“TALLAHASSEE IS SCARY.” –Scout Jerry Pai (Desperados), SFL Scout
Okay, here we go. I know this is the one we’ve all be waiting for, as per usual the main event is the Tallahassee Pride. Starting with the Big Cat, the Father of the Pride, the man himself, Frank Goodin. This man has many talents, being the Owner, Chairman of the Board, General Manager, Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and Scout. Leading this team since Season 5, Frank is a universally respected APF mind, who has developed quite the reputation for pushing the league forward with his graphic and documentary skills, as well as utilizing his previous knowledge of running a team from the old Gridiron League.
This season, Goodin opted to bring back three veterans in quarterback Christian Christiansen, receiver Ken Gossett, and safety Alex Bond. Additionally, he promoted the young mind of the aforementioned Alex Bond to offensive coordinator. The Pride have opted for one of the most unique roster builds in the entire league by highly investing in a quarterback, receiver, safety, and two defensive tackles. Forming the outer nucleus of the team is a runningback, fullback, second receiver, two defensive ends, another safety, and a cornerback.
“We’re gonna score more than our opponents.” –Alex Bond, Offensive Coordinator, Strong Safety
This offense is almost universally accepted as being one of the best in the league this season. Ironically coordinated by the safety and next great APF mind Alex Bond, he is taking over what was already an extremely capable attack. In light of the new progression system, Bond has opted to continue to roll with a passing unit that includes an elite quarterback and two receivers. However, the Pride have moved from a tight end being their X-factor, to a fullback, in order to more support for the new running back Jaye Eniola, in what is widely expected to be a devastating rush attack in line with the Tallahassee teams of yore.
Quarterbacking the Pride is the most complete young quarterback in the game, Christian Christiansen. The pocket passer was one of the most efficient quarterbacks last season and is returning to similar form, despite the new cap limitations, which led some to argue that he might be “the best” quarterback in the game and is definitely a potential MVP candidate. With his new toys on the perimeter, the most gifted passer around is expected to lead a dangerous passing attack that will be among the most efficient and lethal in the league.
Those weapons are expected to be the best 1-2 punch in the league. This duo is led by last year’s rookie of the year candidate Ken Gossett, an absolute athletic freak of a chain-mover that has a knack for piling up large amounts of yardage. This man is coming into this year in better shape than he has ever been in and is poised for a larger role in Alex Bond’s new offense. Complimenting Gossett and the downfield running game is fellow speed demon, Duke Wilson, who will be one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league, especially with how many dangerous weapons are on the offense.
Now that for that running game. Eniola will be replacing the former Pride member J. Calvin Kim and will encompass a largely similar role as a downfield runner and screen receiver. The power runner is paired with the do-it-all fullback Caleb Connelly whose versatility will lend itself in both the pass and run game. His run blocking will give the already capable Eniola a 6th lineman to get to the second level on inside runs and set the edge on outside runs. Meanwhile, the sneaky quick FB has hands that will lend itself in the pass game as an underneath route runner and safety valve for Christiansen.
Alright now that we’ve got the specs out of the way, I’m going to dedicate this paragraph to Kenny G right here. Consider this a fair warning to the rest of the league, Gossett is individually the most complete receiver in the new cap era and, in the Season 10 version of the Tallahassee offense, will be the most dominating receiver in the SFL. There, you heard it here first. By Week 4, this will not even be a controversial statement. He will be in the Offensive Player of the Year conversation as the league’s preeminent deep threat and most reliable overall offensive weapon.
“There’s a method to the madness.” –Frank Goodin, the Meanest of Kitties
Frank Goodin is championing one of the most innovative and unique defensive builds in the league, carrying a full defensive line and a near-full backend. The returning veteran and, yes, offensive coordinator, Alex Bond will be captaining this young and hungry defense. The defensive line is already by far the scariest in the league with the ability to collapse the pocket at a moment’s notice. This means running backs will need to instantaneously find a hole to have a chance of even getting back to the line of scrimmage and vertical passing games will likely struggle, especially with the presence of Alex Bond, rookie safety Anthony Wyo, and fellow rookie cornerback Michael Sprous.
The pride and joy of Goodin’s monster is the hog mollies of the inner trenches. The six and a half foot 300+ pound behemoth of Mike “Fats” Johnson is manning that central role with fellow big man Hunter Norwood. On the edge are Kevin Bane and Taqwuan Hale, who both fit the athletic profile for the end positions at around 6-4 and 280 pounds with a technical refinement of pass-rushing moves. This unit will step into the season as a great position group and will uniquely become more dominant as the season moves on because of their own natural progression and the lack of their opponent’s position groups improving to alongside them, as no team across the entire SFL carries a star offensive lineman. This means that not only is the Tallahassee defensive line the best in the league right now, but that it will continue to become better at an exponential and unmatched rate.
On the backend is a pair of safeties and a capable boundary corner. These men will cause major problems as a unit designed to keep plays underneath them. Combined with the demand of the defensive line for offenses to make aggressive and quick decisions, the athletic and quick twitch members of this Tallahassee Pride secondary will be notorious for forcing fumbles on rattled running backs and interceptions on flabby armed quarterbacks.
