Indianapolis Season Preview: Experienced Staff Lead Young Red Devils in Inaugural Season
From the stadium they call The 9th Circle, the Indianapolis Red Devils are looking to make it hell on Earth for the old guard of the SFL. One of two expansion teams in the Central Division, there are a lot of unknowns with this team and, to an extent, the division itself.
A major part of the newly minted Red Devils that certainly isn’t an unknown to the league is team owner and head coach James Richards. James has both experience in the coaching ranks with the likes of Baltimore and division rival St. Louis as well as a stint as a consultant with Alaska before successfully winning a bid for the expansion team. James Richards has developed a reputation as an innovator with the SFL which has people around the league excited to see what he has built in the Circle City.
Offense – Fire and Brimstone
The fire and brimstone is most definitely on the offensive side of the ball in year 1. Watching this unit at preseason camp, you immediately are impressed by their size. Both wide receivers Dan Daly and Eli McCormick tower at 6’5″ and showcase some impressive speed for their size.
Alongside Daly and McCormick is Kyrie Tate at tight end. With Tate, we see the trend continue as he sits at 6’6″. A very physical player, his background as a college basketball player at Oregon has obviously added to his agility and footwork. In the redzone, this team should be fun to watch. With three legitimate jump ball and box out receivers, you may be hard pressed to find this offense settling for the ground and pound approach. Wide sets with Tate moving inside and out with Daly and McCormick should provide plenty of mismatches.
Throwing to these big targets will be an equally imposing figure in Nathan Lee. Lee won’t be having any trouble looking over the line as he adds to the land of giants at a cool 6’5″. Big and strong, he will be difficult to take down both because of his size and his proven ability to get the ball out quickly. Lee has been impressive in camp so far, making smart reads and has limited turnovers.
Regarded as the face of the young franchise and star player much of the success of this unit will depend on his decision making. How he and his receivers gel during camp and preseason will be telling as to how this offense will come together.
Matthew Mitchell will be alongside Lee in the backfield as the presumed lead running back. With a big emphasis anticipated in the pass game, it will be interesting to see how he is utilized. With obvious deep ball threats in Daly and McCormick, one would expect to see Mitchell being used in the pass game himself on delayed and trailing wheel routes. The run game either will help to dictate the success of the passing game or be a nice side dish. If the offensive line proves to have issues giving Lee time, Mitchell may find himself kept inside on blocking duty.
Conclusion: This is a very strong unit and is expected to dictate most of the success of the team. It may be forced to keep Indy in games as its young defense comes of age. Mistake free football will be key. You may be looking at the leading passing offense in the league with a surprise MVP candidate in Nathan Lee.
MVP: QB Nathan Lee – 4,400 yds, 32 TDs, 16 Ints
Defense – Unknown Potential
Welcome to the world of expansion football defense. Not a lot is known about this unit except it’s young, has enviable size, and sports a pair of brothers at the cornerback positions. Grant Butler has been a standout so far in camp. The first year outside linebacker has shown a great motor with a natural ability to find the ball carrier. It’s early, but he has already shown great promise, showing up all over the field.
Outside of Butler, there has been a real emphasis on the secondary. It looks like Indy will come out of camp with three legitimate starting safeties in free safeties Paul Blake and Earnest Claiborne alongside strong safety Paul Connolley hailing from Glasgow, Scotland. With versatility showing in the safety position this could potentially allow first time defensive coordinator, Coach RD, to bring Connolley in as a hybrid LB with plus coverage skills. Blake and Earnest allow for depth making it much easier to deal with tough tight end match-ups without giving a lot in the the secondary.
“The defense looks good so far. We continue to run tests and different schemes but I’m very confident that we will be a very good defensive team” assessed Coach RD on the progress during camp with his young group.
First year corner and younger Vetack brother, Mike Vetack, gave us his first impression of Indy camp. “Coach is really pushing us and doing everything he can to get us ready for Week One. Every day we just keep working on that dream.”
Conclusion: This unit’s maturation will end up being the difference between a playoff berth or a season full of lessons learned for Indy. At least one household name should come out of this group but it’s anybody’s guess as to who it could be.
MVP: OLB Grant Butler 117 tkls 6 sacks 1 Int
Season Predictions – Offense Leads the Way to Playoff Berth
The early marketing coming out of Indy has been #SpeakoftheDevil. All season, I believe that will be ringing true. The offense will put on a show and the defense will keep games close both with timely turnovers and timely rookie mistakes.
When asked how he thought camp was going, Owner/Head Coach James Richards had this to say:
“I like how we are progressing. Anytime you change things radically from one year to another there are going to be kinks to work out. Luckily, we have a very bright D coordinator (Coach RD) who has already run 100+ sims working on the defense. I definitely think we will be better than a lot of people think”.
Look for these Red Devils to make a push for a last playoff spot, surprising some. The SFL will most certainly be speaking of one Red Devil as Nathan Lee pushes established stars for a rookie MVP award.
Record: 7-5 with a playoff berth
Team MVP: QB Nathan Lee – Rookie of the Year