35 Questions For The 2023 Season

April 17, 2023
By Adam Ruffner

1. Can New York complete their dynasty?

The Empire are coming off their second AUDL title, and the most dominant performance at Championship Weekend ever, outscoring Carolina and Chicago by a combined total of 44-30 in the semifinals and finals. Since the start of 2019, New York has a 48-3 record in the regular season and playoffs, with one of those losses coming in the 2021 AUDL Championship. If the Empire win their third title in four seasons this year, it would begin a new kingdom—NY would surpass Oakland for most championships by an AUDL franchise.

2. Are the Aviators immediate contenders in the West with Pawel Janas and other big additions?

The Pawel Janas signing—and the accompanying wave of high-caliber offseason additions like Daniel Brunker, Sean McDougall, and Jason Vallee among others—has been so massive for this franchise, it’s easy to forget that the Aviators were a final-weekend-of-the-regular-season, one-goal overtime victory away from losing their final six games of 2022. Now with both offensive and defensive lines remodeled with veteran playmakers, and an exciting stock of up-and-coming talent, LA is ready to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2019.

3. Did DC do enough during the offseason to finally push past New York?

The Breeze already had the deepest and most finely tuned passing attack in the league, and then they added three of the best high-volume throwers in Thomas Edmonds, Gus Norrbom, and Andrew Roy over the winter. Joe Merrill and Cole Jurek make plays wherever they line up, and Charlie McCutcheon has been a certified defensive gamer for years. And yet with all the new weapons in their arsenal—and back-to-back 10-win regular seasons—it’s Championship Weekend or bust for the Breeze, which means beating the mighty Empire.

4. Can the Summit capture a championship in Year 2?

Motivated by a tough loss in the semifinals to Chicago last season, the 2023 Summit are equipped for another deep postseason run. DPOY Cody Spicer and newcomer Kai Marshall might be the best defensive duo in the league, and they’re flanked by a deep rotation of athletic block getters. Offensively, Colorado has the firepower to lead the league in scoring and will likely be even better with a year of experience and familiarity.

5. Can Philly compete with the elite?

The Phoenix bombarded opposing defenses with the best deep attack in the league in 2022, and earned their first playoff appearance since 2013. Philly can cause a variety of matchup problems with James Pollard and Sean Mott able to cycle seamlessly between receiving and throwing roles, and they’re a scary team when they get in rhythm; Greg Martin has some kind of combo meter when he starts piling up goals, and Jordan Rhyne was a top three deep thrower in the AUDL last season. But when the Phoenix cool off and can’t connect as frequently on the longball—as they did in the second half of their playoff loss in DC—they become vulnerable to mistakes that are too costly against the likes of the Breeze and Empire.

6. Can Carolina’s versatility lead them to a second championship in three seasons?

Carolina’s starting seven on both lines will morph throughout the season, and they will  be a tough team to scout. Led by All-AUDL selection Eric Taylor, the Flyers might roster the most two-way talents in the league, which is what makes them so good at leveraging individual matchups in big games. And when available, new additions Joe White and Ben Snell will be gamebreakers.

7. Which team is the best in the Central Division?

The Union have represented the division each of the past two seasons at Championship Weekend, but it feels like a new era with the departures both Chicago and Minnesota endured. It looks like a four team race for three playoff spots, with the possibility of Pittsburgh re-entering contention thanks to a few key veteran re-additions.

8. Is Austin ready to win their first South Division title?

The Sol have gone from curiosity to outright contenders since the start of 2021, but the franchise is still searching for its first postseason win. Austin kept it close through the final whistle last August in Carolina, with Kyle Henke and Evan Swiatek having big performances, but ultimately couldn’t pull off the upset against the Flyers in the playoffs. Now battle tested and with a favorable schedule, the still improving Sol could be in line for hosting the 2023 South Division Championship.

9. What will Chicago look like post Pawel?

There is no replacing the league’s all-time leading passer. But the Union are still stocked with playmakers like Ross Barker and Paul Arters, and have been building their winning reputation on a “nobody believed in us” motto for a minute. And with recent news that defensive monster Nate Goff has returned to the team, and the addition of veteran speedster Christian Johnson—who averaged over five scores per game in 19 regular season starts over three seasons—to the lineup, Chicago is starting to look pretty formidable at full strength. It just remains to be seen if their top rotations will start a majority of the season.

10. Will Indy emerge from the chaos and win their second division title since 2019?

The last time Indy claimed the Central in 2019, the division was in a similar state of tumult following the reign of the then-defending-league-champion Radicals. The AlleyCats, unsurprisingly, are constructed very similarly this season, built with an offense that is explosive at home and can navigate tough situations on the road, while their defense converts ample breaks despite few takeaways. Six different ‘Cats had 40 or more scores last season—same number as the Empire—and they can continue to beat teams with a variety of different players.

11. How good does Grant Lindsley make the Shred?

Though he’s played in just 19 career games spread across three seasons—and none since 2019—Grant Lindsley’s impact has been undeniable when he’s started, especially in the postseason. And despite their playmaking and a lights-out performance from Jordan Kerr, the Shred showed their youth in the second half of their West Division Championship loss. Lindsley is exactly the player that could unlock the next level for Salt Lake. 

