The United Football League begins its second season on Saturday, September 18 with a day-night doubleheader. The season kickoff will feature a matchup of two returning franchises with new identities, as the Sacramento Mountain Lions travel to Rentschler Field to take on the Hartford Colonials (NESN, 2:30 PM ET). The day’s second game is the rematch of the inaugural UFL Championship Game, as the Florida Tuskers take on the Las Vegas Locomotives at Sam Boyd Stadium (HDNet, 11 PM ET).
The Omaha Nighthawks, the UFL’s first-ever expansion team, have a bye week and will make their debut September 24 at Rosenblatt Stadium.
IT’S ALL ABOUT ‘U’
The United Football League concluded a busy offseason of not only improving its product on the field, but improving it off the field as well.
The league’s digital media presence has increased rapidly, as more than 45,000 online followers represent a marked improvement from the 6,000-7,000 followers at the end of the 2009 Premiere season.
The league’s revamped Web site – www.ufl-football.com – has increased written content, photos and video, a new online store and a new agents’ portal.
As for the fans’ game day experience, those coming to UFL games will be treated to pregame festivities and halftime entertainment. And, as always, players in the UFL will be available for autographs following each game.
On the field, the league has done some tweaking to its rulebook to improve game play. In addition to 2009 rules changes such as giving both teams possession in overtime before a winner is declared and elimination of the tuck rule, some new rules for 2010 include expanding protection for defenseless players and the play being declared dead if the runner’s helmet comes off.
As for what to expect on the field, here is a look at some of the key demographic numbers from the 259 players on the initial 52-man rosters for each team:
- 120 players (46.3 percent) have played at least one regular-season game in the National Football League.
- 234 players (90.3 percent) have had some kind of NFL experience (regular season, practice squad, training camp, tryout, etc.)
- The average NFL career of a UFL player is 3.4 seasons.
- 92 players (35.5 percent) have UFL experience.
- 158 players (61.0 percent) finished their collegiate playing career at a Bowl Championship Series school.
- The average age of a UFL player is 26.8 years.
THREE TO WATCH
The improved talent on UFL rosters is undeniable. Here are three players to keep a close eye on as the 2010 season begins – one on offense, one on defense and one on special teams:
FLORIDA TUSKERS: Quarterback BROOKS BOLLINGER, the reigning UFL Most Valuable Player, returns to guide a Tuskers offense which led the UFL in 2009 in points and total yards… Ex-Florida Gator cornerback KEIWAN RATLIFF joins Florida following a six-year NFL career with four teams… Kicker NICK NOVAK was a late-training camp addition, and brings experience in both the NFL and NFL Europe.
HARTFORD COLONIALS: Running back ANDRE DIXON returns home after running for 1,093 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009 for the University of Connecticut… Safety RYAN GLASPER is playing in his home state following a two-year stint in the Canadian Football League… Collegiate special teams ace JASON CHERY excelled as a kickoff returner, punt blocker and gunner at Louisiana-Lafayette.
LAS VEGAS LOCOMOTIVES: ADAM BERGEN led all UFL tight ends in catches (16) in 2009… Middle linebacker EDGERTON HARTWELL is playing for his hometown Locos after a six-year NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons… Punter DANNY BAUGHER is back for a second season after leading the league in gross punting average (43.5) and net punting average (38.4) in 2009.
OMAHA NIGHTHAWKS: Quarterback JEFF GARCIA is starting his 17th professional season in his third pro league… Linebacker CATO JUNE brings seven seasons of NFL experience with him to the Nighthawks… Return specialist WILLIE ANDREWS led the UFL in both kickoff return (22.1) and punt return (12.6) average in 2009.
SACRAMENTO MOUNTAIN LIONS: Quarterback DAUNTE CULPEPPER begins his 12th professional season, and will make his first opening-day start in four years… Linebacker DONTARRIOUS THOMAS returns after leading the franchise in tackles last fall with 53… Kicker FABRIZIO SCACCIA connected on a 68-yard field goal in his semi-pro playing career.
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NOTES: This is the first game for both franchises under their new monikers… Hartford quarterback JOSH MCCOWN will make his first professional start since December 23, 2007… Four players on Hartford’s roster played at the University of Connecticut – running back ANDRE DIXON, defensive end JULIUS WILLIAMS, linebacker DANNY LANSANAH and center/guard KEITH GRAY… McCown and linebackers TANK DANIELS and FRANTZ JOSEPH are the Colonials’ 2010 captains… Of the 52 players on the Colonials’ roster, only nine played for the then-New York Sentinels in 2009… Mountain Lions quarterback DAUNTE CULPEPPER begins his 12th professional season, his first in the UFL… Sacramento boasts the 2009 UFL rushing yards leader (running back CORY ROSS, 464 yards) and receiving yards leader (wide receiver TAYE BIDDLE, 453 yards, with the Florida Tuskers)… The then-California Redwoods led the UFL in 2009 in both rushing defense (520 yards in six games) and rushing offense (692 yards in six games).
NOTES: Tuskers head coach JAY GRUDEN makes his outdoor professional football head coaching debut after guiding the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators for nine seasons (1998-2001, 2004-08)… Florida quarterback BROOKS BOLLINGER (121-for-179, 1,518 yards, 14 touchdowns, three interceptions) was the only UFL quarterback to start every game in 2009… Tuskers defensive end PATRICK CHUKWURAH tied for the league lead in sacks last year with three… Florida safety JEROME CARTER tied for the UFL lead in interceptions with two… The Tuskers have yet to lose a regular-season game, going 6-0 in 2009 before losing to Las Vegas in the championship game… Locos head coach JIM FASSEL is 9-4 all-time on opening day, including 1-0 in the UFL… Las Vegas defensive end ERIC HENDERSON tied for the league lead in sacks last year with three… Locos defensive backs TREY YOUNG and NICK TURNBULL both had two interceptions in 2009, tied for the UFL lead… Las Vegas’ special teams had the only three blocked punts in the league in 2009… Of the Locos’ 52-player roster, 29 players were with the team last fall… In their three meetings in 2009, Florida and Las Vegas combined for 2,116 total offensive yards.