Coach: Dennis Erickson
In all honesty when Salt Lake City was selected to host an AAF team, the first thing I thought was, “Why?” I desperately wanted to be proven wrong, but from the get go I thought that this was the worst location in the league and shouldn’t have been considered- little less awarded a team. Not only is Utah not considered a hotbed of football, there’s a whole other issue of concessions and beer sales. I laughed when the city was originally floated as a founding team, because I felt that there was just too many other cities that were passionate about the sport that’d do a better job supporting this team- and unfortunately I was right- in a very bad way.
Salt Lake played in Utah’s Rice-Eccles outdoor stadium starting in February. The stadium did little to promote the team compared to other venues. Sure they had the outdoor banners (that long after the team left they still had up), but they didn’t even bother with trying to do anything with the end zones or adding a bit of flair to it. It still had the Utah Utes logo all over the field.
Dennis Erickson fresh off retirement returned to the game with Randy Mueller as his GM. It was a complimentary pairing as they had worked together in Seattle during the 90s. Erickson nabbed some football veterans to his staff including Donnie Henderson (DC), Michael Gray (DL), and Ron Zook (ST/DB).
The Stallions name was chosen because there were so many wild horses in and around the SLC region when it was discovered. The name also held significance because of all the land speed records that are set at the Bonneville Flats. The uniforms were really nice. A good color composition especially with that powder blue/ blue, the colors were chosen to represent the aspects of Utah’s geography in the region with the Wasatch mountain range.
The team had some interesting names to lure fans in, but Matt Asiata and Dres Anderson stuck out more than any other on this roster, before the team entered the preseason.
The Stallions’ offensive potential was doomed out of the gate by a series of bad luck injuries. Josh Woodrum was the team’s pick in the QB Draft. They’d come back and select BJ Daniels and Austin Allen.
Daniels had an excellent camp, and was on his way to being the starter over Woodrum, before a freak injury during the preseason game, ended his season. Woodrum stepped back in and actually finished as the league’s 4th rated quarterback. In 7 games he was second in completions (146), PCT (64.3), and 3rd in attempts (227), while throwing for 1,449 yards, and 6 TDs to 8 interceptions. Austin Allen started a game, and threw for 120 yards. The passing offense finished in 6th place.
Rushing offense was just below average. Matt Asiata was injured for a good portion of the season so they relied on the legs of Joel Bouagnon to lead the team. He respectively churned up 360 yards and 6 TDs to lead the team. Branden Oliver chipped in another 210 yards on 54 carries. Terrell Newby was a 3rd down valve, rushing 17 times for 39 yards and leading the ‘backs with 13 catches for 111 yards. From there it was Terron Ward (86 yards), and Matt Asiata (10 yards) as far as production was concerned.
The receiving corps was also hit by injuries as Dres Anderson only saw action in one game. That’s fine as De’Mornay Pierson-El hogged the receptions boasting 36 catches for 414 yards and a TD. A slippery one, he forced 9 missed tackles on the year and was second in yardage after the catch. Adonis Jennings was next with 17 for 210. Outside of that the receiving corps slipped off production-wise at this point as most of the targets were going to the tight end group. Kenny Bell made 12 catches for 97 yards, Brian Tyms checked in with 11 for 82, and Jordan Leslie had 10 for 71. Alarmingly the wide receiver group would only account for TWO touchdowns on the season as Pierson-El and Jordan Leslie both grabbed one a piece.
Salt Lake really had the best tight ends in the AAF. From a stand point of production they had Nick Truesdell (24 receptions for 269 yards and a team leading 3 TD catches)- best at the position in the league. Then you had Anthony Denham right behind Nick with another 18 receptions (179 yards and a TD). Austin Traylor saw only 7 targets on the season, but was used more as a blocker.
The offensive line was pretty stout, allowing 15 sacks on the season, tied for second. The team’s overall average total yardage was 286.2- which ranked 6th. A touchdown deficient team, Salt Lake frequently shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, fumbling a baffling 17 times (losing 9 of them), while being intercepted 9 times. On top of that the team ranked 6th in 3rd down percentage, converting a meager 31 percent.
(4-3) Salt Lake City’s defense was outstanding finishing second overall. Yielding only 291 yards a game, the Stallions were stout against the run allowing a league low 72.9 yards per game, and it wasn’t even close, as second place was well over 20 yards behind them. While SLC’s secondary was middle of the road giving up 218.1 yards per game, they were 3rd in points allowed giving up a stingy 17.9 points. On the season, the defense only created 10 turnovers, but 3rd down defense was stellar sitting at 35/113 or just 30% on the year (2nd). The Stallions front 8 was thoroughly frustrating overall as they led the league with 24 sacks on the year.
Along the defensive line the Stallions featured Karter Schult as an edge rusher. Starting in 8 games, Karter had 31 total tackles and 7 sacks (2nd in the AAF). Sealver Siliga at the other DT would kick out to nose when needed. The space eater clocked in at 6-2, 345 and had 19 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. Mike Purcell was also another big guy at DT. He led the defensive linemen with 42 total tackles and 3 sacks. Tenny Palepoi started all 8 games and had 22 total stops and 3.5 sacks also at DT. Chris Odom had 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Tanner Balderree, Darius Hamilton, Tuni Kanuch, Handsome Tanielu, and Eddie Wilson were also in the trenches for SLC. The Stallions’ line was the most feared, well coached, and put together group in the league.
