team whose bench might scare some people more than the starters on the line.

Given the pressure the Predators will create, and a defensive backfield that's going to be pretty strong, Los Angeles might just be able to stand toe to toe with that division. Greg Blatenberger will be a strong corner with any number of guys (but probably Ron Ritter) starting alongside him. The defensive backfield reasonably goes eight deep, which provides all the depth the team should ever need. Rookie Daekwon Drummer is being groomed to be a long-term answer at DS as well. Maddox, who doubles as Predators head coach, noted "I've obviously thrown some on our defense in practices. This is going to be a strong group top to bottom; no easy nights here, and we'll need it with the teams we see weekly."

The schedulemaker didn't do the Predators a whole lot of favors. In one sense, there was a little help in that the team opens with San Francisco at home, and then has Tucson at home. But the return trip to Tucson always looms, and the team also gets to travel to Kansas City, Evansville, and London. Wisconsin and Detroit come to Los Angeles, as does Fort Dodge. The Predators do avoid Tampa Bay in the NFC, at least in the regular season.

Things can line up with some help for a playoff berth here. As you've read so far, most OIFL teams should at least think "hey, things go right we've got a playoff team here." Same's true in Los Angeles. Rayburn has always had success when he's quarterbacked, and the team's hoping for the same here. A division title's going to be awfully hard to procure given they share a division with OIFLCup Champions Tucson. But as we saw last year, if they can get into that five seed, there's a good chance they'll be favored when the playoffs begin.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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7:52 PM - May 14, 2012 #23

MINNEAPOLIS MUSTANGS

An organization that traditionally was mostly rudderless and directionless (save one surprise playoff appearance) was able to get to a surprising 8-8 campaign last year. The difference? A star quarterback. Even though most fans and a lot of the front office was pretty happy with Jeff Loria (who also led Minneapolis to that lone playoff berth), the organization felt they could get a star quarterback, especially given Roberto Albertini was sitting there in a dispersal draft.

So, they pulled the trigger. Then, in the third round of the entry draft, a little-known OS in Darren Silverstein was on the board. Even though Shawn Hunter-Little was on the roster, the Mustangs felt maybe this kid would be something. So, they took a risk. Smart move. Albertini threw for 3,464 yards, 62 TD and 5 INT in 2011, and then ran for another 765 yards and 22 more touchdowns. Even though they missed the playoffs on tiebreakers, without Albertini 8-8 is suddenly 3-13 or so. Silverstein also cemented his place as a star, catching more touchdowns than all but two players (26, tied with Marse Fly and one fewer than Orlandis Tidwell). Silverstein's 99 catches is the most for a rookie since Dan Kimbar.

So, basically, good drafting, Minny.

Albertini is the key to the Minneapolis run game, though Georges Simmons had a solid rookie year. Albertini has Silverstein, as well as rookie Billy Cooper, backup Hunter-Little, and other players who he's worked with now in Jamie Waldron, Pat Benney, Steve Duncan, Keith Bynes, and Cyrell Daoust. It's not the OIFL's best receiving corps, but as good as Albertini was last year, he's going to make this offense hum. There's just no other way to put it.

Jay Thiel anchors a line that should be improved over last year, with guys like Danny Eisenhart (making his Minneapolis return; oh, he can catch, too!), Lawrence Bishop, Sampson King, Greg Langley, and the poorly named Speedy McGee. Thiel had 17 sacks last year (third in the OIFL), and could cement his status as a bona fide star lineman with a similar 2012 effort. Likely, Minneapolis will need it.

Why? Other than Thiel, basically no one on defense scares anyone. It's a standard Mitch Browning team, where 73-67 isn't as uncommon as you'd like. Duncan, Waldron, and third-year DS Zack McGentry are just fine as players, but there's no guy Browning can put on the other team's top defender and say "OK, you're not going to do much today." If Thiel gets hurt, this defense is in a pile of trouble; even if he doesn't, it might be.

