Joined: 28 Apr 2001
Location: Tampa Bay
|Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:53 pm Post subject: Storm and AFL Offseason Notebook
Nov 14, 2012 by Peter Pupello
Although the Tampa Bay Storm, as well as the other clubs in the Arena Football League, are currently in the middle of the offseason, perhaps it is not as evident thanks to all the headlines the team is making with personnel.
Team president Derrick Brooks and vice president of football operations Jeff Gooch have already begun working diligently to prepare for the upcoming 2013 season, specifically during the exclusive free agent period by retaining key players including quarterback Stephen Wasil, wide receiver Chandler Williams, kicker Juan Bongarra, wide receiver Joe Hills and defensive linemen Wondell Rutledge and David Akinniyi.
Shortly after, with the general free agency period opening, the Storm were also able to land defensive lineman Tremaine Johnson and defensive backs Rashad Barksdale, Chris Smith, De’Audra Dix and Jean Fanor to rebuild the defense, as well as several other free agents including wide receivers Jason Cherry and Chris Davis, and offensive lineman Thomas Claiborne.
The idea, according to Brooks, is to build around the team’s strong core of key players by adding free agents and role players who combine skill and character.
Of course, in order for the league to be competitive, the Storm’s counterparts in the American Conference’s South Division also have been making moves:
Through a league-wide conference call on Tuesday, league commissioner Jerry Kurz announced that the Georgia Force will not be playing in 2013 due to league contraction.
The Storm’s cross-state rivals along the I-4 corridor perhaps kicked off its offseason by naming new personnel not on the field, but off of it. The team relieved former head coach Bret Munsey of his duties and replaced him with Doug Plank, a two-time AFL coach of the year. In his first five years as an AFL head coach, Plank won more games to start his career than any previous coach in AFL history, posting a record of 64-29. He has made two ArenaBowl trips, including leading the American Conference Champion Philadelphia Soul to ArenaBowl XXV in 2012. He was also named AFL’s Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2007 when he was with the Georgia Force. Joining Plank as an assistant on the sidelines this season will be former Storm head coach Tim Marcum, the winningest coach in AFL history.
On the field, the Predators retained a number of key players including kicker Mark Lewis, wide receiver Jarvis Williams, and defensive backs Travis Coleman and Simeon Castille. Perhaps the biggest acquisition, however, comes as a familiar name to Storm fans, as Orlando will showcase former Storm standout Prechae Rodriguez in 2013, adding to the vitriol that the War On I-4 rivalry has to offer.
Of course the departure of the Georgia Force franchise wasn’t bad news for all. Jacksonville, for one, was able to pick up former Force signal caller RJ Archer, who could provide a spark to an offense that also is returning deep threat Bobby Sewall and Jeff Hughley. Archer will challenge Bernard Morris, last season’s starting quarterback, who will also return.
Sewall isn’t the only Shark returning from last season, as the team has been very active in securing pieces from last year’s squad to make a comeback in 2013.
Among them are offensive lineman Brant Clouser, veteran defender Bill Alford, ironman Terrence Smith and defensive back LaRoche “Action” Jackson. The club also added ball-hawking defensive back Tanner Varner during free agency.
According to head coach Les Moss, the Sharks’ philosophy is similar to that of the Storm’s, in that they will look outside the organization to continue the process of roster construction that will continue until training camp begins in March, while bringing in talented players to create competition that will improve our team as a whole.
New Orleans VooDoo…
Like most of the franchises around the AFL, each typically builds around a cornerstone, and for that, the VooDoo are no exception.
The team announced last month that quarterback Kurt Rocco is set to return for New Orleans in 2013. Joining him will be fellow offensive teammates, lineman Robert Henderson and promising young wide receiver Courtney Smith.
Rocco had arguably the most prolific quarterbacking season in VooDoo history, setting new franchise single-season records in passing touchdowns (107), passing yards (5,317), and completions (391). He finished the season ranked fourth among AFL passers in passing yards (295.5 yards/game) and total offense (298.6 yards/game).
Rocco’s presence under center should serve as a nice compliment to the guys around him that the team was able to retain, including Xavier Brown, Gary Cismesia, Chris Duvalt, Marlon Favorite, Derandus Frye and Demarcus Robinson. The VooDoo also added a second kicker, Daniel Hrappman.
Around The Arena Football League…
As mentioned above, the league held a conference call on Tuesday which yielded a number of key takeaways worth mentioning for the upcoming season and beyond.
The biggest announcement of all centered around the league’s partnership with NET10 Wireless, which will officially take over the AFL’s naming rights to become the NET10 Wireless AFL. The league also struck a significant partnership deal with CBS Sports and CBS Sportsnet, broadening its reach in order to grow the game among a larger fan base.
Commissioner Kurz also announced a plan to have a dormant franchise, the Milwaukee Mustangs, return to action in 2014, while that same season will also see the league expand with an additional franchise rooted in the Northeast.
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