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14 former Mid-American Conference players find places on inaugural Alliance of American Football rosters

You might recognize a few of the names which landed on the first-ever AAF rosters from their days in the Rust Belt.

NFL: Preseason-San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl has come and gone, but football, thank the sports lords, is still here to stay.

You can thank TV producer Charlie Ebersol and former NFL GM Bill Polian for that, as the Alliance for American Football is set to kick off this Saturday, February 9, on CBS. Unlike other minor football leagues of the past (hello, Major League Football), the AAF has been able to launch off the ground, thanks in part to finding the right balance of cities, names and media partners.

The league doesn’t seek to replace or compete with the NFL, like many other football leagues past, but rather seems to see itself as a sort of unofficial development league, with a rulebook that could well be mistaken for the NFL rulebook, right down to the draft eligibility standards. It does contain a few differences, with the kickoff being replaced by a normal change of possession and the extra point eliminated in favor of a mandatory two-point conversion.

To build their teams, the AAF emphasized signing local talents with which to build their teams. However, with no real close ties to any AAF teams, MAC products ended up becoming free agents, getting the opportunity to sign with whichever teams they wished to go to. The AAF later held a QB Draft, with one MAC product (Logan Woodside) selected, which formalized training camp rosters.

Now with rosters finalized, it’s time to pluck out the fourteen MAC products that stuck and figure out what they may be able to contribute to their newfound teams.

Arizona Hotshots

OL Brant Weiss, Toledo

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Weiss was a starter for one full season and one half-season at offensive tackle at Toledo, totalling 19 career starts and 39 total appearances when including reserve play. In 2017, Weiss was a starter on a line which allowed only 12 sacks for the entire season.

Standing at six-foot-six, 292 lbs., Weiss was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Arizona Cardinals, getting cut in the preseason.

Atlanta Legends

OL John Kling IV, Buffalo

NFL: Washington Redskins-Minicamp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Kling, a six-foot-eight, 320 lb. offebsive lineman from Cheektowga, New York, was a mainstay at offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bulls from 2013-2015, starting in 31 career games at right tackle, including his final 29.

He led the way for one of the most potent offenses in Buffalo history in 2015 before getting signed as an undrafted free agent to the Chicago Bears. He was cut and then re-signed by Washington as a UDFA before getting released.

DE JT Jones, Miami

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

JT Jones was a breakout start at Miami University along the defensive line, finding a starting spot in his redshirt freshman season and never relinquishing it, starting in his final 37 games as a RedHawk.

Jones, who stood at six-foot-three, 246 lbs., was an exceptional pass rusher, finishing his career with 175 tackles, 41 tackles-for-loss, and 24.5 sacks (including 16.5 in his final two seasons.) He was named to the third-team all-MAC defense in 2015 and the second-team all-MAC defense in 2016.

He signed as a UDFA with the Atlanta Falcons, his hometown squad, in 2017 before getting cut in the preseason.

Birmingham Iron

OL Kitt O’Brien, Ball State

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kitt O’Brien, who stands at six-foot-five, 325 lbs., was an offensive lineman who spent most of his time at right guard for the 2009-2012 Cardinals, protecting the likes of RB Jahwan Edwards and QB Keith Wenning as led one of the program’s most prolific offenses. In 2011, his junior year, he was part of a line which allowed only 11 sacks on the season.

O’Brien amassed starts over all four of his eligible seasons, playing as a true freshman agaisnt the likes of Army and Auburn. He finished with 35 career starts and 40 appearances for the Cardinals.

O’Brien has had a fairly busy career as a professional. He was invited by the New York Giants to training camp in 2013, but did not sign. Instead, he moved to the Arena Football League and signed as a member of the Cleveland Gladiators, where he played from 2013-2015. He then signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a pre-season signee, released the next day, then re-sgined again only to be re-released and signed to the practice squad. After a few more similar acquisitions, O’Brien was finally released by the Colts in 2017 and signed with the Cleveland Browns, who then cut him in preseason cuts.

DE Casey Sayles, Ohio

NCAA Football: Camellia Bowl-Ohio vs Appalachian State Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Casey Sayles, a six-foot-three, 288 lb. defensive end, was a mainstay in the Bobcats end rotation as an edge rusher from 2013-2016, finising his collegiate career with 110 total tackles, 19.5 tackles-for-loss and 11.5 sacks. He appeared in 45 total games for Ohio, missing only 2014 with a significant injury.