Why? The schedule is not terribly fun. Not fun at all. In addition to rival Fort Dodge and in-state rival Cedar Rapids, the Mustangs get to travel to Texas, Los Angeles, and Venice; they get Tucson, St. Louis, and London at home. Yeah, Albertini's going to have to be great again if Minneapolis wants a playoff berth for the third time (2003, Oklahoma City) in franchise history (second under Charlie Nelson).

Fans will get their money's worth. The team will revolve around their studs. Albertini, Silverstein, and Thiel must be great, or Minneapolis isn't coming close to the playoffs. Depth isn't as bad as last year, but it's concentrated; if the stars are healthy, the team can shine. If they're not, the team simply won't. There's enough youth on the team, though, that they're not on a downswing. Just hold the course and see if Albertini can't will Minneapolis to a playoff berth.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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2:28 PM - May 15, 2012 #24

NEW ENGLAND SNO-DOGS

The Sno-Dogs come into the 2012 campaign as the true OIFLCup Contender no one is talking about. Traditionally New England has always been that team that was close, but something always happened to keep them from winning. Some pegged them last year going into the playoffs as the AFC's best team, but they were unable to overcome a road playoff game in Texas. Is this the year when the Sno Dogs finally get over the hump?

In Sno-Dogs history, the team has thrown for 24,753 yards and 401 touchdowns in their pass game. Payton Dumont has 21,728 of the yards and 353 of the touchdowns (Logan James 36, Mike Cranston 8, Byron Arledge 1). The other three touchdowns were thrown by second-year QB Jason Stackhouse, who in camp has won the job from Dumont. New England coach Brian Kelly noted about how Dumont, who will remain on the roster, has been the consummate professional. "Payton knew last year when we brought in Stackhouse that his job was eventually going to be to mentor him from the bench. This camp has proven that time is now."

Stackhouse will be aided by the ability to hand the ball off to Paulie Reynolds, who in the last two years in New England has over 2,500 yards rushing. In the last three years, his versatility has shown, as he's recorded 6 sacks defensively and has 109 catches and 13 receiving touchdowns. Depth is key here as well, with Odell Frey and Stephon Fleming backing up Reynolds. Even with an injury, the run game is going to be solid.

Stackhouse's arm will get plenty of work, too, with a strong starting receiving corps that includes Chris Downs, Terry Osbown, and Gaige Momon. Vonn Tompkins can backup Momon, but the WRDB corps will be in trouble with even one injury. Hugo Rosenthal had 17 catches in his first Sno-Dogs campaign last year, but he's the top guy off the bench. To aid in fatigue, he's going to have to do more than that. With him backing up are rookies Rolly Tucker and Mikyell Castro. New England might be well-served to find someone on the waiver wire for that group.

The young quarterback will also be aided by what's going to be a strong line. Bob Danylchak returns for his 10th OIFL season, and Kelly noted "I've never seen him this strong and focused." Danylchak will have Juan Cairo (who looks like another superstar lineman) and Clayton Ruble. Backing them up is a strong group that includes Eric Thomas, Saul Kaufusi, and Bartley Bolin. A six-deep line, especially when two of your starters would start on just about every other team in the OIFL, is going to bode well.

The strong line will be key in 2012, because the linebacking corps is not great. Jeff Paul is their best pure linebacker, but he's lost a step such that he won't play much RB. Reynolds is probably the LB by default, though his best position is safety. Rookie Chris Dueker could play LB, but given the DS corps of Samuel Haverman, Raji Hajj, and Eric Spadafore, there just aren't that many snaps. Downs and Osborn, with backup RBs Frey and Fleming, will match up well with most any team they'd face defensively.

The schedule lines up about as nicely as they could reasonably hope for. The AFC East plays the AFC West, so that means New England avoids Detroit, Wisconsin, St. Louis, and Corpus Christi (by virtue of winning last year's division they get Evansville, Texas, and Fort McMurray regardless). Evansville's on the road, but Texas and Fort McMurray are at home. NFC North champs Washington are on the road, but they host Rocky Mountain. The Sno-Dogs have a very favorable route to a pretty good seed if they stay healthy.

