The head coach of the Los Angeles Wildcats, Winston Moss, spent 30 years in the NFL playing and coaching linebackers for the Buccaneers, Raiders, Seahawks, Saints, and Packers. So one would imagine that he would build his team in this image of dominant linebackers and a suffocating defense. You would be wrong.
The Wildcats’ offense is led by play caller Norm Chow who orchestrated the high-flying BYU offenses of the 1980s and the legendary USC teams of the early 2000s and tutored five future starting NFL quarterbacks (Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, and Matt Cassell). Expect Chow to take advantage of the talent he has at the receiver position by slinging the ball all over the field. The following players should really shine in Chow’s air raid scheme:
QB Josh Johnson: Johnson has the most in-game NFL experience of any XFL signal caller with appearances in 33 games, most recently being called in to start the last 3 games for the Redskins in 2018. He is an extremely passer running a 4.55 40 yard dash in the NFL and averaged just under six yards per carry over the course of his NFL career. Chow will look to make use of Johnson’s athleticism and strong arm to spread the defense thin.
RB Elijah Hood: Hood is a big, powerful back at 5’11” and 232 pounds who gained over 2,500 yards during his career at UNC. He declared early for the 2017 NFL Draft, where he was selected in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders, but only held a cup of coffee there – appearing in only eight special team snaps. The media at large projects him to be the Wildcats’ bell cow back with his downhill approach to running the ball allowing him to excel in short yardage situations and in pass protection.
RB Larry Rose III: Rose is one of the most decorated rushers ever in the history of college football blue-blood, New Mexico State University. Although he has very little experience at the next level due to the wear and tear his body has endured – over 900 touches by the time he graduated (which helps explain his extensive injury history) – he is an exciting weapon in Norm Chow’s offense. He doesn’t have the power of Hood, but he ran a 4.42 40 yard dash at his Pro Day and caught 55 passes during his senior year at NMSU making him a tantalizing option out of the backfield.
WR Nelson Spruce: Spruce is the most productive receiver in PAC-12 history catching 294 passes during his 4 years at the University of Colorado. Unfortunately, due to his physical limitations, he never got a chance at the pros – going undrafted and being cut several times before being out of the league entirely. Norm Chow will look to take advantage of Spruce’s supreme ability in underneath routes and strong hands to march the ball down the field.
WR Tre McBride: McBride had about as much hype as one can have coming out of the small school like William & Mary. He is an athletic freak who dominated the FCS competition and the combine with a 4.41 40 yard dash, 38” vertical, and 6.96 three cone while standing 6’0” and weighing 210 lbs. Unfortunately, he could never break into the role of a full-time receiver due to the difficulties of adapting to an NFL route tree. Chow will look to take advantage of McBride’s physical gifts to stretch the field.
With the core of Johnson, Hood, Rose, Spruce, and McBride the Wildcats look to have a strong offense that will put up a surplus of points in the hands of Norm Chow. But defense is Winston Moss’s specialty, so who is he and defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson working with? Unfortunately, the defense does not look to be nearly as strong as its offensive counterpart.
DE Shawn Oakman: Oakman, of meme legend, is the star of this Wildcats defense. This does not bode well for the defense. Oakman rose to national prominence in wake of the 2015 Cotton Bowl when his 6-foot-9, 290-pound frame was on full display during the coin toss, but his play on the field never matched his physique’s legendary status. Due to his height and thin hips, he frequently lost the leverage battle to offensive linemen – causing him to struggle to rush the passer. This, in combination with a sexual assault charge (later proven to be false), caused him to go from being a potential day three pick to being an undrafted free agent and never got a chance in the league. Hopefully Moss and Johnson can tap into his immense athletic ability and maximize his potential as a run stopper.
DT Roderick Henderson: Henderson, who has an incredible nickname in “Ghost,” is a 6-foot-1, 339-pound nose tackle out of Alabama State – where he dominated the competition. Over his three years starting at the nose tackle position, a position notorious for putting up small numbers, he accumulated a total of 26 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. He never got a chance to compete at the NFL level – outside of a short stint with the Tennessee Titans in the 2017 offseason – due to his lack of height and strength. However, with his quickness and fantastic nickname, he should still be able to find success in the XFL.
LB Anthony Johnson: Johnson in high school was the number two recruit in 2011 – trailing only future top pick Jadeveon Clowney – as a defensive tackle. Known as “The Freak” while in Baton Rouge, he produced well – accumulating 22 sacks in three years as a starter. However, even with this production, he ultimately went undrafted and never made an NFL roster due to severe weight and conditioning problems. But now Johnson looks to have fixed his issues coming into Wildcats camp being listed at 245 pounds and changing position to linebacker. Keep your eyes on him to be one of the feel-good stories of the league.
DB Mar’Sean Diggs: Diggs was a middling producer while playing at UAB – gathering three interceptions in his two years as a starter, and was by all accounts a tremendous athlete. The interest in Mar’Sean lies in his older brother being star Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs. After the draft last year, he was signed by his brother’s team and worked hard in the offseason to improve his footwork alongside his Pro Bowl brother. Even though he did not make the final cut, it will be fascinating to see if his hard work has paid off.
The Wildcats defense this year will be what determines how far this team will go as the offense looks primed to put up more than enough points to win. I project them to be battling for the last playoff spot in the XFL.