Arlington Renegades

Get to Know The UFL 2024 Arlington Renegades

One of the biggest surprises of the XFL 2023 season was the late-season emergence of the Arlington Renegades. Despite a disappointing 4-6 regular season record, the Renegades earned a playoff birth by finishing second in their division and went on to win the league Championship. In an impressive turnaround, the Renegades dominated the Houston Roughnecks, 26-11 in the South Division Championship, and then defeated the D.C. Defenders, 35-26 in the XFL Championship Game. 

The 2024 UFL Arlington Renegades

Experienced Coaching 

Eager to prove that last season’s title wasn’t a fluke, Head Coach, Bob Stoops, is returning to the Renegades. Stoops joined the XFL Renegades in 2020 following his successful tenure at the University of Oklahoma, where he was known as the “winningest coach” in Sooners history, accumulating ten Big 12 Titles along with the 2000 College National Championship. As his team prepares to open their season against the Birmingham Stallions on March 30th, Coach Stoops appears to be sending a message that he already has all the elements in place for another Championship season. 

Familiar Faces 

With many of the same players returning this year, the 2024 Arlington Renegades look very similar to the team that earned the 2023 XFL Championship Title. Like many other teams in the United Football League, the Renegades consist of NFL veterans who enjoyed promising college careers. But, after joining NFL teams as undrafted free agents, they suffered the all too familiar emotional roller coaster of being repeatedly signed, released, and re-signed by various teams, often within a matter of weeks or even days. 

Now, instead of cooling their heels on an NFL bench, hoping and praying for a chance to get on the field, the UFL provides these players a weekly opportunity to showcase their talents and improve their skills. At the very least, they can continue playing the game they love in a competitive, professional environment.  

Quarterback With Championship Experience

Going into the 2024 season, one of the big advantages the Renegades have is a familiar face at quarterback. Undoubtedly, a key element in the Renegade’s improbable and unexpected ascent to the top of the XFL League last season was their late-season acquisition of quarterback, Luis Perez. After limited playing time with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018, Perez finally found success in the XFL.

Acquired in a trade from the Las Vegas Vipers with only four games remaining on the schedule, Perez finished the 2023 season with 1,636 passing yards, the fourth-most in the XFL. After leading the team to the title and being named the MVP in last season’s Championship game, Perez is returning as the Renegades quarterback. It will be exciting to see what this talented young man can accomplish playing a full season in Arlington.

Other Offensive Weapons 

The Renegades have a dual threat at running back this season with the powerful combination of De’Veon Smith and Leddie Brown. Smith, the former University of Michigan running back, shows a lot of promise. After being cut by the USFL Pittsburgh Maulers in 2022 over a questionable rules issue, Smith was drafted by the Renegades in 2023 and became their leading rusher last season, scoring seven touchdowns. 

Although Leddie Brown played only one game last season with the Renegades, he made a huge contribution by scoring both a receiving and rushing touchdown in the Championship game against the D.C. Defenders. Highly regarded as one of the most talented running backs in the history of West Virginia University, Brown was credited with 2,888 rushing yards and 32 total touchdowns during his collegiate career. 

Wide Receiver Diontay Burnett is another former playmaker from last year’s Championship season. NFL journeyman, Burnett, played briefly for the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, and the New York Jets before initially joining the XFL with the Houston Roughnecks. A former standout at USC, Burnett is best known for the Trojan’s 2017 Rose Bowl victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions where he caught 13 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns from USC quarterback, Sam Darnold.  

Caleb Vander-Esch is another wide receiver to keep an eye on this season. A former team captain during his impressive college career with the South Dakota Coyotes, Vander-Esch earned top honors for both receiving yards and total catches. He brings a great combination of leadership and athletic talent to the Renegades.    

Defensive Talent

Two defensive players who could make a major impact this season are NFL veteran linebacker, Donald Payne, the league’s leading tackle, and cornerback, Ajene Harris, who led the XFL league with five interceptions last season. 

A collegiate Hall of Famer with Stetson University, Payne made Division 1 history with 538 career tackles, 14 sacks, and nine interceptions. Initially selected by the USFL Houston Gamblers in 2022, he was twice named “Defensive Player of the Week” and made the All-USFL Team Defense. Payne continued to showcase his talents with the Renegades last season where he recorded 117 tackles.  

As a USC Trojan, Harris recorded 142 tackles, six interceptions (three of which were returned for a touchdown), and two forced fumbles. After briefly playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, he signed with the XFL Houston Roughnecks in 2020 but only played a few games before the pandemic forced the league to cancel the remainder of the season. After re-signing with the Roughnecks in 2022, Harris was named to the All-XFL team in 2023 and selected by the Arlington Renegades this past January as part of the dispersal draft.

With a great combination of defensive talent and offensive weaponry, the Renegades are well-positioned to secure a second Championship title.

Main Image: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports  

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