Owner Bob Lamb feels this is the year the Sno-Dogs finally get over the hump, and really - it needs to be. There's enough guys that'll start aging soon that there could be a step back next year after this campaign. While the WRDB corps is a little iffy when you get past the starters, this team's loaded. New England has every reason to believe they're playing 20 games after the preseason. Will they? Well, that's why you play the games.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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4:39 PM - May 15, 2012 #25

NORFOLK HAWKS

This time last year, your friendly prognosticator was explaining how Norfolk was easily going to be the OIFL's worst team.

Well, they went 8-8. So much for that.

Now, the question is this. Can they improve on that? Can they build further with this roster, who was one of the oldest in the OIFL last year (and is currently the second-oldest roster in the OIFL today, behind only Fort Dodge)? And the answer is, actually, it's possible. Norfolk had a strong offseason, and while they're the OIFL's 31st youngest team, they've got a fair amount of younger players in key spots.

Van Nostran comes in to take the quarterbacking reigns from 12th year veteran Cory Cross, who is still on the roster. Nostran traded time with Faustino Borrello in Fort Dodge last year, and in his career has 19 TD passes to 1 INT; a good ratio, but not exactly the body of work. Running back is going to be manned again by Cody Harbaugh, who very quietly is the fourth leading rusher in OIFL history (12,244 yards, 333 touchdowns). Nostran has weapons to work with, including an exceptionally quick WR combo of Drew Concepcion and Charles Soludo (between then 447 catches in the past three seasons). Jetta Shanklin, who in limited work has added 108 catches in his career, combine with Anthony McDaniel and Ed Trenholm to give what's going to be the type of offense you expect from a Robert Cole team.

Before you say much about "WAIT THEY CAN RUN," Jamaal Kramer ran for 25 touchdowns one year for the Riptide. They've always run the ball when it made sense strategically. Harbaugh ran for 1,173 yards last year in Norfolk; the offense will be balanced. And it'll be explosive. Even if Harbaugh gets hurt, RB/OS Tommy Rogers is there, and the team's high on his potential (he ran for 89 yards last year).

The line doesn't go as deep as many teams, but Leslie Peine, Wayne Pratch, Anthony Reight, and Bryant James is a strong 1-2-3-4 punch. Bryant LiPetri has plenty of experience, while likely hall-of-famer Chris Mace (86 career stats, tied for 11th all-time) is still there. Youngster Henri Lansbury looks to earn more playing time as well.

Defensively, and this is where it changes a little from standard, the Hawks might actually be pretty good. The James addition is going to be very important for the line, while Lansbury is better as a DL than OL. Soludo and Concepcion will at least have the makeup speed you need to fix any issues, while Pat Govan in his seventh season hopes to become the shutdown corner that this team probably still needs. Depth might be a concern, but it's not as bad as last year.

The schedule isn't horrible this year. Obviously, Norfolk gets two New England games, including a Week 16 matchup in Barre that might decide a playoff berth. Norfolk travels to Fort McMurray and St. Louis, but Rocky Mountain, Wisconsin, Vancouver Island, and Washington all come to the Tidewater Region. They couldn't ask for a much more favorable schedule.

They missed the playoffs last year by a game. The goal is clear, that they'll make it. No guarantees they will, but the organization does have two playoff berths in its four OIFL campaigns. And Cole's put together a solid team in pretty short order here, though the time this group must win is now. If they fall apart this year, there's no way they can make it next year without another massive roster shakeup.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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4:53 PM - May 15, 2012 #26

NORTH DAKOTA NIGHTHAWKS

Jimmy Graham hasn't been in the OIFL long, but we've learned from his time here that he's about as big a risk-taker as the OIFL has. As he once said "being traditional guarantees we'll not win a title with the roster we started with, but being reckless guarantees nothing."

