Players To Watch: Week 9

June 22, 2023
By Daniel Cohen

Another year, another impressive crop of rookies that are taking this league by storm. The AUDL’s youth movement continues to take center stage each season, and 2023 has more 25-and-under players making noise than ever before. Also worth watching this week: Two star throwers return to their teams after multi-game absences.

Lukas Ambrose, Los Angeles Aviators (Pictured)

Rookie defender Lukas Ambrose was our unanimous pick for “Best Defender” in the 2023 Midseason Awards, and he’s long overdue for an appearance on a Players to Watch list. There may not be a better player in the league right now at providing help defense over the top, and Ambrose has made it his mission to get to every disc thrown into the deep space. He throws his body around like few others, has impeccable timing on his ability to high-point the disc, and has sparked the team with jaw-dropping highlights throughout the season. Last time he played San Diego, Ambrose drew the Travis Dunn matchup and recorded four blocks—one of three games this season where he’s had four or more blocks. Always dialed in on the opponent’s top cutter, Ambrose should again wreak havoc on the Growlers in this weekend’s rematch.

Simon Carapella, Boston Glory

Firmly in the conversation for Rookie of the Year, Simon Carapella has been a huge addition for the Boston offense this season. Through seven games, Carapella leads the team in both goals and receiving yards, with his 22 goals ranking second in the league among rookies. He’s got great speed in the open field and has the necessary quickness to work laterally in the red zone to break free for scores. This week, Glory will be without a handful of O-line starters, including Orion Cable, Topher Davis, and Ray Tetreault, which means Carapella could be in line for his biggest receiving workload of the season in his first ever game against DC. The Breeze have been stout defensively—they get a stop on 58.4 percent of opponent possessions, third best in the league—so Carapella will have his work cut out for him as he looks to build on an impressive rookie campaign.

Abe Coffin, Minnesota Wind Chill

After being sidelined for the last five games due to an injury suffered in Minnesota’s second game of the season, Abe Coffin is expected to make his return to the field this Saturday against Colorado. It remains to be seen where exactly he’ll slot in for his return, and whether he’ll be eased back into action; prior to his injury, Coffin had played 24 O-points and 11 D-points for Minnesota in 2023. The D-line has been basically as efficient this year without him as it was last year with Coffin quarterbacking the counterattack, so my money would be on him returning to the O-line, where the Wind Chill have gone through a variety of lineup changes as they’ve battled through absences. The 2022 All-Star Game MVP has the ability to completely reshape this offense and single-handedly drive their success, and when you pair Coffin’s return with the way the D-line has been playing, Colorado is absolutely in danger of losing a fourth straight game. Incredibly weird to have written those last 11 words.

Max Gibson, San Diego Growlers

Another standout rookie, Max Gibson has consistently looked like one of the most dangerous players on the San Diego Growlers this year. He’s averaging a ridiculous 530 yards per game—most among all rookies—and has been using his 6’5” frame to bully opponents downfield all season. While there’s room to improve as a thrower, Gibson often finds himself in position to score whether he’s skying over his defender in the end zone or hitting a teammate in continuation, and he hasn’t been afraid to pull the trigger on hucks to spark the offense. Travis Dunn is out this week, so Gibson’s going to be busy; the last game he played without Dunn, he tossed five assists and scored three goals in Austin. With five losses this season, the Growlers’ postseason hopes are starting to slip away, but a big game from Gibson and an upset win over LA would put them right back in the thick of the playoff race.

James Lewis, Toronto Rush

This Sunday, the Toronto Rush will go for the season sweep of Montreal, which they haven’t done since 2018. Third-year cutter James Lewis has been a big part of their success in the two prior meetings this season, as he’s averaged six scores, two blocks, and over 400 yards of offense per game against the Royal. Lewis has the size and speed to dominate downfield—he finished tied for ninth in goals last year with 50—and he’s been getting after the disc defensively after turnovers; Lewis is one of just three players this season with double digit assists, goals, and blocks. With Mike Mackenzie having moved over to D-line and younger brother Wilkie Lewis out this week, James should have plenty more opportunities to shine alongside Ty Barbieri in a Rush offense that’s been hitting its stride in recent weeks.

Jonathan Nethercutt, Colorado Summit

2017 AUDL MVP Jonathan Nethercutt returns to the Colorado Summit lineup this week after missing last weekend’s double header, which resulted in two one-goal losses for the Summit. The last time we saw him on the field, Nethercutt started the Salt Lake at Colorado game playing D-line, while reigning Defensive Player of the Year Cody Spicer played offense. The two ended up switching back to their normal spots for the bulk of the second half, but the move raises questions about the Summit rotation heading into this week’s battle with Minnesota. Does Colorado go back to Nethercutt as the O-line quarterback? Do they rotate their stars throughout the game? Is Nethercutt a bigger boost to the O-line or D-line? Stay tuned for this Saturday’s Game of the Week, where we’ll hopefully get all of these questions answered.

William Wettengel, Indianapolis AlleyCats

In last week’s Midseason Awards, 18-year-old rookie defender William Wettengel was a unanimous selection to the All Rookie Team, while Evan Lepler and I also had him on our midseason All Defense team. Wettengel has been exactly what the Indianapolis AlleyCats have lacked in prior seasons, namely an up-and-coming D-line takeaway artist to help fuel Indy’s efficient counterattack. Standing at at least 6’5”, his length and athleticism has led to at least one block in every game this season, and he’s currently tied for third in the league with 13 on the year. He’ll get a rematch with the Radicals this week in Madison, and is well set up to record multiple blocks; he had two in their first meeting and has had two-plus blocks in every road game this season.

In an article written earlier this season, Wettengel was quoted saying, “Rookie of the Year was my goal when I first made the team. But after two games, my goal this year is to get the most blocks in our team history.” And while he may not get anywhere near Jonathan “Goose” Helton’s single-season AlleyCats record of 38 this season, you gotta respect the mindset.

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