Minicamp Recap: DC Defenders
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The inaugural DC Defenders XFL minicamp is in the books following three weeks of team activities at Cole Field House on the campus of the University of Maryland.
What began as 70 individual players looking to stand out ended with a strong nucleus of 50 players all with the same goal.
As the Defenders get ready for the holiday break and then a three-week training camp in Houston, Texas with the seven other XFL teams, lets take stock of who stood out.
In football, pain is a privilege. We're training for a twelve-round, heavyweight donnybrook with no freakin' gloves and we're fighting for something that has value beyond cost.
Defenders Minicamp Recap
Quarterbacks: The Defenders have not one, but two larger-than-life QBs that could make a major difference in 2020. Cardale Jones is the XFL's most identifiable player, and it did not take long for him to lead the way, with his teammates gravitating to his natural leadership. Former University of Buffalo gunslinger Tyree Jackson, who stands a towering 6-7, had a very sharp minicamp, and with an offensive innovator like head coach Pep Hamilton running the show, the Defenders can get very creative under center. Former JMU Duke quarterback Vad Lee also had a solid three weeks and throws a very nice ball.
Running Backs: Speed and power. That is what the Defenders backfield is going to be made up of in 2020. Former SDSU Aztec star Donnel Pumphrey, the NCAA all-time leader in rushing yards, will bring the speed, and lots of it. Jhurell Pressley and Khalid Abdullah, both agile but bruising backs, will provide the power. Expect the backfield to be heavily involved in the passing game as well.
Wide Receivers: The quarterbacks are going to have plenty of options when the XFL regular season arrives. Eli Rogers looks to be not only the Defenders No. 1 receiver but arguably one of the best wideouts in the XFL. Former Penn State star DeAndre Thompkins was incredibly impressive at minicamp, and with his size and speed, he should be in a starting role on offense. Also standing out was Max McCaffrey, who seemingly caught every pass headed his way and showed a level of athleticism you'd expect from someone with his genetics. Unheralded former D-II quarterback Tyler Palka has the size, speed and hands to make an impact as well.
Tight Ends: The most impressive pass-catcher of Defenders minicamp was undoubtedly Bowie State product Khari Lee. The 6-4, 235-pound TE looked like a matchup nightmare with the size, speed and agility to get open and create yards after the catch.
Offensive Line: Given the contact limitations, it's tough to get a great read on the play of the offensive line this early in the process. That being said, Jordan Morgan, Jon Toth and Logan Tuley-Tillman stood out when they could. It also goes without saying that De'Ondre Wesley, at 6-7 and 335 pounds, might be the largest player in the XFL.
Defensive Line: The interior line was a dominant force in minicamp. Defensive tackles Tracy Sprinkle and Kristjan Sokoli stood out on a constant basis. Defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Tavaris Barnes had excellent camps as well. The level of athleticism possessed by the defensive line is going to make an impact early and often.
Linebackers: It should not come as a huge shock to learn that Scooby Wright has emerged as the vocal leader of the front seven. The former All-American is a brilliantly smart player who is always near the ball. He is starting to form a strong relationship with fellow linebacker Koa Farmer. On the outside, KeShun Freeman is a name to watch. he's a physical specimen who is a tough 1-on-1 matchup for any lineman or blocking back.
Cornerbacks: It's hard to argue that anyone, regardless of position, had a better minicamp than Reggie Cole. The two-time Division II national champion made big play after big play, but also showed the character and leadership needed to build team chemistry. Former Tar Heel Desmond Lawrence also expects to be on the field a lot for the Defenders. He's athletic and plays with a lot of savvy. There's also Elijah Campbell and Carlos Merritt, who are going to fill up the highlight reel with a wide variety of bone-crushing hits.
Safeties: Former NFL first-round draft pick Matt Elam has a renewed focus and passion for football, and it's not hard to see it on the field. The 28-year-old was everywhere. In skill drills, conditioning exercises and team activities, Elam always stood out. Another standout safety from minicamp? Former Broncos safety Rahim Moore. Trying to get behind the Defenders' last line of defense is not going to be an easy task.
Special Teams: Both the punting and kicking responsibilities will be held by former Northwestern Wildcat Hunter Niswander. The 6-4 Ohio native showed off a big leg at minicamp, hitting field goals from well beyond 45 yards.
Catch up on all the highlights from each minicamp: