2024 UFL Birmingham Stallions Season Summary

C.J. Marable of the Birmingham Stallions carries the ball (URL Photo)
C.J. Marable of the Birmingham Stallions carries the ball (URL Photo)

This is the final part of an eight-part look at each UFL team’s 2024 season.

Part One: Houston Roughnecks

Part Two: Memphis Showboats

Part Three: Arlington Renegades

Part Four: DC Defenders

Part Five: Michigan Panthers

Part Six: St. Louis Battlehawks

Part Seven: San Antonio Brahmas

What went right

Birmingham once again showed their spring football dominance in winning the inaugural UFL Championship, losing just one game on the season. They had to find a starting QB, and not only did they find one, that one ended up winning the UFL MVP award. The Stallions had the top offense in the league, aided by a strong run game and deep receiver corps. Defensively, they ranked number two and statistically had the best rush defense. Their “D” led the UFL in takeaways. They overcame the loss of defensive coordinator John Chavis to have their best effort on that side of the ball in the championship game, where they pitched the league’s first shutout of the season against the San Antonio Brahmas. Everything head coach Skip Holtz touched seemed to turn to gold.

What went wrong

At the risk of enraging the very vocal Stallions online fanbase…attendance at Protective Stadium could’ve been better. As for the team itself, it seems kind of funny now that the UFL MVP didn’t even begin the season as a starter; instead, opening the first three games under center was Matt Corral. Holtz wanted to give equal playing time to both until Adrian Martinez’s performance became too good to sit him on the bench. Birmingham was out-schemed and out-played in their one loss to San Antonio, but they ultimately made good on that in the championship. The reshuffling of the coaching staff in Chavis’s stead was not always smooth and their were some bumps in the road on the field because of it. Both specialists went down with injuries during the season, but both were later able to come back. The Stallions were so deep that their replacement kicker, Ramiz Ahmed, who was waived when Chris Blewitt returned to health, is now in the NFL.

Adrian Martinez #9 of the Birmingham Stallions passes the ball against the Memphis Showboats during the second quarter at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium on May 04, 2024 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Wes Hale/UFL/Getty Images)
Adrian Martinez #9 of the Birmingham Stallions passes the ball against the Memphis Showboats during the second quarter at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium on May 04, 2024 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Wes Hale/UFL/Getty Images)

Offensive MVP

QB Adrian Martinez may not have wowed with his accuracy (completing just 58.5% of his passes), but he was probably the most dynamic player in a league where dynamism is at a premium. Players like that are not usually available to spring leagues. Martinez, as a quarterback, led the league in rushing, averaging 9.8 yards per carry. That’s almost a first down every time he broke the line of scrimmage. He threw 15 touchdown passes compared to just three interceptions. I waxed poetic about Martinez in a column earlier in the season. Working under an offensive guru like Skip Holtz and getting plenty of game reps is exactly what Martinez needed at this stage of his pro career.

Defensive MVP

The defense was very much a group effort, making it difficult to pinpoint one player who deserves acknowledgment in this area above others. In terms of making an impact, DE Dondrea Tillman should be given plaudits for his play. He took part in all 12 games, playing the most snaps of any defensive lineman on the team. Tillman registered six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two pass break-ups and a forced fumble. Big-time players play big in big-time games, and Tillman did just that in the playoffs. He added two more sacks in the USFL Conference Championship against Michigan, then had a big role in stopping San Antonio’s run game in the UFL Championship, with three tackles and a pass break-up.

Special Teams MVP

Just as Holtz wanted to rotate his players through on offense and defense in order to get tape to potentially earn their way back into the NFL, so too did he rotate players through on coverage and block teams on specials. One of those players was PR Amari Rodgers. No stranger to the return game, Rodgers ran back 40 punts during his 35 career NFL games prior to signing on with the UFL. He put that experience to good use, leading the UFL in punt return yardage, averaging over 14 yards per return. His contributions extended beyond special teams, playing slot receiver on offense and catching two touchdown passes. But more than anything else, his path back to the NFL will likely be on special teams.

Most likely to succeed (in getting NFL opportunities)

In the past two years, Birmingham has paced the USFL in players earning tryouts and getting signed by NFL teams. They had the most talented roster in the UFL in 2024, so expect them to land several players in the big leagues once again. The Stallions’ skill position players could be the most sought after, including Martinez at QB. How teams view improvements he made from last year to this year will ultimately tell the tale of whether he gets a crack at making a roster. Unlike many teams, Birmingham had a strong offensive line, and that may get picked over. I wouldn’t rule out players from any three levels of the defense from being signed, either.

QB concern level for 2025 (1-5)

The story here may not be Martinez, but rather Matt Corral. As a former third-round NFL draft pick, and at just 25 years old, Corral may see the UFL as a path back to the NFL. In Birmingham, that path is blocked by Martinez. If the league MVP returns in 2025, will Corral be content to continue backing him up? Or will he push for a trade somewhere to get more consistent playing time? The Stallions have the deepest QB room in the league, so even if Martinez and Corral both leave, they still have third-stringer J’Mar Smith, who quarterbacked the Stallions to a USFL Championship in 2022. The fact that they’ve solved the most important position on the team allows Holtz and general manager Zach Potter to turn their attention elsewhere in building the roster. QB concern is a 1.

Head coach Skip Holtz of the Birmingham Stallions looks on before the USFL Conference Championship game against the Michigan Panthers at Protective Stadium on June 08, 2024 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Donald Page/UFL/Getty Images)

Head coach hot seat rating (1-5)

As was stated on The Markcast after the championship, Skip Holtz will probably never have to buy a drink in Birmingham again. It’s difficult to three-peat in any sport, let alone football, let alone spring football where your best players are often plucked away by the NFL. He’s proven to be a QB whisperer and clearly enjoys his time coaching professionals. Even if college programs come calling, Holtz may not be interested in returning to that grind. In a lot of ways, he’s the perfect coach to have in the UFL: An offensive expert with a track record of success, a modicum of name value, and the ability to develop top-shelf quarterbacks. It’s a match made in heaven. Anything higher than a would be blasphemous.

Offseason needs for 2025

Unlike most teams, not only does Birmingham have top-line starters, but they have plenty of depth at many key positions. They go three-deep at quarterback and running back, and six-deep at receiver. So even if players at those positions don’t return or stick in the NFL, they can replenish from within. The offensive line blocked well in the run game, though they gave up more sacks than they’d like, and that’s with Martinez’s scrambling ability. Focusing on acquiring strong pass-blockers could be one area of improvement. TE Jordan Thomas proved reliable as a goal-line and extra-point pass-catching threat. Birmingham would be wise to add additional field-stretching depth behind starter Jace Sternberger. Improving depth on the back-end of the defense may be necessary, though many of these are admittedly nitpicks.

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