The linebacking crew of the Stallions were heat seeking missles. The indefatigable Greer Martini had 55 tackles, a sack and a pick. Trevor Reilly from the other side had 44 tackles and a sack. Gionni Paul despite starting just 5 games had 44 total tackles and .5 sacks. Luke Carrezola had some bright moments with 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks, while Josh Banderas, Gionni Paul, Ty Schwab, John Timu, Ed Shockley and Anthony Williams saw limited time coming off the bench.
The secondary itself was pretty decent. Although they didn’t get many interceptions, the back 4 were underrated. Former 3rd round pick of the Dolphins, Will Davis had 26 total tackles, an interception, and 2 fumble recoveries. Henre’ Tolliver started 3 games and had a fumble recovery and 19 total tackles. Cody Brown had an interception and 40 tackles. Steve Williams – former Chargers pick had a pick and 10 tackles playing in 7 contests. CJ Smith had a solid year. The 2 year NFL vet and ND State alum had 28 tackles and a pick. Finally Micah Hannemann in the secondary at safety posted 22 tackles. Along the way Jeremiah Johnson, Brandon Shippen, Jordan Sterns, Ciante Evans, and Chaceller James all helped out on defense.
Taylor Bertolet won the kicking job late in camp and finish 9 of 14 on the season for 29 points. He’d also kick at 54 yard field goal during the process- tying for the second longest in league history.
Austin Rehkow out of Idaho posted 40 punts on the season for 1,803 yards (45.1 yards per punt) with a long of 65 yards. He had 2 touchbacks and 12 dropped within the 20. The coverage was decent as Rehkow finished with a 39.6 net average.
Sam Mobley was featured on punt returns. He had 11 of them for 96 yards with a long of 30.
The Stallions had the worst attendance in the league. Granted, SLC’s first home game was 3 games into the season, (which seems a bit stupid for an 8 team league in an inaugural season,) the Stallions were only able to muster a paltry 10,412 to the game- a league low to that date in attendance. Temperature probably played a part in it. On that day, (according to Accuweather,) the temperature was a high of 36 and a low of 19. By that point the team was already 0-2 and facing the Arizona Hotshots again for the second time in the season.
After beating the Hotshots at home for their first win, the Stallions hosted the Orlando Apollos. Despite putting up a titanic defensive effort, the Stallions lost in a snowstorm in front of 9,302 patrons. A Week 5 heart breaker versus the Fleet put the team at 1-4 entering a Week 6 home contest against the Memphis Express. -A season low 8,150 showed up to watch the Stallions win that second game.
The Stallions let the Commanders escape their wrath in Week 7, but the attendance numbers rebounded only slightly to 8,405 in Week 8. In that final game the Stallions kept their slim playoff hopes alive as they won a turnover trade-off with the Fleet in a defensive fun fest. Week 10 would’ve been their last home game of the year against the San Antonio Commanders- but the league had long folded by then.
As recounted previously, Salt Lake City had the worst attendance in the AAF. A total of 36,269 was recorded for 4 home games- an overall average of just 9,067. (By comparison, the Apollos played only 3 home games and had 58,943 show up.)
The Stallions team trademark was really their stubborn defense and quality tight ends. On the flip side the Stallions were the team most bit by the injury bug as 12 players finished on IR including starters Dres Anderson, Matt Asiata, Kaelin Clay, and BJ Daniels respectively.
Not sure what it was with Topps- but Salt Lake got very little love from the Topps Now collection. Out of the 43 cards printed in the short run- only one (#30 Karter Schult) focused on the Stallions. In fact on two occasions (Week 8 and Week 3) there were no cards made for those games, both of which the Stallions played in.
Of all the teams in the AAF, the Salt Lake Stallions represented the furthest north franchise in the league.
Salt Lake was stout at home. The Stallions finished 3-1 at home with a close loss to Orlando blemishing their record. However, SLC was 0-3 on the road.
Salt Lake is odd in that their primary logo, (a Stallion shaped like an S) does not show up on their uniform or helmet design. (Wasn’t too huge a fan of it anyway, since it felt a bit squished).
The Stallions gimmick mascot was a Stallion, ala the Denver Broncos.
After the franchise was founded, it took sometime to get the front office situated, and at one point they were working out of a McDonalds.
SLCs hash tags were “#Ridewithus” and “#FullSteedAhead”.
As crazy as it sounded, at 3-5 the Stallions still held a slim chance of making the playoffs. They had a road game against Atlanta, and then a home game versus San Antonio. If SLC won out, while everybody lost out, everybody in the division would be 5-5 and SLC with a little hope and luck could’ve made the playoffs.
I really liked this team. They had a lot of heart, a tremendous defense, great trench play, and strong tight ends. Despite their record, the Stallions socked every team in the mouth and came to play lunch pail football every week.