Three seasons...3-13, 11-5, 3-13. Correct. Nothing guaranteed. What we did see was a late-career resurgence for forgotten QB Danny May, who had that help him finish his career eighth all-time in passing yards. What we now see? Jamie Graham, who has 103 pass attempts in his career (12 TD 1 INT, though, so that's good). Possibly a minor step down.

Given Graham's obvious inexperience, the Nighthawks are going to do everything they can to develop a run game, though Zaquan Starks and Jeff Cochran don't scare too many people. It'd be nice if Graham could run, but he's about as fast as I am. Even considering his inexperience, though, Graham's going to throw the ball. And they have weapons. Jim Kennedy, Vance Simecka, Zach Degan, Ben Stern...really, the OIFL doesn't have many four WR tandems as explosive as this one. There's no depth (Jonathan Oakley, John Sheets, GM Gerber, the defense-challenged Jimmy Little), but so long as everyone stays healthy for once, North Dakota's putting up points.

The line is slightly improved over last year's group, too, with Mark Loiselle, the ageless TwoTon Henry, Dan McMasters, and Devin McElroy rotating with a few backups that can log minutes. It'll be key to keep Graham upright given his status as the OIFL's slowest starting quarterback; if teams can start getting kill shots on Graham the Nighthawk offense stalls.

And you don't want it to stall. Starks will start at RB because he's at least competent as a LB (unless the team goes four wide on offense with John Sheets being the fourth, but that's not likely), but unless the DL plays well over their skill level, the question mark at LB is going to cause problems. Degan is as good a cover guy as the OIFL has, but Kennedy/Simecka are exploitable; no one's throwing at Degan. DS Delmonico Montgomery looks to make the next step towards greatness, as he hasn't done a whole lot since being a sleeper two years ago. What little depth the team has at the skill positions will be tested early and often, just so the starters don't have to log 100 plays a game. Teams will be watching when Oakley or Gerber have to come in on defense; injuries that cause both to be on the field at the same time would make a Jake Zychick offense look good.

The schedule isn't a killer. North Dakota got about as much luck as they could reasonably expect, with not a single 2011 playoff team on their nondivisional road schedule (Washington and Rocky Mountain, of course given the division, are the only two road playoff teams). Now, the home schedule has some rough games, what with Tampa Bay, New England, and D.c. coming to town. North Dakota may have trouble winning games, but there are wins on the schedule.

This was a reasonably quiet offseason for the usually reckless Nighthawks. Finances, which are always a question in Bismarck, were a major factor causing that. They hope with one of the lower payrolls in the league to be able to sit back, amass a few bucks, and then make a big splash in the future. If the team's 5-5 and looking to possibly make a run, you never discount Jimmy going reckless and making a huge trade. But this is probably a "step-back" season to see who's going to be a part of the future going forward. There are questions to answer, what with Kennedy and Simecka on the downsides of their careers.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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5:34 PM - May 15, 2012 #27

OMAHA XPLOSION

Certainly Chris Miller's teams have had some trials and tribulations. For his first few years in the OIFL, Omaha rotated from 1-15 to 5-11 and right back again until last year, where they broke through that pattern to make it to 7-9. Hopes are pretty high in Omaha that they can continue the uphill climb, but the team was old last year, and they're still old in a lot of very key spots. Things have to fall perfectly in place this year for the Xplosion to do a whole lot, but if you have the right guys, they can.

John Kaleo might not be the best quarterback to ever play, but there's never been a guy who specialized as a master of teams with nothing outside of the QB and a couple receivers. Kaleo is seventh all-time with 25,083 passing yards, and has at least one more year left in his arm. Bill Long has found a late-career resurgence in Omaha (#8 all-time with 10,309 rushing yards) and looks to provide cover for the old gunslinger; unlike past years, there's some depth at RB with Jack Ruffin and Justin Lofton. Kaleo's got people to throw to again, including Larry Peterson, Mark Garbinsky, Alcus Smith, and Danny Boll. Smith could be a star OS this year, and given he's making $150K a week, he better be. Depth is as big a concern for Omaha as it is for any team in the OIFL at the skill spots. Allowing Boll to back up at WRDB is going to be huge; after him there's just not much there.

