Skip Holtz, Birmingham Stallions look to run it back in Season 2

Birmingham Stallions head coach Skip Holtz had some rare time off during the 2022 traditional football season.

“It’s the first time in 40 years I’ve had a fall,” Holtz said. “So it was amazing. I got a chance to go back to Notre Dame, where I graduated from. And I went to several of their games. I saw my son’s coach (offensive quality control coach Trey Holtz at UNC-Charlotte). I had the opportunity to play fall golf, which I’ve never played fall golf in my life. I’m just used to working 18 hours a day, seven days a week and, all of a sudden after 40 years it’s over (snaps finger) — okay just make a couple of phone calls this week it was different but I got a chance to spend some time with my wife and my kids. It was good.”

Refreshed, Holtz said he’s ready to get back to work as the Stallions defend the USFL title they won with a 33-30 victory over the Philadelphia Stars in last year’s championship game.

[Everything to know about 2023 Birmingham Stallions schedule]

Holtz said he will return both quarterbacks from that team in J’Mar Smith and Alex McGough.

However, the Stallions will have to replace one of the top receivers and return the men of the USFL last season in Victor Bolden Jr., who spent time with the Arizona Cardinals and signed a futures contract with the Denver Broncos.

“He was a difference maker for us, and he’s going to be hard to replace,” Holtz said. “Obviously, he was our main player at receiver and everything. He played a big role for us. He returned a punt for a touchdown in the championship game. He played a big role for us in having the chance to win.”

Holtz said it will depend on new faces and returning guys to fill the void left by Bolden’s absence, with Marlon Williams expected to play a bigger role in the offense. Williams finished with seven catches for 105 receiving yards and a score in the championship game.

Holtz said he will continue to look to homegrown products, such as running back Bo Scarbrough, who prepped at Alabama or played college football at the University of Alabama, Auburn or the University of Alabama-Birmingham, to further connect with the community.

Winners of nine straight to start the regular season, Holtz also understands the Stallions will have a target on their back as the defending champions.

“Yes, we certainly accept that,” Holtz said. “We’ve got a great core coming back. We’ve added quality free agent signings, so we’ve got some good additions. But until we play again, we were the last to lift the trophy. And I think being the champion, our team he’s excited. I keep hearing from them, ‘Hey coach, I’ve got to come back and defend.’ I think they’re excited to get a chance to try to do it again.”

Holtz and the Stallions have a chance to jumpstart that defense during the season opener on April 15 at home against the New Jersey Generals. The Stallions have three straight home games before hitting the road for the first time against the Pittsburgh Maulers in Canton, Ohio in Week 4.

The Stallions were the only team to enjoy home field advantage with all eight teams playing in Birmingham last season. That changes this year, with the USFL expanding to four locations: Memphis, Detroit and Canton, in addition to Birmingham.

“What’s going to be different is going on the trip, obviously,” Holtz said. “This will be different. But it’s also the growth we need. Ultimately, you want to be in eight different cities. You don’t want to stay in one place. Year 1, we did what hadn’t been done since the mid- 80s, we were a spring league that got wrapped up. Now, what? Let’s go to a couple more cities and hang out a little bit more.”

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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