12. Does defense win championships anymore?

The old sports adage may be dying in this league, as each of the past six league champions finished top two in offensive efficiency. O-line precision, limiting turnovers, and adaptability have taken over the meta strategy, and many teams across the league have bulked up their starting rotations with as many of their top-line stars as possible.

13. Will Abe Coffin’s switch to offense push Minnesota to their first division championship?

As he demonstrated in the 2019 South Division title game, and again this past fall in the 2022 All-Star Game, Abe Coffin is a menace when he gets in rhythm with the disc. There’s an unmistakable ease to Coffin’s game, and he routinely makes plays that you just don’t see elsewhere. The Wind Chill suffered a good deal of roster casualties, but Coffin’s elevated role could be addition by subtraction for a Minnesota team that struggled to find consistency last season.

14. Is Toronto back?

In its first five seasons of existence, the East was the sole province of the Rush. Toronto won an AUDL championship in their inaugural season, and racked up consecutive divisional titles from 2013-2017. But starting with New York displacing them as the best team in the division in 2018, and then continuing with Montreal defeating Toronto in the 2021 Canada Cup finale, the Rush have had a fall from grace and a complete overturning of their roster, notching just seven total wins the past two years. But after some big offseason additions, and with a young cast of playmakers ready to make the leap, the Rush could be ready for contention once again.

15. Are the Cascades the ultimate spoilers?}

Seattle hasn’t had a winning season since 2016, but they have enough talent to take down a playoff competitor at least once per season. Khalif El-Salaam and Garrett Martin are back in leadership roles, which will likely ignite the Cascades’ fastbreak potential on both sides of the ball. Throwers remain a big question mark for a second straight season, but if this team can make big plays with their athleticism and get hot, they will be a danger at home.

16. Will Ryan Osgar become the third player ever to have 100 or more scores in three straight seasons?

Ryan Osgar has had nearly carbon copy scoring production numbers in his first two years in New York, registering 114 scores (77 assists, 36 goals) and 115 scores (72 assists, 43 goals) in back-to-back seasons. A third “100 Club” season would put him in truly elite territory, joining Mark Burton and Ben Jagt as the only players ever to achieve such a stretch. And as good as Osgar has been during the regular season, he’s even better in the playoffs, elevating his scores per game from 8.0 to 8.5 in six postseason starts.

17. What will Rowan’s role look like on the DC defense?

Given his role as the face and central engine of the DC offense the past several seasons—one that earned him the league MVP in 2018—it might be hard to imagine Rowan McDonnell as a D-line starter. But given the influx of star talent, the Breeze will have to adjust their rotations to find optimal playing groups. And Rowan has always been good-to-great in coverage—he had 36 blocks in his first 24 regular season starts as a pro in 2016 and 2017—and will now provide possibly the best D-line throwing anchor in the league on the counterattack.

18. Will Madison end their playoff drought?

Since their six straight Championship Weekend appearances that culminated in a title at home in 2018, the Radicals have weathered an odd era of mediocrity in the “Capital City of Ultimate”. Madison is 19-17 the past three seasons, and have missed the postseason in each year since their championship. There’s still plenty of sparks (and players) left over from their deep playoff runs of the past—this is still the winningest team in league history, after all.

19. When will the 62-game losing streak end for Detroit?

We’re getting into geological dating methods for how long the Mechanix losing streak has endured since their last victory on April 29, 2017. In their past three seasons of play, Detroit has just eight games total where they’ve finished within at least four goals of their opponent. The good news is that half of those contests came last season, so the Mechanix are closing the gap.

20. Are the Hustle ready to be true playoff contenders?

With 17 wins over the past two seasons—including victories over elite teams Austin, Carolina, DC, and New York—Atlanta has shown their ceiling could be a championship when they’re playing at full strength. But with just one playoff win in franchise history, and all the way back in the prehistoric period of 2016, the Hustle have yet to actually prove themselves in the postseason.

21. Can Ben Jagt go from MVP to DPOY?

Through his first eight seasons as a pro, Ben Jagt has been one of the most dominant offensive forces ever, and will likely move into second place all-time in total scores later this season. And yet as he approaches his 31st birthday in August, Jagt is set to define the latter stages of his career as a D-line coverage specialist after making the switch midway through last season. Jagt has always had a natural instinct for defense—he’s already 14th all-time in blocks—and showed shutdown potential at Championship Weekend last year.

22. How hungry is Houston in their first season?

The fourth expansion team to join the league in the past two seasons, the Havoc are set for a big debut at home on opening weekend against Austin. Having been the little brother to Dallas for years, the Sol will pull no punches in introducing Houston to the division. And with a roster loaded with rookies, the Havoc will have to adjust quickly to the speed of the Sol.

