Power overhaul was needed
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Power coach Derek Stingley makes no apologies for discarding 71 percent of last year's roster.
The Power were 4-14 last season following a 5-13 mark in 2012, and the paying customers at Consol Energy Center have witnessed only two victories in the past 19 home games.
“We knew we had to go out and find better guys and give ourselves a fighting chance,” Stingley said.
Training camp opens Friday at Southpointe Fieldhouse without any of the 46 players who threw or caught passes the past three seasons.
“We are much better than we have ever been — on paper,” said Stingley, who has been coach since May, 2012.
“We still have to jell. We have to make sure everyone is on the same page.”
Stingley, who is entering the final year of his contract, joined Power ownership this offseason in the bold move of trading record-setting wide receiver Mike Washington to the Spokane Shock for offensive lineman Ben Ossai and backup quarterback Arvell Nelson. Then they traded Ossai and defensive lineman Markell Carter to the Orlando Predators for wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez, who caught 73 touchdown passes the past two seasons.
“Coach Stingley, I don't think he has really had the players to win games in the past,” said new quarterback Tommy Grady, signed after the Utah Blaze folded.
Grady, the 2012 Arena Football League MVP, is one of 26 players on the 33-man training camp roster who were not with the Power last year.
The biggest change is in the passing game, where the team has no designated offensive coordinator but will allow Grady to call plays.
It's a luxury he enjoyed in Utah in 2012 but was not permitted last season.
Stingley can overrule his quarterback, but owner Matt Shaner said he believes those occasions will be rare.
“Coach really believes in Tommy,” Shaner said.
A veteran group of wide receivers is led by Rodriguez, a former Canadian Football League player, and Aaron Lesue, who teamed with Grady in Utah to produce 104 touchdown passes from 2010-13.
Rodriguez, 29, signed with the New York Jets in 2008 after leaving Auburn, but he was released before the season. He hopes the Power provides an avenue for his return to the NFL.
“My drive and motives are simple,” he said. “Just eager to be the best in whatever I put my mind to and chasing greatness in the process.
“So with all that said, I am trying my absolute hardest to make it in the NFL.”
Among those who returned from last year are defensive backs Sergio Gilliam (a team-high 90 tackles and eight interceptions) and Brandon Freeman. They will be joined by veteran defensive back Virgil Gray and linebacker James Bryant.
Stingley called Bryant, formerly of the New Orleans Voodoo, “a headhunter.”
Gray helped the Arizona Rattlers win consecutive Arena Bowl championships the past two years. He set a team record last season with 15 of his 35 career interceptions.
Stingley believes the pieces are in place, but he must execute the right moves.
“This year, it's all on me,” he said. “I have the necessary tools to be successful. I have to go out there and coach these men to win games.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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