By Matt Popchock
The Power have begun their foray into the Arena Football League’s free agency period on a positive note by re-signing five more players from their inaugural season, including quarterback Bill Stull, defensive back Tyrrell Herbert, and wide receiver/jack linebacker Lonnell Dewalt.
Stull, the former Seton-LaSalle great and Pitt starter, cut his teeth with the 2010 league champion Spokane Shock before coming to Pittsburgh July 1 via claim order to be closer to his family. He led the Power to a season-closing victory in Philadelphia three weeks later, throwing for 260 yards and six TDs on 24-of-40 passing in his Pittsburgh debut.
As head coach Chris Siegfried told 93.7 The Fan recently, the starting QB job will be open prior to training camp with the release of 2011 starter Bernard Morris, but Stull will enter camp as a favorite.
“Being able to play in my hometown in front of family and friends is a great situation for me,” Stull said in a recent press release. “But beyond that, the facilities with the Power are the best – CONSOL, UPMC South Side, and everything else they provide make it an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Herbert, another WPIAL alumnus, played at Penn Hills before being recruited by Toledo. He joined the Power after a brief stint with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League, and despite being limited to nine games due to injury, finished second on the team with 47 solo tackles and 56 total to go with one interception and four passes defended.
In addition, though the Power have not yet made any public announcement, multiple sources are reporting Dewalt, fellow linebacker Anthony DeGrate, and offensive lineman Mike Byrne will also return to the team in 2012.
One of the last of his kind in a league that championed two-way football, Dewalt became one of the top ironmen in the AFL in his first full season in it. As a receiver, he was an impact player all year long, grabbing 45 passes for 489 yards and 21 touchdowns, but he also made plenty of big plays on defense, sharing the team lead with four INT’s, including one pick-six. Dewalt finished third on the Power with 40 solo tackles and 52 total, also registering four pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
DeGrate, another 2011 rookie, was acquired from the Tulsa Talons early in the regular season. In 13 appearances with Pittsburgh, he registered 16.5 tackles (11 solo), 0.5 sacks, one pass block, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery.
Byrne is a 6’5”, 300-pound offensive tackle who started for two years at Delaware University and caught two passes for 11 yards in limited duty with the Power last season.
OTHER ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE NEWS:
As previously mentioned, the free agency period in the AFL has begun, following what is known as the three-week “Exclusive Period,” during which teams are allowed to negotiate exclusively with any of their players they choose.
Here are some other notable players who have agreed to return to their 2011 clubs:
Mark Grieb (QB, San Jose) – He ranks in the top five on the AFL career passing charts with over 42,000 yards and 800-plus TD’s, and as he enters his 12th year with the Sabercats, the San Jose native will try to help his hometown team rebound after an uncharacteristically rough year.
Amarri Jackson (WR, Tampa Bay) – He set franchise rookie records for the Storm in 2011 with 1,619 yards and 35 touchdowns on 125 receptions, and the man who may very well be throwing to him next season is former USF standout–and college teammate–Matt Grothe.
Donovan Morgan (WR, Philadelphia) – He finished last season as one of the top receivers in the AFL, leading the Soul with 1,959 yards and 37 touchdowns on 121 catches and finishing in the top ten in multiple categories, and he enters 2012 as one of the most accomplished receivers in franchise history.
Tommy Grady (QB, Utah) – He and the Blaze may not have ended the regular season with a playoff berth, but he did finish third overall in passer efficiency with a rating of 119.9, and third overall in touchdowns with 107, while throwing for 4,357 yards in just his second year in the league.
Dominick Goodman (WR, Cleveland) – With doubts about the Gladiators’ quarterback situation lingering, it was important they maintained some stability on offense by retaining the former University of Cincinnati standout, who led the team with an even 1,300 yards in 2011, while hauling in 120 passes for 13 touchdowns.
Virgil Gray (DB/KR, Arizona) – He made Second Team All-Arena and played an integral role in the Rattlers’ run to both the West Division and National Conference titles, leading the AFL with 1,445 return yards, while collecting 79.5 tackles, 28 pass breakups, and ten interceptions on the league’s winningest team.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)