The line is Miller's best, with it going six deep easily. Lenon Allison looks to take the next step to stardom on the line, while $100K/week guy Jim Annette was brought in to show the other linemen "hey, I know how to win here." R.A. Dalbey, Joe McKennon, Michael Mahoney, and Larry Slagle round out the six-deep.

So yes, the offense looks good. The line on both sides is solid, no real concerns. The defensive backfield? Might not be as good. Long, Ruffin, and (but he'll blitz 100%) Lofton make a fair enough linebacking corps. The defensive backfield is stocked with guys who are good, but not great. Percival Persampieri, Derrick Vickers, and Craig Kettlewell will rotate the two DS spots; Peterson, Garbinsky, and Boll are solid cover guys. Better passing teams will torch this defense, but it's not nearly as weak as past Omaha teams were.

The problem? Omaha's not going to be favored much. All 26 roster spots are important, and Omaha's not too strong after about 16 or 17. The schedule isn't too bad when you consider the 10 nondivisional opponents, but the problem is that while D.C. and London are at home, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, and New England (the three toughest by a lot of accounts) are all away. The opening game in Bismarck could be one of the most fun of the year given both teams' predisposition to not be all that defensive.

The Xplosion are better than they've ever been, but as you've read these previews, you're going to realize most of the OIFL is a lot better than it has ever been. This Omaha team would kick Orlando 2006 (5-11) up and down the field to the tune of a 50- or 60-point win. But the OIFL's a lot tougher than it was in 2006. A team that's going to have some trouble defensively (as Omaha will, especially when you see Rocky Mountain and North Dakota's pass games twice) will struggle in 2012, even if they're eight touchdowns better than their 2006 team. But, even if the record doesn't show it (this schedule is tougher than last year's), this is Chris Miller's best team by a long shot.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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6:14 PM - May 15, 2012 #28

PORTLAND PIONEERS

Since a 14-2 campaign in 2007 that ended prematurely for the Pioneers, it's been mostly downhill for the franchise, going to 12-4, 11-5, 9-7 (though in their defense that was a division sewed up in Week 14 and they rested everyone in the last two weeks), and 3-13. Is this bottom? Given the team's financial condition and the salary, and what the salary is used for? It might not be.

Aaron Morrow, who has thrown for 291 touchdowns in a Portland uniform, returns for his eighth campaign. He better be great, because the team around him needs it. Grayson Norman comes in with Andrew Fox, Jr., John Welker IV, and rookie Takuya Furutani to try and get a ground game going that hasn't been too great since Joe Peoples (who is actually retiring, but it hasn't been noted yet) was a star. Morrow's arm will be tested, playing with the deck stacked against him on some nights. K.W. Lawrence (646-7447,117 in his career) has been solid in his career, but he traditionally needs a second stud around him to be successful. Ken Hartsock could be that guy, but he's usually been best when he's also the #2. Malcolm Grant (60-604, 9 TD in his 2011 rookie year) will be called on to step up for the team to be successful. Rookie Shoei Hasegawa, third year WRDB Jyunpei Yoshimoto, and fourth year WRDB Miles Coolidge will also log significant minutes. But the keys will be Lawrence and Hartsock.

The line is anything but deep, but when you're led by Demarcus White (106 sacks in his 7-year career), you can handle things. Blake Webb was the top prospect in last year's draft, and to help avoid teams triple-teaming D-Mack, he better play like it. Other linemen include Nick Chiricosta, Tony Mana Loa, Mike Singh, and Daiki Takechi. Morrow will have to get the ball off quickly; teams with strong pressure fronts will be able to beat this line around.

White makes everyone's job easier, because of his Boddy-like ability to get to the quarterback quickly and efficiently. If someone else steps up (and it could even be Welker at LB blitzing), the complete lack of real depth in the secondary will be neutralized. Hartsock is a very strong cover guy, but everyone else is generally some form of average. Nakotu Shito could be great, but he needs a little more seasoning; Andre Wray (21 career picks, five returned for touchdowns) will line up across Hartsock. This team has talent, but they can not afford injuries, especially to Hartsock. Rookie Diamante Right will be called on to make a difference early-on, too.

