UFL Playoffs: 5 things to know about AJ McCarron, St. Louis Battlehawks before Brahmas game (2024)

cade hampton, tuscaloosa news

·4 min read

An Alabama football legend is set to lead the St. Louis Battlehawks into the United Football League playoffs.

A.J. McCarron, one of the most celebrated players in Crimson Tide history, is the Battlehawks' starter a decade after he left Alabama. In 2023, McCarron led the XFL with 24 passing touchdowns. After the USFL and XFL merged to form the UFL, McCarron rejoined the Battlehawks for the inaugural UFL season.

McCarron and the Battlehawks (7-3) will host the San Antonio Brahmas (7-3) in the XFL conference championship on Sunday at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be a rematch of last week's regular-season finale, in which the Battlehawks clinched home-field advantage with a 13-12 victory over the Brahmas.

The winner will take on the USFL-champion Birmingham Stallions in the first-ever UFL Championship on Sunday, June 16, in St. Louis.

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Here are five things to know about McCarron and the Battlehawks before Sunday's XFL conference championship:

What has AJ McCarron's career been like since Alabama?

McCarron spent five seasons at Alabama under head coach Nick Saban. He redshirted in 2009 and played sparingly in 2010 before winning the starting job in the 2011 season. McCarron became the first and only QB of the BCS era to win back-to-back national championships, as the Crimson Tide won titles in 2011 and 2012.

McCarron was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Bengals, where he served as the backup to Andy Dalton from 2014-17. McCarron has also spent time as an NFL backup with the Buffalo Bills (2018 offseason), then-Oakland Raiders (2018), Houston Texans (2019-20) and Atlanta Falcons (2021). He tore his ACL during the 2021 preseason with the Falcons and did not play football in 2022. He joined the Battlehawks in 2023 and rejoined them in 2024 after a brief second stint in Cincinnati.

AJ McCarron 2024 season stats

McCarron has been one of the best QBs in the UFL in the league's inaugural season. He played in nine of 10 games and threw for 1,582 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions. His yardage ranks fourth in the league, while the 15 touchdown passes are tied for second.

UFL Playoffs: 5 things to know about AJ McCarron, St. Louis Battlehawks before Brahmas game (1)

Who is the St Louis Battlehawks head coach?

Anthony Becht is the head coach of the Battlehawks. He led the team to an 8-4 record in the 2023 XFL season, but the team did not make the playoffs due to a point differential tiebreaker. In the inaugural UFL season, Becht coached St. Louis to a first-place finish in the XFL conference.

Becht is experienced as a player. He played tight end for the West Virginia Mountaineers from 1995-99 and was a first-round pick by the New York Jets in the 2000 NFL Draft. Becht played for over a decade in the NFL, spending time with the Jets (2000-2004), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2005-07), then-St. Louis Rams (2008), Arizona Cardinals (2009) and Kansas City Chiefs (2011).

Becht's coaching experience is limited. He was the tight ends coach for the San Diego Fleet in the short-lived Alliance of American Football in 2019. He was named the Battlehawks' head coach on April 22, 2022. Despite his relative lack of coaching experience, Becht has been one of the best spring football coaches over the past two years.

Who are the other star players for the Battlehawks?

The Battlehawks' offense is stacked with talent. Wide receiver Hakeem Butler was named all-UFL and the first-ever UFL Offensive Player of the Year. Butler led the league with 652 receiving yards and added five receiving touchdowns. Butler was also an all-XFL honoree with the Battlehawks in 2023.

Running back Jacob Saylors was also an all-UFL selection, leading all running backs with 461 rushing yards. He added eight total touchdowns and averaged an impressive 4.9 yards per carry.

San Antonio Brahmas scouting report

San Antonio's QB situation is up in the air. Chase Garbers has started most of the season but has battled a wrist injury in recent weeks. Garbers is listed as questionable, so former Tennessee and Central Michigan QB Quentin Dormady is in line to start. Running back Anthony McFarland is also questionable, setting up John Lovett for the bulk of the carries. Lovett ranks third among UFL running backs with 422 rushing yards.

The Brahmas defense is highlighted by all-UFL linebacker Tavante Beckett. Beckett had 72 total tackles with nine tackles-for-loss and two forced fumbles.

The Brahmas are coached by NFL coaching veteran Wade Phillips.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: UFL Playoffs: Five things to know about AJ McCarron, Battlehawks, Brahmas

UFL Playoffs: 5 things to know about AJ McCarron, St. Louis Battlehawks before Brahmas game (2024)
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