Sayles was signed as a UDFA with the Los Angeles Rams, before getting cut and signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers on a future/reserves contract. He was cut this past offseason to make room for the 53-man roster.

LB Ike Spearman, Eastern Michigan

NCAA Football: Eastern Michigan at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Ike Spearman was a rare six-year collegiate product for the Eagles, thanks to missing two full seasons early on in his career due to two different leg injuries.

When Spearman did hit the field, he was a significant contributor for EMU, collecting 179 tackles, 10 sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. He led the Eagles with 82 total tackles in 2013 prior to those leg injuries and was seen as a leader-of-men from 2016 onwards, achieving two selections to the All-Academic MAC squad in his career.

As an undrafted free agent in 2018, Spearman received rookie minicamp invitations from the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, per The Times of Northwest Indiana.

Memphis Express (no players)

Orlando Apollos

TE Matt Weiser, Buffalo

NCAA Football: Nevada at Buffalo Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Mstt Weiser, standing at six-foot-five, 240 lbs., got one year to shine as the primary receiving option for the Buffalo Bulls at tight end, and he made it work, collecting 63 receptions, 625 yards and three touchdowns over 12 starts in 2015, his senior season.

Over his career, Weiser accumulated 92 receptions, 1,080 yards and eight touchdowns. He was a deep play threat, averaging 11.7 yards per reception over his career, including an astounding average of 19.1 yards per reception in his junior season.

As a pro, he was signed as a UDFA by the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017 and has spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bulls on preseason and practice squad rosters.

DL Izaah Burks Sr., Bowling Green

Izaah Burks, who stands at six-foot-four, 305 lbs., was part of the defensive line rotation for the Dino Babers-era Falcons, collecting 90 tackles, 4.5 sacks and three defended passes in 44 appearances, including 15 starts from 2012-2016.

He signed as a UDFA in 2017 with the Green Bay Packers as a member of the practice squad, before getting cut. Burks then signed with the New York Giants the following season as a preseason addition before also getting the axe. Burks signed with the Indoor Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers shortly after with plans to play in the 2019 season, but signed with the Apollos when they offered him as a free agent.

Salt Lake Stallions

RB Joel Bouagnon, Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois v South Florida Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images

There have been several sucessful runners to come out of DeKalb, and Joel Bouagnon is no different. The six-foot-two, 228 lb. running back out of Aurora, Illinois, set the pace for the Huskies rushing attack from 2013-2016.

Perhaps one of the more versatile offensive weapons to ever don the red and black, Bouagnon collected 2,192 rushing yards on 600 carries for 31 touchdowns over his career, while also tallying 44 receptions for 388 yards and three touchdowns. Bouagnon received multiple placements on the All-MAC offenses, including first-team All-MAC as a junior and second-team All-MAC as a senior.

In 2017, Bouagnon secured a place on the Chicago Bears, but was later placed on the waived/injured list. He signed a reserve/futures contract with the Green Bay Packers soon after, getting elevated to the practice squad. Bouagnon would also have stops with the Deytroit Lions and New York Jets’ practice squads. He was a member of the latter before getting picked up as a free agent for the AAF.

RB Branden Oliver, Buffalo

Buffalo v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Branden Oliver, standing at five-foot-eight, 208 lbs., was built to run around, through and between defenders.

He proved just as much in his four years at Buffalo, where from 2010-2013, he picked up 4,049 rushing yards (15th all-time in the MAC) on 866 yards and 33 touchdowns, as well as 655 receiving yards on 75 receptions. He led the MAC in rushing attempts (306), plays from scrimmage (344) and was second in the league in rushing yards (1,395) and top 10 in the NCAA in yards from scrimmage (1,760) in 2011.

Of the MAC athletes who ended up in the AAF, Oliver has perhaps the most NFL experience and success, getting picked up as a UDFA by the then-San Diego Chargers in 2014 and spending three seasons on the roster as a rotation piece. His rookie season was especially impressive, as Oliver finished with 582 yards on 160 attempts for three touchdowns on the ground and 271 yards for one touchdown on 36 receptions through the air.

