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(Brandon Judd, Deseret News)
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Stallions President Expects Big Things For Inaugural Season

(Brandon Judd, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It is finally here. After months, and even years of planning, the Alliance of American Football is kicking off its inaugural season this weekend with games on Feb. 9 and 10. The Salt Lake Stallions open up on the road against the Arizona Hotshots on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. MT on the NFL Network.

The AAF franchises have been in place since May of 2018 which was followed by the countless hours of scouting and signing players and coaches, holding a quarterback draft, spending a month in San Antonio for preseason and a million other things.

To help navigate what to expect in the AAF is Salt Lake Stallions team president Tyler Howell who joined KSL’s Unrivaled to answer those questions.

Level Of Play Will Be ‘Incredible’

Everyone has trepidation over a spring football league because the only league to have success was the USFL and they even failed when they tried to challenge the NFL in court before ultimately losing.

There are challenges in getting a spring football league to succeed and the AAF hopes to be competitive and be around for a while. Howell admittedly said he was unsure about a few things.

“That was the first thing I was nervous about: ‘what’s the product going to be like?’” Howell answered when asked about any concerns he has had.

Any issue Howell thought he might have had quickly went away after watching a scrimmage.

“I was able to see a game two weeks ago and I was so excited about the level of play,” Howell said with a smile on his face. “It is good football and it will be a lot of fun to watch. The most impressive thing is the speed of play. It is incredible and is all football all the time.”

While the AAF is modeling it after the NFL in hopes of being a developmental league, there are differences to the on-field play with an emphasis on speeding up the game to be approximately 2.5 hours long.

A few of those changes include no kickoffs so teams start on its own 25-yard line, there are no TV timeouts, instead of an onside kick, teams start at their own 35 and have a 4th-and-10 play with a chance to get a first down and keep the bowl, there is a 35-second play clock and teams must go for two-point conversions.

The level of play is a real big concern for any spring football league, but the AAF seems to have hopefully solved that with rosters full of former NFL players.

“It is easy for me to say it’s good football because I am the president so I have to say that,” Howell told KSL’s Unrivaled.

While Howell is pumping up the AAF and Stallions,  the league seems to have the player and coaching talent to back up that claim.

“These guys have all played college at a really high level and most have been in the NFL and just didn’t get the chance,” Howell said. “This is high-high level football and we made changes to make sure it benefited the players, benefited the players and benefited the fans.”

Plenty Of Talent On Stallions Roster

For the Stallions, they have multiple players who played in the NFL such as former University of Utah running back Matt Asiata who spent five years with the Minnesota Vikings. In 2014, Asiata led the Vikings in rushing yards and touchdowns. There are plenty of players with NFL playing experience on AAF rosters.

In addition to having dozens of former NFL players, the coaching staffs have names with a lot of experience as well. The Stallions have College Football Hall of Fame coach Dennis Erickson as its head coach, and he has ties to Salt Lake as he was the Utes offensive coordinator for three years.

Other coaches include Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Martz, NFL Hall of Famer Mike Singletary, former UCLA and Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel, Mike Riley has been a head coach at the NFL and college level, plus more names that have similar experience.

The Stallions’ first home game kicks at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23 in a rematch against the Arizona Hotshots from Week 1.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.