Despite NFL setbacks, Stallions’ Holtz believes he can count on QB Corral

Quarterback Matt Corral works out at Birmingham Stallions training camp in Arlington, TX.
Quarterback Matt Corral works out at Birmingham Stallions training camp in Arlington, TX. (Stallions Twitter)

In 2022, Matt Corral was a third-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers. With only Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold ahead of him on the depth chart, there was a belief by some that Corral could be the future starter sooner rather than later in Charlotte.

Fast-forward two years and Corral is now a UFL Birmingham Stallion, promised nothing, fighting for a roster spot in training camp with three others at quarterback.

In a Zoom call with media on Wednesday, Stallions Head Coach Skip Holtz noted Corral was right in the mix with J’Mar Smith, Adrian Martinez and Jalen Morton at the position, and that it was too early to form any kind of depth chart. The team’s first on-field practice was Tuesday.

“I think it’s way too early to make evaluations for where any of them are at this point,” Holtz said of his quarterbacks. “And really, the way it’s going to evolve over the next ten days, because what’s going to differentiate these quarterbacks, it’s not talent because they all have talent and skills, it’s going to be who can process the offense, who can make quick decisions, who can protect the football, is what’s going to come down to what quarterbacks are going to make it.”

How did Corral get here? Before we can understand what led to Corral being available for the Stallions, we have to back up to his college days. At Ole Miss, Corral completed over 67% of his passes across four seasons, throwing for 57 touchdowns and running for another 18. His body of work led some draftniks to believe Corral would be selected in the first round

Playing in his final collegiate game, the 2022 Sugar Bowl, Corral injured his ankle and was carted off the field. It was an ominous start for his pre-draft process. That injury prevented him from working out at the NFL Combine. In the lead-up to the draft, red flags were raised as NFL personnel dug into his background.

“He’s got a lot of off-the-field shit,” one scout told Go Long TD’s Bob McGinn prior to the 2022 NFL Draft. “…There’s a lot of Johnny Manziel to this guy. Party boy.”

“The first few years at Ole Miss he was an absolute (off-field mess),” a second scout told McGinn. That scout did admit Corral became a stronger leader in the second half of his college career.

A combination of the injury, attitude, and questions about how his slight frame would hold up to the rigors of the NFL led Corral to fall to the third round, where he was drafted by the Panthers. A Lisfranc injury suffered in a preseason game in August ended his rookie season prematurely.

In 2023, after the Panthers used the number one overall pick in the draft on QB Bryce Young, Corral still made the initial 53-man roster, but was waived the next day. A week after being claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots, Corral was placed on the reserve/left squad list after apparently walking out after practice and not being heard from for two days.

The team released him but was prepared to sign him to the practice squad immediately afterward. Word had leaked that he would be signed, only for one of the parties to change their mind – he didn’t sign after all. In fact, Corral didn’t work out for a single NFL team for the rest of the season after his Patriots stint ended in September.

During his media availability on Wednesday, I asked Holtz specifically about Corral and his confidence level that Corral will be someone he can count on this season. “I had some great conversations with Matt before we ever signed as we were in the recruiting process in free agency,” he said. “And we were on the phone and we were visiting, that was one of the questions I wanted answered: ‘What’s the commitment level here? Why did things happen in the past the way they happened, and what’s going to change moving forward, why are we not going to be in that situation again?’

“But I felt really comfortable in talking with him, and hearing him explain his situation, take ownership for some of the things he could’ve done better, and why he made the decisions he did and why he’s excited about continuing to play.”

Holtz, who is also the team’s offensive coordinator, told the story of how Corral had called him about five times the previous evening, asking detailed questions about the playbook, showing Corral’s resolve to not only making the Stallions, but taking hold of a starting job that appears very much up for grabs. 

“…I think this is a league of second chances,” said Holtz. “(Former Stallions QB) Alex McGough had one and you look at what he was able to turn his into. It’s the same thing right now, Matt Corral has one, and I’m excited to see what chapters he’s going to write as we continue to move forward and how his book is going to read one, two, three years down the road.”

For Corral, talent has never been the issue; rather, the level of commitment needed to succeed at a high level in professional football has been the question. The best-case scenario for both Corral and the Stallions is for him to play well, show that dedication and earn another shot in the NFL in 2024.

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