Overall, Oliver had 1,182 total yards and four touchdowns on 281 total touches in the NFL.

San Antonio Commanders

QB Logan Woodside, Toledo

MAC Championship - Akron v Toledo Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

One of the more prolific passers to ever compete in the MAC, Logan Woodside was the lone MAC-affiliated QB to be selected in the AAF’s QB Draft, going in the third round to the San Antonio Commanders, where he has been competing for the starting spot. We don’t know yet as of publication if he’ll be the Day One starter, but if his collegiate career is any indication, he’ll be a great prospect.

The six-foot-two, 210 lb. quarterback was named 2017 MAC Offensive Player of the Year after a 3,882 yard, 28 touchdown season, leading the Rockets to the MAC Championship over in-state rival Akron in Detroit. The Rockets finished 11-2, including 7-1 in the MAC in the regular season in 2017, with losses only to Miami (FL) and Ohio. But his OPOY campaign looked average compared to his junior campaign, where he flung the ball for 4,129 yards and an NCAA-best 45 touchdowns on a 69.1 percent completion rating in 2016.

Woodside finished his college career with 10,514 yards on 759-of-1166 attempts for 93 touchdowns to only 25 interceptions, with multiple single-season records, including passing completions (2016 and 2017), pass completion percentage (2017), passing yards (2016 and 2017), passing yards per attempt (2016 and 2017, #1 all-time for a career in the MAC), passing touchdowns (2016 and 2017), pass efficiency rating (2016 and 2017) and total yards (2016 and 2017).

Woodside was drafted in the seventh round, 249th overall by the Cincinnatti Bengals in the 2018 NFL Draft, and was seen as a potential local project. He was cut by the Bengals and signed by the Tennesse Titans to their practice squad before eventually beng released.

OL Jovann Letuli, Akron

Akron Vs. Miami: In pictures Scott Warren/BaldMonkeyPhotos

A two-year starter out of JUCO, Letuli missed only one game in his Zips career, anchoring the line for 23 starts, seeing action with both the offensive line and special teams as part of the kicking setup.

Letuli stands at six-foot-five, 330 lbs., and was a dual-sport athlete at Akron, throwing discus for the track and field team. He has no professional experience prior to signing with San Antonio.

LB Jayrone Elliott, Toledo

NFL: Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Standing at six-foot-three, 240 lbs., Jayrone Elliott has the ability to play many positions on the front seven, an ability he’s shown over the course of his football career.

As a Rocket, Elliott spent his first three seasons as a defensive lineman before making a switch to defensive end as a senior, and collected 124 tackles, 22.5 tackles-for-loss, 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles over his career. In 2013, he was #1 in the MAC and #4 in the NCAA with five forced fumbles.

After getting signed by the Green Bay Packers as a UDFA in 2014, he was converted to a linebacker and was a reserve for three years, picking up 47 total tackles, seven tackles-for-loss, four sacks and an interception. He’s also spent time with the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.

San Diego Fleet

DB Jude Adjei-Barimah, Bowling Green

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Jude Adjei-Barimah, a five-foot-eleven, 200 lb. defensive back, played in 52 games for the BGSU Falcons, primarily as a reserve, from 2011-2014. A Columbus, Ohio native, Adjei-Barimah was born in Pordenone, Italy, moving with his parents to the U.S. when he was nine.

He collected 150 total tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks and five interceptions with 14 passes defended. He was primarily a ballhawk in his sophomore season, nabbing four interceptions (second in the MAC) in 2012, and improved upon that in his senior season, when he grabbed a lot of run. Although he only had one interception, Adjei-Barimah defended 11 passes (#9 in the MAC) in 2014 and picked up 82 tackles along with several forced fumbles.

As a pro, Adjei-Berimah signed as a UDFA in 2015 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He started seven games and made 14 apperances as a cornerback, totaling 41 tackles and a defended pass. His rookie production was somewhat similar in year two, as he collected 22 total tackles, one tackle-for-loss, two QB hits, one pass defended and a forced fumble in ten games (1 start). Adjei-Berimah hasn’t played professional football since the 2016 NFL season, after suffering an injury in the 2017 offseason.