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USFL Playoffs: Eight postseason players on NFL’s radar

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By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports Author

After coaching for 23 years within the NFL, Tampa Bay Bandits head coach Todd Haley knows a player with that caliber of talent when he sees one.

For Haley, several of those forms of players were on the sector showing their skills in the course of the USFL’s regular season in Birmingham.

“There’s an honest group of players on this team that I believe must have a chance to compete on the NFL level,” Haley said. “Or not less than get into camps and have a chance to make teams. That’s what that is about, just keeping that dream alive of playing the game they love.” 

While Haley’s Bandits didn’t make the postseason, 4 other teams may have a likelihood to proceed to pursue a USFL title this weekend at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

The highest two teams within the North Division meet at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on FOX, when the Recent Jersey Generals face the Philadelphia Stars.

The Birmingham Stallions, the highest team within the South Division, then face the Recent Orleans Breakers at 8 p.m. ET on NBC in the opposite semifinal.

The winners from those games will square off for the USFL title at 7:30 p.m. ET July 3 on FOX. 

Several players within the playoffs may have a likelihood to make NFL training camp rosters in a month. FOX Sports talked to NFL scouts and other personnel within the league to get their views on among the players the league shall be attempting to secure once the USFL season concludes. 

Victor Bolden Jr., WR, Stallions

The Oregon State product has frolicked within the league with the San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions, so he has an NFL pedigree.

Bolden led the Stallions in receptions (42) and yards after catch (193). He also finished with 645 kick return yards within the regular season. 

Bolden is just 5-foot-9 and 175 kilos, but scouts like his sticky hands, versatility and skill to make something occur after the catch. Bolden led the league in all-purpose yards (1,209) and was chosen All-USFL Offense as a receiver. 

DeMarquis Gates, LB/Edge, Stallions

The Ole Miss product led the Stallions in tackles (62) and sacks (6.5) this season, earning All-USFL Defensive team honors. At 6-3 and 230 kilos, scouts described Gates as extremely instinctive, with an innate ability to search out the football.

Gates has pass-rush ability, is athletic and is an explosive hitter who could be effective as a run-and-chase linebacker or playing at the road of scrimmage as an edge defender.

KaVontae Turpin, WR, Generals

The TCU product was simply the USFL’s most explosive playmaker this season. Think Tyreek Hill within the NFL; that’s how Turpin looked playing on this league, consistently running by and away from defenders. 

Turpin led the USFL with 540 receiving yards (including a USFL-high 316 yards after catch) and finished with 4 receiving touchdowns. Turpin also had a 71-yard punt return for a rating. For his effort, Turpin earned the USFL’s MVP Award. 

KaVontae Turpin’s season highlights

KaVontae Turpin's season highlights

Take a look at highlights of Recent Jersey Generals’ star KaVontae Turpin, the USFL’s MVP.

Darius Victor, RB, Generals

Victor finished with 577 rushing yards and a league-high nine touchdowns, earning the USFL Offensive Player of the Yr award. Victor is a North-South runner who is powerful and explosive and might deliver a blow on contact. One scout described Victor’s unique ability to maneuver the pile as BYOB: Be Your Own Blocker.

At 5-8 and 209 kilos, Victor has garnered some comparisons to Maurice Jones-Drew or Mark Ingram when it comes to size and running style. Victor also has good hands out of the backfield and is an able pass-protector, making him a candidate as a third-down back at the subsequent level. 

Sal Cannella, TE, Breakers

The Auburn product was one of the best pass-catcher amongst tight ends this season, earning All-USFL Offense honors at his position. Cannella finished with 34 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns.

At 6-5 and 230 kilos, Cannella has a protracted wingspan and does a pleasant job creating separation in confined spaces akin to the red zone. And he’s an able blocker within the run game. 

Steven Rowzee, LG, Breakers

At 6-3 and 335 kilos, Rowzee is stout at the purpose of attack and an explosive blocker within the run game. Rowzee also earned accolades from scouts for his tough, physical play.

The Troy product helped the Breakers quit just 17 sacks on the season. Only the Recent Jersey Generals allowed fewer sacks (16). Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter finished second within the USFL with 1,798 passing yards in nine games played. 

Case Cookus, QB, Stars

The Northern Arizona product was essentially the most consistent performer on the quarterback position this season. Cookus replaced injured starter Bryan Scott in the course of the first half of the season, ending with 1,334 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions in seven starts.

The 6-4, 205-pound signal-caller received kudos for his decision-making and skill to regulate the sport from contained in the pocket. His athleticism could possibly be a priority at the subsequent level, though Cookus does have a 79-yard touchdown run to his credit.

Case Cookus accounts for five TDs

Case Cookus accounts for five TDs

Case Cookus threw for 247 passing yards and 4 touchdowns within the Philadelphia Stars’ 46-24 victory against the Michigan Panthers. He also rushed for 118 yards and one touchdown.

Channing Stribling, CB, Stars

The Michigan product led the USFL in interceptions with seven and was named to the All-USFL Defense team. At 6-foot-2 and 175 kilos, Stribling drew comparisons to Richard Sherman along with his length and intelligence, baiting quarterbacks into bad throws.

Others to contemplate: 

Birmingham Stallions: QB J’Mar Smith, OL Cameron Hunt, RB Bo Scarbrough, LB Scooby Wright, LS Ryan Larsen. 

Houston Gamblers: DE Chris Odom, LB Donald Payne, CB Will Likely Jr., CB Micah Abernathy. 

Michigan Panthers: RB Reggie Corbin, WR Lance Lenoir Jr., K Cole Murphy. 

Recent Jersey Generals: LB D’Juan Hines, RB Trey Williams, LB Chris Orr, QB Luis Perez, S Shalom Luani, CB De’Vante Bausby, DL Toby Johnson.

Recent Orleans Breakers: QB Kyle Sloter, WR Johnnie Dixon, LB Vontae Diggs, LB Jerod Fernandez, LB Christian Sam.

Philadelphia Stars: RB Matthew Colburn II, WR Jordan Suell, WR Maurice Alexander. 

Pittsburgh Maulers: K Ramiz Ahmed, DE Carlo Kemp, LB Kyahva Tezino.

Tampa Bay Bandits: QB Jordan Ta’amu, WR Derrick Dillon, OL Jarron Jones, LB Travis Feeney. P Brandon Wright.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for greater than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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