2015 Season Preview: New Orleans VooDoo
Since the Bossier-Shreveport BattleWings of the af2 relocated to New Orleans and renamed themselves the New Orleans VooDoo (a successful AFL franchise from 2004 – 2008) in 2011, they have failed to find the same success that the previous incarnation of the team was able to establish. They continue to try to rebuild their presence in an area that is rich in football history.
This season, they move to the Eastern Division of the American Conference after spending the past five seasons in the Southern Division of the conference.
2014 in Review (3-15, last place in the Southern Division)
After an 8-10 record in 2012 that gave some hope that this franchise was possibly headed in a winning direction, the following two seasons were not as kind. A five-win season in 2013 was followed by an abysmal three wins last season that led to head coach Pat O’Hara and the organization parting ways.
By no means does all of the blame go to O’Hara, though. In a league that is certainly quarterback focused, the VooDoo had a hex placed on them in regards to their quarterback situation.
The team played five different quarterbacks last season. The season started with Kurt Rocco under center. Rocco went out with a lower body injury (to use a hockey reference) eight weeks into the season. Back-up Ryan Perrilloux certainly did not light it up with his opportunity playing in seven games and throwing almost as many interceptions (12) as he did touchdowns (13) before being sidelined with an ankle injury in Week 11. BJ Hall exited about as fast as he entered. After throwing only two passes (he completed both of them), he injured his ankle in the same game as Perrilloux and was done for the season.
The VooDoo then found a hidden gem mid-season in former Arkansas State quarterback Adam Kennedy. Kennedy started the last seven games of the season for New Orleans and had the highest completion percentage (58.94%) of the five QBs. He threw 26 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. The defense certainly did not help the struggling offense either, as the VooDoo ranked 12th in the league (out of 14 teams) giving up an average of 56.2 points per game.
The team has hired new general manager Brandon Rizzuto to take the organization in a new direction. He had spent time with the VooDoo from 2011-2012 as the team’s vice president. Rizzuto had spent the previous two years with the University of New Orleans as its assistant athletic director.
With O’Hara leaving the organization and ultimately ending up as part of the Houston Texans' coaching staff in the NFL, the VooDoo had to find a coach that would help them - dare I say the word - rebuild.
They have hired Dean Cokinos, a former AFL head coach who has a reputation of being a good talent evaluator, to try to turn things around for this struggling franchise. Cokinos spent the last two seasons as a head coach in the PIFL for the Alabama Hammers. He led them to a league championship in 2013, but followed it up with a disappointing 4-8 record in 2014. Cokinos’ last stint in the AFL was from 2011 – 2012 as the head coach of the Georgia Force. In those two seasons, he led the team to two playoff appearances. He will have the daunting task of trying to find talent to field a competitive VooDoo team this year.
Kennedy returns as quarterback for this season. He will be challenged by former Iowa Barnstormers signal caller Brian Reader. Reader played in 13 games last season for Iowa and completed 66-of-108 passes for 858 yards and 17 touchdowns. He threw seven interceptions.
Defensive back Cameron McGlenn returns to the team this season. Last year he led the VooDoo in interceptions with 11 and tackles with 106.
Larry Beavers, wide receiver who led the team last season with 80 receptions for 1,020 yards and 16 touchdowns, and who was tied for the league lead in kick returns for touchdowns last season with four, will return to the team in the same role this season.
The team also traded with Spokane for defensive back Jimmy Williams. He had 12 tackles to go with two interceptions in his four starts for the Shock last season.
Wide receiver LJ Castile, who was second on the team last season in receiving yards (921) is off to Los Angeles to play for the KISS.
Fan favorite, defensive tackle Marlon Favorite, has decided to retire and will not return. He had spent the last three seasons with the VooDoo. Last season he contributed 38 tackles to go with 4.5 sacks.
Defensive lineman Mike Alston, who led the team last season in sacks with 9.5, has left to go play for the Cleveland Gladiators in his home state of Ohio.
The 2015 season will be a success if…
... Cokinos can bring in some talented players that will make this team competitive and make the area excited once again about the VooDoo. This franchise has pretty much seen its average attendance decrease since its return to the NOLA area in 2011. After having an average attendance of 8,153 per game in 2011, attendance dipped in both 2012 and 2013. There was a slight increase in 2014 with an average attendance of 5,504. An area that is known for being football crazy wants to support a winner. Being competitive this season and re-establishing a connection to the community might head this organization in that direction.
The VooDoo’s 2015 MVP will be…
Any healthy quarterback!!!
This franchise has not had a quarterback start all of its games in a single season since Rocco did it in 2012. Four different QBs played for the team in 2013 to go along with the aforementioned five last year.
Beavers will also have to play a significant role once again if the VooDoo are to be competitive. His return skills can be what keeps this team in games.
In 2015, the New Orleans VooDoo will win…
I am going to be nice and say four games. They are now in a division with Cleveland and Philadelphia and traveling for road games this season will be strenuous. Cleveland made it to the ArenaBowl last season and Philadelphia is always known to have a strong team (however, maybe not as good this season, but time will tell). If this VooDoo team plays hard and stays competitive, they may be able to steal a game here and there. With some crowd support once again, maybe the “Graveyard” can once again be one of the tougher places to play in the AFL.