SaberCats set roster for season opener

After the San Jose SaberCats’ impressive 13-5 2013 season ended with an upsetting quarterfinal playoff exit, the front office looked to add even more firepower on both sides of the ball.

Heading into 2014, that’s exactly what they did.

With less than a week left before their season-opening visit to AFL newcomers the Portland Thunder Monday, the SaberCats have released their 24-man opening week roster.

On the list of returning players are some serious acquisitions sure to help the Sabercats return for another postseason run.

The SaberCats defense ranked second overall and third in scoring against at 48.7 ppg in 2013, so the team’s offseason plans were focused around adding a threat an offense ranked sixth overall with 57.4 ppg.

Signing WR Reggie Gray — recipient of the AFL’s 2013 J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Year award — seems like a good way to start.

With the addition of Gray — who led the league in all-purpose yards last season with 140 receptions for 1,978 yards and 46 touchdowns with the Chicago Rush — the SaberCats’ fourth-ranked passing attack should see improvement in yards per game and point totals.

Lining up alongside Gray will be returning WR Jason Willis, who was QB Russ Michna’s favorite target last season, hauling in 123 passes for 1,606 yards and 35 touchdowns.

This new pairing of receivers should make for an exciting year through the air.

Too much of a good thing could be the Sabercats’ philosophy on defense as well, as their already impressive secondary — led by Riddell Defensive Player of the Year DB Clevan Thomas — gained another talented DB with the acquisition of Simeon Castille.

After making a splash in his rookie season with the Orlando Predators, leading the team with 108.5 tackle and seven picks, Castille’s production dropped off last year with just 38.5 tackles and two picks. Look for Castille to have a bounce back year.

Joining Castille in the secondary will be fellow newcomer David Hyland, who had a solid 2013 season with the Utah Blaze, collecting 85.5 tackles and seven interceptions in 17 starts.

The SaberCats kick off the 2014 season in Portland on Monday at 7 p.m in a nationally-televised game on CBS Sports Network.

SaberCats 2014 Opening Roster

Player Pos Hgt/Wgt College Pro Exp
Returning to SaberCats from 2013
1 Reggie Gray WR 5-10 185 Western Illinois 3
3 David Hyland DB 6-0 200 Morehead St. 3
5 Ken Fontenette DB 5-11 200 Houston 3
7 Jason Willis WR 6-1 200 Oregon 6
8 Clevan Thomas DB 5-10 195 Florida State 8
10 Nathan Stanley QB 6-5 215 Southeastern Louis. 0
12 Russ Michna QB 6-2 220 Western Illinois 6
13 Rod Harper WR 6-1 205 Murray State 1
17 Huey Whittaker WR/LB 6-5 225 South Florida 7
18 Dominique Curry WR 6-3 230 California Univ. (PA) 0
21 Simeon Castille DB 6-0 190 Alabama 2
23 Terrance Carter DL 6-4 275 Colorado 4
34 JJ Payne FB 5-11 270 Western Illinois 4
36 Luis Vasquez DL 6-3 265 Arizona State 4
54 Paul Griffin DL 6-1 290 Florida State 5
64 Rich Ranglin OL 6-3 315 Central Conn. 4
68 George Bussey OL 6-4 325 Louisville 3
70 Jordan Mudge OL 6-4 320 Nevada 1
76 Ray Feinga OL 6-5 320 BYU 0
78 Jeff Nady OL 6-7 315 Nevada 0
90 Jerome Williams DL 6-2 270 Connecticut 0
98 Francis Maka LB 6-2 250 Hawaii 3
99 Jason Stewart DL 6-0 315 Fresno State 5
Marc Schiechl DL 6-3 270 Colorado Mines 2