The schedule really isn't terrible, though all of Portland's tough nondivisional games aren't in Oregon. London, Long Island, and Buffalo come to Portland, but the Pioneers travel to Tampa Bay, New England, Norfolk, and D.C. Long-time OIFL head coach Marc Bonar noted his schedule, saying "You gotta play the games. Last year wasn't good enough for us, not by a long shot. We hope to be better this year, but I don't think the schedule's going to say if we can or not."

The issues Portland has had with "related entities" are well documented, and there's going to be a distrust from some owners because of it. Despite this, it might be time for the Pioneers to just blow the roster up and see what they can do. Even with a full blow-up, there's NO reason to trade Aaron Morrow; he's still great and has many years left in his career. White is a guy who understandably has earned a spot to stay in Portland as long as he wants. There's some solid young depth there. It might be time to try and find trading partners for guys like Hartsock, Norman, Wray, maybe even Lawrence, Burt Greenwald...if the team's not going to go 10-6 anyways, why not let the young guys see what they can bring?
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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7:50 PM - May 15, 2012 #29

ROCKY MOUNTAIN REIGN

So, last year was the year pegged for Rocky Mountain to get over the hump, win the division, make a high seed, win, get to the OIFLCup Game, maybe bring a title, have roses for the lady fans, and to bless every child in Denver. Instead, the team fell apart, and yet they still made the playoffs as their traditional low seed, albeit at 9-7. Quarterback Dan Schultz, about the tough year, "Hey, nothing went right, and we still made the playoffs. We're hoping it goes better this year." It better; they might be running out of shots.

Schultz, who is quietly sixth all-time with 27,020 passing yards, returns for another campaign in Denver. For awhile it was thought he would relinquish his spot to Jeremiah Cooper, but Schultz won the job again in camp. The Reign are a finesse team to the core, but Jerrod Wise is an extremely strong runner who can also catch...and if needed, throw. He'll throw some; that's what they do. Schultz' receiving corps is solid, with do-it-all OS Quaeavion Greene (he's second in team history with 2,509 passing yards, third with 898 rushing yards, and second with 243 catches, 3,046 yards, and 62 receiving touchdowns), receivers Paris Schroeder and Doc Garrett, Wise (who's first in receiving in team history), and a backup corps that goes five deep (Gerald Clarke, Lloyd Hilton, Leodis Jenkins). Greene scares everyone because he's so versatile, but all four starters, including Wise, have the ability for an 80 catch season. It'll be a wide-open offense again.

There is very little on the Reign line that *scares* teams, but they go six deep with very little drop off between Lynn Byers, Tyler Bell, Columbus Weingardner, Joe Thompson, Denver Johnson, and Rees Daville. They'll rotate in and out and not get tired, but no one's getting 25 sacks or anything like that. Strong running teams (I'm looking at you, Washington) will be able to have success against this defensive line, but it's not like they're bad.

Linebacker has always been a chore in Denver, but Tim Meyers will get the job. He can also play safety, adding to the team's versatility. Will Church is the star DB (and given in his career he has double the interceptions of anyone else in team history, 24 to Doc Garrett's 12; no one else has more than 5...), and Schroeder and the aforementioned Garrett will flank him. Wise is the safety, and really, every offensive backup is plenty solid defensively (Clarke, Hilton, Jenkins). That's a key for this team - while there aren't 10 superstars on this roster, injuries in 2012 won't cripple the team like they did in 2011. Might be the difference between a division title and home game(s) in the playoffs, and 9-7 and a trip to Cedar Rapids. Key difference there.

The schedule wasn't too nice to Rocky Mountain. While there's no Evansville or Tucson on it, the Reign travel to New England, Tampa Bay, D.C., Norfolk, and Fort Dodge (four playoff teams and an 8-8 team), while Venice, London, Long Island, Dallas, and Buffalo (one playoff team, one 8-8 team, Gravy Bowl champs, and two expansion teams) come to Rocky Mountain. With the Reign likely to be favored at home with Washington, Omaha, and North Dakota, 8-0 at home really should be expected with that slate.

