April 27, 2023
By Daniel Cohen
Players to Watch is back for the 2023 season, featuring seven players each week worth following for the upcoming weekend. Week 1 features multiple new-team debuts, players in new roles, and notable returns to the AUDL field.
Players listed in alphabetical order. Watch every game live at watch.AUDL.tv.
Travis Carpenter, Indianapolis AlleyCats
“I honestly am expecting to be back to my 2019 self again this year.”
The heart and soul of the Indianapolis AlleyCats, Travis Carpenter was an MVP finalist in 2019 after leading Indy to a Championship Weekend appearance. Now, after missing all of last season with an ACL injury, he’s ready to make his 2023 debut in a tough interdivisional draw against Atlanta this Saturday. Carpenter’s presence in the AlleyCats’ backfield raises the team’s ceiling significantly, and they’ll be happy to have him back against an Atlanta team that edged out Indy by a narrow two-goal margin at the end of last season. With field-stretching throws, a non-stop motor, and playmaking ability on both sides of the disc, Carpenter comes into the new season as somewhat of a dark horse MVP candidate and he’ll have a great chance to set the tone for the season against the number six ranked team in the league.
Khalif El-Salaam, Seattle Cascades
After brief tours in San Diego and Atlanta, Khalif El-Salaam will make his highly anticipated return to the Seattle Cascades lineup tomorrow against the Shred. El-Salaam was named to the first ever AUDL All-Star game in his last season with Seattle in 2019; he consistently showcased an ability to do anything and everything the team needed. Whether he played offense or defense, cut downfield or facilitated with his throws, Khalif was (and is again) the most well rounded player on the team. The Cascades are still super young, and getting some much-needed veteran leadership, not to mention big-game experience, from El-Salaam could have them making noise in the West this year.
Grant Lindsley, Salt Lake Shred
For the first time since winning the 2019 AUDL title with the New York Empire, Grant Lindsley is expected back on the AUDL field tomorrow night for his Salt Lake Shred debut. The last time we saw him in the league, Lindsley exploded for 14 scores across two games at Championship Weekend 8, adding nearly 1,500 total yards of offense. The unofficial Championship Weekend MVP has one of the quickest first steps in the game as a cutter, which he uses repeatedly to set up precise throws and facilitate possessions. Last year, the Shred offense revolved around MVP runner-up Jordan Kerr. It’ll be worth watching how touches are distributed in Kerr and Lindsley’s first game together, and more generally what role Lindsley plays in his first AUDL game in nearly four years.
Rowan McDonnell, DC Breeze (Pictured)
It looks like the DC Breeze are going to follow the trend of switching an offensive weapon and former AUDL MVP to the D-line, at least to start the season. New York did this last year halfway through the season with Ben Jagt, and now it’s time for DC to do the same with Rowan McDonnell. Rowan started his career as a D-liner for DC before switching to offense in 2018, his MVP season. He’s continued to make hustle plays defensively since becoming one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the game—he’s recorded seven blocks each of the last two seasons—and if he does switch back to D, he instantly becomes the best all-around D-line quarterback in the league after turnovers. That’s going to be key when playing against teams like Carolina and New York when turnovers come at a premium, which I expect to be the case in the Week 1 Game of the Week.
Jordan Rhyne, Philadelphia Phoenix
In his first game with the Philadelphia Phoenix last season, Jordan Rhyne went off for over 600 throwing yards and seven assists, including going 5-of-5 on throws of 40-plus yards against Boston. Whether he’s operating in motion or from a standstill, Rhyne anchors the Philly backfield whenever he’s active and optimizes their big-play offense with consistent deep shots—he led the league in completed hucks per game last year with 3.3. He missed both New York games last year, so he’ll get his first shot at them this Saturday. The Phoenix completed just 53.3 percent of their hucks against New York last year, about nine points lower than their season average; expect them to up their efficiency with Rhyne in the lineup.
Joe White, Carolina Flyers
Lots of Joe White mentions in the Week 1 “Player Chatter” article as a player to watch this week, and I agree. White signed with the Carolina Flyers this offseason after playing his rookie season in 2022 with the Chicago Union, and with Eric Taylor’s absence this week, White may need to be leaned on in his Flyers debut. White’s explosiveness was apparent from his first game onward last season, and while he played nearly 75 percent of his points on defense, he still recorded 24 scores in just five games. His throwing power makes him a threat every time he touches the disc, and his quickness at his size makes him a matchup nightmare in the cutting space. His exact fit on this Flyers team remains to be seen, as well as how much of a green light he’s given—Carolina has averaged just 14 turnovers per game over the last two seasons, while White averaged 2.2 per game himself last year—but there’s no question he’ll have a strong presence on Saturday.
Jack Williams, New York Empire
In his first meeting with the Phoenix last year, Jack Williams took over in rainy conditions and had one of his best statistical games of the season, with six scores, three blocks, and over 350 yards of offense on 30 turnover-free touches. In his second meeting, Jack was held to a single assist, no goals, and completed just 16 throws. The difference? Paul Owens.
“He has made some incredible plays on me in the handler space." Williams told Evan Lepler last month. "It’s something about the way he plays that makes me feel open but then I realize he’s right there.”
The reigning Championship Weekend MVP is expected to draw the Owens matchup again this Saturday, and it’ll be worth watching how Williams’ role in the offense adjusts; while he was quiet in the last meeting, teammate Ryan Osgar tossed a season-high 10 assists. It seems nearly impossible to limit both offensive stars, but if Philly’s going to have a chance, it’ll start with holding Williams in check.
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