23. Is Jordan Kerr still getting better?

Even after throwing the second most assists in a single season in just his second year as a pro, it still feels like Jordan Kerr has some untapped potential left. He’s been in the weight room since day one of the offseason, and with added size could be even more of a threat downfield as a receiver. He also finished last season dialed in from deep, and did not commit a huck turnover in his final nine starts while going 7-for-7 from range.

24. Will Jon Nethercutt throw for 7,000 yards?

Unsurprisingly, Jonathan Nethercutt led the league in passing yards and huck completions in 2022. Now with another year of familiarity and even more talent on the roster—and possibly two more starts if Colorado makes it to the AUDL Championship Game—Nethercutt could seemingly hit new highs. He averaged 460 passing yards per game in his first season with the Summit, and had just five starts with fewer than 400 yards through the air.

25. With their deep lineup of passers, can Oakland throw down for a playoff spot?

Four different Spiders throwers finished with 300 or more completions last year, and Oakland as a team posted an impressive 18:1 completion-to-turnover ratio in their final five games of the season. Their handler rotations are even deeper and more potent this season with Mac Hecht available. If the Spiders up their huck completion rate—they finished in the bottom third of the league in 2022—their attack could become dangerous very quickly.

26. Who will lead the league in goals?

Only once has a player repeated as league leader in goals, and fittingly it was the all-time goals king Cameron Brock in 2013 and 2014. Brock earned the top spot once again last season for the third time in his career, and shows no signs of slowing down. But his current reign could easily be challenged by star pass catchers like Alex Davis, Jeff Babbitt, or Greg Martin among others.

27. Is Luc Comiré the next great initiator for the Rush offense?

For years the Toronto offensive attack was anchored by Thomson McKnight, who was only recently surpassed by Pawel Janas for the top spot on the AUDL’s all-time completions leaderboard. Entering his second full season as the QB1 for the Rush, Luc Comiré has the looks of McKnight’s heir apparent. The 24-year-old Comiré combines finesse and firepower, able to shred the mark and handle one of the highest workloads as a thrower; Comiré was sixth in total completions (588) and fourth in throwing yards (5,064) in 2022.

28. Are the Sol the best D-line in a defense-first division?

Even with defensive captain Jake Reinhardt’s season-ending injury, the Austin defense is tuned up for another great season. Shane Worthington is another explosive playmaker in coverage and a threat on the counterattack, which only bolsters a lineup that already features some of the best two-way players in Matthew Armour, Joey Wylie, and Eric Brodbeck. The Sol were already sixth in the league last season in defensive conversion rate, and if they can limit the longball a little more, they may move into the top four.

29. How close can Indy come to repeating their record-setting defensive break conversion rate last season?

Indy converted 66.4 percent of their break opportunities last season, a number so absurd that it is the second most efficient performance by any line—offensive or defensive—in league history, trailing only the undefeated Empire’s own record-setting O-line rate in 2022. Xavier Payne often led counter drives as the main thrower, and has a deep toolkit to attack opponents in transition.

30. Is Jonny Malks an MVP?

I talked about it on last week’s “Swing Pass”, but I think we could be in for big Jonny Malks Mania in 2023. DC Head Coach Darryl Stanley told Evan Lepler two weeks ago, “Jonny Malks has taken another leap forward, and he looks, wow.” There’s always been a fluidity to Malks’s game, and now he seems ready for full-blown takeover mode.

31. Who has the biggest lineup?

The Empire have solidified their reign atop the league by many means, not least of which has been their ability to dominate games through sheer size advantages with players like Babbitt, Jagt, John Lithio, Antoine Davis, Marques Brownlee, and others. Colorado will be able to dictate a lot of action with their defensive twin towers in Spicer and Marshall; likewise Atlanta with Brett Hulsmeyer and Dean Ramsey. Height can be a big mitigating factor, especially in end-of-quarter situations.

32. Will Alex Atkins become the best player on the Summit by the end of the season?

After missing the final five games of his rookie season with an injury, Alex Atkins has the skills, spikes, and swagger to be the next great star in Colorado. He is a natural playmaker as a receiver, and after throwing four throwaways in his pro debut in a rainy Seattle away game, Atkins committed just four throwaways in his next seven starts. He finished with the second highest huck completion percentage on the team, completing 13-of-14 attempts from deep.

33. Will teams continue to favor the huck?

In the first season of huck data in 2021, nine teams completed seven or more hucks per game. That number ballooned to nearly two thirds of the entire league last season, with 17 teams averaging seven or more huck completions per contest. Offenses have continued to get increasingly more efficient season by season, while at the same time favoring more deep looks.

34. How long can Cameron Brock extend his prime?

It’s truly a remarkable feat to lead the league in scoring in two separate seasons nearly a decade apart, with no production downturn in between. Brock has scored a goal in 51 straight games, and has just four single-goal performances during that stretch. And other than his retirement-shortened 2021 season, Brock has missed exactly one start in his career.

35. Which team will make the big midseason addition?

Every summer it seems a team poised for a deep playoff push adds a star near the roster deadline. In 2021, San Diego signed Nethercutt in the final month of the regular season. Last year New York picked up John Randolph for the back half of the season, giving them another game-changing presence on their title run. 


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