If you're 8-0 at home, you have every reason to expect a division title; yes, they lost the division last year, but were 7-1 at home. Get the injury issues out of the way, perhaps an upset or two on the road (though they might be favored for some of those), and the division's in reach. This isn't the last year for contention (though Schultz and perhaps Wise are near the downward slope) for the Reign, but failing to make more real progress towards an OIFLCup this year might be the end of the line for this core.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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Joined: 6:18 PM - Aug 03, 2005

8:30 PM - May 15, 2012 #30

SAN ANTONIO RATTLERS

Well, that was unpleasant. The 2007 OIFLCup Champions fell on hard times in 2011, putting together an abysmal 2-14 campaign that probably finally underlined why the team's old way of business isn't going to work anymore. Traditionally, the Rattlers ran with four linemen, the running back, two receivers, and (of course) a quarterback. Given six guys play both ways, that means the Rattlers were putting defensively-challenged Dave Bomner and a lineman in coverage spots at all times; putting their defensive backfield consistently on an island. They finally got smoked, giving up nearly 50 points a game in 2011. Rattlers head coach Jim Phillips said after that campaign "clearly, we need a cultural shift, because what we did for success isn't giving us any success anymore."

While John Wildman is still on the roster, the Rattlers brought in Ronnie Marshall to lead the team in its future. Marshall comes in with some dual versatility (Wildman can evade pressure, but he's no runner) that the team will try to take advantage of. Dave Bomner, seventh all-time with 10,558 yards rushing, returns for his eighth Rattlers campaign. Bruce Malloy (himself #2 on the team's rushing list) will again back up Bomner, with youngsters Carac Johnson and Rod Newman looking to get playing time. Marshall will have a number of weapons the Rattlers aren't used to in Charles Stanley, Perry Lambert, Orval Vernon, Dwayne Hunt, and Renato Gentili. While there are no superstar threats, it'll be a welcome change to Rattlers QBs to have four guys to throw to (Bomner's never done it much, but he can catch).

The line will be San Antonio's biggest issue. Part of the reason the 4 OL set worked so well in the past was that their 4 deep was better than anyone else's. Part of the reason it didn't in 2011 was...well...it wasn't very good. Depth is still a major problem, but Greg McConnell, Lloyd Fair, and Vob Ollie are better than what they used last year. There's rook for growth on most of the linemen, and someone like Len Czarniecki could really make a step forward in 2012. They'll need someone to both for now and the future.

Given Charles Stanley's presence on the roster, Dave Bomner can't move to RB/OS full-time; if he could, that'd make the defense a lot better, though it's not like the Rattlers have a true linebacker on the roster. Bomner translates much better to defensive line, but he's not good enough to do that much anymore; they'll have him do it, but his tackling ability would afford him better as the 100% blitzing LB. Lambert is as good a DB as anyone in the league, and second-year Bruce Rodgers will clearly start. Noble Jones and Laray Schmyik will also make a strong tandem (really, the Rattlers have enough quality DS guys they could look at trading some of that for help on the line). 12th year veteran Tyrone Jones is back for one more go of it.

The schedule is not terribly kind. In addition to Corpus Christi, St. Louis, and Texas twice, the Rattlers also get to travel to Evansville, Cedar Rapids, Fort Dodge, and Wisconsin. Detroit comes to San Antonio, though there's a bit of help potentially with Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, and Buffalo all coming to town (the Rattlers were 2-2 against the NFC last year, but 0-12 against the AFC).

Certainly San Antonio isn't going 2-14 again. Their stated goal is to win the AFC and be an OIFLCup contender again (as their goal is perennially, even last year, though that went away quickly). It's not going to happen this year, but the team's better. The playoffs aren't out of the question, though the schedule might make it tough to get there.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...
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