March 16, 2023
By Ian Toner
It’s tough to hide a weakness on the ultimate pitch. If your footspeed is lacking, your opponent will sprint past you to catch or block the disc. If throwing isn’t your forte, opponents will scheme to funnel the disc into your hands and make ensuing throws more difficult. The game’s fluid nature, unrelenting pace and evolving strategy demand versatility, skill and endurance from its athletes.
As tough as it can be to hide, it can be equally–if not more–difficult to stand out on the pitch. (Sure, the skying snags and layout grabs become energizing highlight material, but those plays represent just a fraction of a player’s performance.) Everyone wants to throw the perfect deep ball or devastating break…but how many AUDL players can complete those challenging shots consistently? How many aspirational passes have fallen incomplete over the league’s 11-season history?
After Evan Lepler asked AUDL stars to highlight the best throwers among their peers, we sought insights from coaches and analysts–along with the league’s growing body of statistics–to identify the best pure thrower in each division.
West: Jonathan Nethercutt, Colorado Summit
It doesn’t matter if you have him trapped on the sideline with the game clock winding down and the stall count rising. Jonathan Nethercutt, described by coaches as a prototypical QB1, is going to find a way to unlock your defense, even if it takes a crazy behind the back or inverted throw to do so.
“Nethercutt’s throwing ability and field vision drastically increase the options available to the offense because he can put the disc anywhere on the field at any time,” said Growlers coach Kaela Helton, who coached Nethercutt during San Diego’s run to 2021’s Championship Weekend.
“Every time we get close to a coverage sack or we get a well-timed double team that’d disrupt 99 percent of the league’s throwers, he’s able to read the lane and space and beat his mark to the release point,” Salt Lake Shred coach Bryce Merrill said. “It’s the equivalent of a Mahomes side arm,” he added, referencing the NFL quarterback’s unorthodox, improvisational throw that frequently relieves pressure on the Kansas City Chiefs offense.
The former league MVP and reigning All-AUDL selection does, indeed, still have it as he prepares to start his eighth professional season. He quarterbacked the explosive Colorado Summit offense to a Championship Weekend appearance in its inaugural 2022 season, leading the league in throwing yards and notching the most hockey assists (45) of his career.*
Runner Up: Pawel Janas, Los Angeles Aviators
South: Austin Taylor, Atlanta Hustle
There’s a reason Austin Taylor has repeatedly been in the mix for the league MVP, finishing second in the award’s voting as recently as 2021. In addition to being a top-tier thrower with the disc in his hands, his speed and agility unlock separation and throwing windows that can be tougher for other pure handlers to access.
“Taylor combines his quick feet and excellent range with aggressive and fast decision making,” said Bjorn Schey, an Austin Sol coach-turned-broadcaster with firsthand experience game planning against Taylor. “It's no use to be a great thrower if you aren't also willing to use it. As a defender if you give him a window at all, he immediately exploits it to great effect.”
Atlanta has yet to reach Championship Weekend, but it’s not for any lack of effort on Taylor’s part. He followed up his MVP runner-up campaign with a better completion percentage, better huck completion rate and 10 more hockey assists in 2022 (while still completing more than 400 passes and amassing more than 5,500 yards of total offense).
Runner Up: Sol Yanuck, Raleigh Flyers
Central: Abe Coffin, Minnesota Wind Chill
Just when it seemed impossible for Abe Coffin to accomplish even more on the field, he showed up to his first AUDL All-Star Game in November and completed all 32 of his passes, including a game-high six assists and 476 throwing yards, en route to a unanimous MVP selection.
“Abe is a guy who has to factor into any opposing team’s game plan,” said Michigan-based league analyst and former Cascades handler Tyler Kinley. “His ability to both shape hucks and find tight windows in zones is uncanny.”
Coffin’s versatility has been critical to his teams’ successes. Once a rock for the Dallas offense, he helped the franchise capture two of its four consecutive South Division titles. When healthy in 2017 and 2019, he averaged 34.5 assists, 247.5 completions and a completion rate above 93 percent, tormenting South Division defenses.
Coffin shouldered a greater load for Minnesota’s D-line offense in his first season with the Wind Chill, leading it to the best break rate in the league. Though some of his passing metrics dipped relative to his highs with Dallas’ offense, he still set new career highs in hockey assists and huck completion percentage in 2022.
The scary part for Minnesota’s Central Division opponents? Coach Ben Feldman has hinted that Coffin will play more offense in 2023 as his squad aims to qualify for the first Championship Weekend in its hometown.
Runner Up: Max Sheppard, Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
East: Ryan Osgar, New York Empire
Let’s be honest: if you’ve followed the AUDL at all over the last season, you’ve likely heard all the superlatives imaginable applied to reigning MVP Ryan Osgar and his offensive skills.
While Daniel Cohen highlighted Osgar as a premier striker hybrid, the first line of his Osgar-specific analysis described the Empire star as “one of the best pure throwers in the league.”
“Osgar is dangerous in all situations and a great decision maker with a variety of release points,” said Bryan Jones, who coached the Empire to the franchise’s first title in 2019 and has coached against Osgar extensively on the club circuit. “The ability to put the right edge on deep hucks but also keep the ball moving makes him the most dangerous thrower in the East.”
Osgar’s 2022 numbers speak for themselves. In his second regular season on a star-studded, championship-tested offensive line, the Minnesota product set new career highs in assists, hockey assists, plus/minus, completions, completion percentage, throwing yards and huck completion rate–all while throwing the fewest turnovers of his career.* Among the 31 players who completed at least 400 passes throughout 2022, Osgar’s 96.69 percent completion rate tied for fourth.
Osgar has set the bar pretty high for himself, but here’s a crazy thought for the rest of the league: there’s no reason to believe he won’t reach or surpass that bar in 2023.
Runner Up: Jonny Malks, DC Breeze
* After experimenting at 2019’s Championship Weekend, the AUDL began tracking yardage data in the 2021 season.