Friday the we witnessed the first XFL Summer Showcase in Dallas, but Saturday was Houston’s time in the limelight. TDECU Stadium, home of the UH Cougars and future XFL Houston was the location of this historic event.
Summer Showcase Rosters
The Summer Showcase kicked off at 11:30am, where we were received an official roster list and given access to a conference area as well as full access to the field.
We had received some word shortly after posting the rosters that were handed out, that they had slightly differed from the one that was posted by the official Twitter account of the XFL. From what we understand, all of the rosters are subject to change, and in this circumstance it sounds like travel logistics may have come into play.
Although the doors opened at 11:30, the event officially kicked off bright and early at 9am. The event hosted 100 potential players, half offense and the other defense. There were multiple drills occurring at the same time, offense at one end zone and defense at the other. These were your typical combine type activities; 40 yard dash, Broad Jump, 3 Cone Drill, etc. Unfortunately, we missed the 7 on 7 practice as that occurred during the Chalk Talk with Oliver Luck and XFL Houston Head Coach, June Jones.
It was a great day in Houston, a bit humid, but nothing out of the ordinary and not a rain cloud in sight. While we were on the field we saw Coach Jones and CEO/Commissioner speaking to the players, coaching them and just having fun. There were staff members from each franchise, but Jones was the only Head Coach represented at this event.
The Showcase was split into four areas:
QB: Passing Accuracy, Arm Strength, and Football IQ
RG: Balance, Vision and Acceleration
WR: Catching Ability, Athleticism, and Body Control
TE: Short-Area Quickness, Blocking Ability, and Pass Catching
OL/DL: Body & Foot Quickness, Play Strength, and Overall Athetic Ability
LB: Instinct Awareness, Strength & Point of Attack, and Burst of Acelleration
DB: Reaction Quickness, Play Speed, and Burt to Close
Innovative testing with wearable technology to measure key football and position-specifc movements; including acceleration and deceleration.
Position-specific exercises designed to demonstrate performance against an opponent.
Game simulation drills without linemen to test football instincts.
During the Showcase there were two standouts that jumped out to me.
On the offense we had former BYU QB, Tanner Mangum. His arm looked very strong, and he had very good ball control. He was throwing long and short, and hitting his target almost 100% of the time. The original roster sheet showed Zach Mettenberger and Brandon Silvers, two names that did not appear on the list posted by the XFL on Twitter, and we can confirm that we did not seem either of them at the event.
Defensively, Safety Shaquille Lewis stood out among the rest for me. He was having fun out there, getting the other guys into it, and was solid in all of his activities. Great speed, great attitude, and I hope we see him on the field next February.
The Chalk Talk – Hosted by Oliver Luck and Coach June Jones
At 1pm everyone moved inside to attend the Chalk Talk hosted by Oliver Luck, which was followed by a Q&A with Coach June Jones. Jones did not attend the Chalk Talk immediately, instead staying on the field to monitor 7 on 7 practice.
The Chalk Talk event was very similar to what was shown at The Spring League in Austin back in March. Luck started off speaking about having Vince McMahon calling him last April to talk about joining the new league. At first Luck was apprehensive, but McMahon was able to convince him to come aboard by essentially giving him full control to build the league correctly. At the same time, Luck was given the directive to re-imagine football.
While looking at how to approach this, Luck decided to look at what footballs fans love and hate about the sport. Mentioning that fans love speed and hate the length and amount of breaks in a game. They explained their testing by breaking down their four key focus areas.
Minimize idle time/Speed up the Game
Increase meaningful action
Luck admitted that the league has done more for the first two pillars and still have a lot of work until they fully re-imagine the game. He also mentioned that everything being discussed and shown on the field is still in testing, but very close to what the final product will be.
Luck touched on a few notable changes. First, he started off speaking about having a running game clock throughout the game, except the last two minutes of each half. He thinks this will help get teams back into the game easier, specifically calling this the “Come Back Period”.
Then he touched on having a 25 second play clock, which would force faster game-play. He said with this change, the players would need to better conditioned and the coaches would need to be better prepared.
The last thing he mentioned was that rather than having 6 timeouts per game, the XFL would have 4 timeouts for each team. Luck says this will lead to more strategic plays from the coaches.
Q&A w/ Coach June Jones
Coach Jones came out and joked that with the tired extra points in place he plans on going for three every time.
He opened up the floor for questions, and right out the gate he was asked if he still plans on utilizing the “Run and Gun” style. Jones responded by saying that’s the only style he knows, and he has evolved it since he started using it. Also mentioning that the XFL wants to be a fast high scoring game and the run and gun style will bring that to the league.
Jones was then asked what sets the XFL apart from other secondary leagues that have tried to enter the spring market, and how do they plan on staying sustainable. Coach answered with one word, money. Everyone chuckled. Jones went on to talk about how the AAF rushed to try and beat the XFL to market, which was ultimately their demise.
He was asked since he is both Head Coach and General Manager if there was a certain type of player that he wants to build the team around. He spoke about bringing on Chris Miller and Will Lewis to help find those players, but mentioned that he will have a lot of influence on who they bring in. Jones went on to say you cannot win a game without a proper QB, Long-snapper and kicker.
The conversation turned to how the NFL looks at the XFL. He was asked if the NFL plans on using the new league as a testing ground for new rules. Jones went on to say that you’d have to ask the NFL, and says he doesn’t think about them anymore and hopes to beat them in one way in the near future.
Someone asked if the players for each team would be regional, similar to how the Alliance structures it’s teams. He went on to talk about the XFL Draft, stating that all players will come from the draft and it will be happening in early October. Luck chimed in and said of the 800 players participating in the XFL Summer Showcase, roughly 300 will be signed. The signings will start after the last event in St. Louis. Luck also said, they plan on having a little over 1000 players available for the draft. He said that the rest of the players would be signed as the NFL and CFL starts making their cuts. Luck also mentioned the potential of having collegiate athletes jump over.
Now that Luck was on the stage again, he was asked how the reaction to the new rules have been. He joked that “Everyone loves them, and there hasn’t been any complaints”. He then went on to tell a story about his father working for Dupont where they allocated 10% of their revenue to research and development. Noting that RND isn’t generally done in the game of football. He believes that this is going to help the league develop a good rule-set that fans will enjoy.
Luck was also asked about Team 9, which he mentioned he also utilized back in his days during NFL Europe. Team 9 would never play a game, but would practice daily as if they were any other team in the league. They would be tapped if a team has an injury and needs to fill a role. The team would act as a supplementary roster for the rest of the league.
Jones and Luck wrapped up the event by thanking everyone for attending and that they hope tee see everyone in the stands next February. They, among many other XFL Staffers, were available for photographs afterwards.
The attendees were a mix of media and season ticket holders, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the number of people there. There was easily over 100 non-media folks, all of which seemed to be having a blast. I suggest if you live in any of the remaining six cities, definitely make it a point to attend. You can see images from the event below, and we’ll be compiling all of the footage we took at the event which should be ready for the next episode of “This Week in the XFL” this Friday.