“Blood will be spilled and souls will be taken over here in the East.” –Frank Goodin
“Someone came up and asked me about all these international games we’ll be playing. I told them I hadn’t renewed my passport.” –Christian Christiansen, Tallahassee Quarterback and Local Discord Personality
Yes, the schedule breakdown demanded two quotes because this one ought to be pretty quick. 12-0. Yup. Did you expect me to say anything else? C’mon. It’s the Tallahassee Pride. It’s Frank Goodin. It’s Alex Bond. What did you expect was going to be here?
Conference games will be more important than ever under the new playoff structure that heavily relies on inter-conference tiebreakers. In the murderer’s row of the Eastern Conference, everyone is expected to have a rough slate. Going down the line, the season is bookended with games versus the Carolina Skyhawks and the Pride then get the Atlanta Storm in Weeks 2 and 11 in what should be interesting draws after Atlanta sent Tallahassee packing early in a freak playoff showing in Season 9’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. Those games will be getting special attention, of course. Weeks 3 and 7 will have major playoff implications as Tallahassee gets Queen City in what should be primetime games. Even though people see two giants who will probably split the series, the Pride’s receivers match up too well with the Corsairs’ generic corners and it will be tough for newly-acquired running back Ash Odom to find consistent running room with that ferocious defensive line. Those two factors combined with my homerism lead me to believe it will enough to overcome Queen City – twice. The Tallahassee Pride also get the London Knights twice this season, a new expansion team. A potential threat with their highly rated running back, I feel they run into the Queen City trap as well – and Frank Goodin is roaming the sidelines. He’ll make sure to give London their “Welcome to the SFL” moment if they haven’t received it by then. Finally, the Pride get the team that no one expected to be placed in the Eastern Conference, the defending champion Mexico City Aztecs. The Tallahassee front four smell blood around Ray Bentley in the new progression system. The Pride will challenge him and the rest of a championship roster that was largely kept together, in what Tallahassee quarterback Christian Christiansen says he hopes to be a “passing of the torch” kind of game. These games are expected to be extremely competitive and wildly entertaining with any one of them potentially deciding the entire league’s playoff fate.
Thus far into the offseason the two loudest cities have been Tallahassee and Vancouver and they will get the chance to do battle Week 4 in Primetime. In what will likely be an interesting week leading up to the game and what I’m expecting to be a rather “festive” gameday chat, it should be one of the most hyped games of the early season. However, I have trouble seeing a real mismatch that benefits the Legion, while I can easily point towards the Tallahassee passing attack and the energetic defensive line as being units that will give “The ‘Couve” massive trouble. No matter which way this game goes, it hopefully won’t be the last. Defensive end Taquan Hale in particularly is looking forward to “beginning our inter-conference rivalry with The Vancouver Legion” and matching up against his fellow Washington Husky in Tristan Carr, a tight end in the Blue and White of Vancouver. The other non-conference game is with a surprisingly already well-established rival in the Chicago Wildcats. After losing in the championship to Mexico City, they will certainly be looking for blood, but that might not be their greatest motivation with former Pride members in second year Wildcat QB E.T. King and first year Wildcat RB J. Calvin Kim, now forming their backfield. The coming home game to JCK could be a rude awakening running into that Purple Wall of the Tallahassee defensive line.
I mean, hypothetically, the team could lose focus and drop one or two there, but this team is the best team in the league and it’s hard to predict which games those might be. Queen City has a very capable build that might aerially match up well with Tallahassee and Mexico City and Atlanta have builds that can challenge the Pride.
“No point spread is large enough people. Tallahassee will be too fast, too big, and too jacked up.” –Anthony Wyo, Quotelord
The Tallahassee Pride figure to be placed in lots of games that will hold significant meaning in one way or another this season. The schedule could, at the end of the season or even the beginning, be considered among the toughest in the entire league. However, I feel this is the team making enough safe and risky moves to make a significant push towards being one of the highest seeds in the playoffs. Kenny probably puts it best when saying “first priority is a top 2 [seed]”, given the advantages of the home field, which can be very useful in the playoffs, and avoiding the wildcard round. My final prediction is 12-0, although other, more qualified members of the SFL community like the Head Honcho Frank Goodin likely sees beyond the homerism and sees “improvement” in the regular season and a potential ten win season along the way.
Of course, no journey ends in the regular season. I know, I know, I’ve been avoiding the elephant in the room with the historical playoff struggles of the Pride, but Taqwuan Hale’s analysis rings especially true here:
“What I feel has gone under the radar is the fact there are only 3 returning players from last season’s campaign. The coaching staff did a great job this season of saying, ‘This is what we want the team to look like’ and then finding the right people to fit those roles.”
This is a new team built with new players that no team in the league is currently able to match personnel wise. This team is being lead by some of the most feared minds in the game with Frank Goodin and Alex Bond and that spells trouble for the rest of the SFL.
|2||Vs. Atlanta||W 38-31|
|3||Vs. Queen City||W 45-28|
|6||Vs. Mexico City||W 34-24|
|7||@Queen City||W 41-38|
|8||Vs. London||W 38-20|
|9||Vs. Chicago||W 43-33|
|10||@Mexico City||W 28-21|
|12||Vs. Carolina||W 45-20|