May 11, 2023
By Daniel Cohen
All around the league, teams are entering new eras: Atlanta’s 2023 season is looking like the year of the bigs, Chicago’s moving on from their franchise quarterback, and LA’s integrating the new with the old. With multiple first-place games on the line this week, the following seven Players to Watch stand to make big impressions in Week 3.
Paul Arters, Chicago Union
In two days, the post-Pawel era officially begins for the Chicago Union. Obviously, there’s no real way to replace a player like the AUDL’s assist king. Chicago doesn’t have a reserve of Pawels sitting around, no one’s stepping into that role, and everyone knows it. But when it comes to throwing ability and red zone aggressiveness, there are players on this year’s team that could take on at least some of that vacated production, and one of the prime candidates is Paul Arters. While he’s served as a fairly typical hybrid in his first two seasons in Chicago, it wouldn’t surprise me if Arters started commanding more touches this year, especially in this first game without O-line handler Sam Kaminsky. He’s the best thrower on the line, and has shown a nose for the end zone that will allow Chicago to stay explosive even without their former QB1. Still surrounded by talented downfield cutters like Ross Barker, Jack Shanahan, and newcomer Andrew Sjogren (wouldn’t hate it if Nate Goff crosses over a bit too), Arters should have plenty of opportunities to shoot this Saturday against an Indy team that has allowed the second-highest huck completion percentage this year.
Mischa Freystaetter, Atlanta Hustle
“He came out and he was dominant,” Atlanta Head Coach Tuba Benson-Jaja told Evan Lepler, referring to Mischa Freystaetter’s play at preseason minicamp. “He won everything under, everything in the air, was getting blocks. He was everywhere.”
The biggest free agent addition for the Atlanta Hustle this year, Freystaetter is set to make his 2023 debut tomorrow night against Austin. The 6’7” matchup nightmare last played in the AUDL in 2019 with the Flyers, averaging nearly five scores per game and completing over 97 percent of his throws that year. He’s been an offensive weapon throughout his career, most notably setting the record for most goals scored in a single season (95) in 2016 with the Jacksonville Cannons. This Hustle lineup has already begun to get the most out of their bigs, as we’ve seen both Brett Hulsmeyer and Dean Ramsey thriving as two-way players through the first two games of the season. With plenty of throwers and cutters over six feet tall on the roster, fingers crossed that we get to see at least one all-big line for Atlanta.
Matt Gouchoe-Hanas, Carolina Flyers
Through two weeks, the Carolina Flyers are converting 52.6 percent of their offensive possessions; they haven’t finished a season below 53 percent since 2016, and they’ve finished at least 10 percentage points higher each of the last two seasons. One visible reason for the slow start has been the absence of Matt Gouchoe-Hanas, who’s completed close to 99 percent of his throws through his first two years in the league. With reliable reset cuts, sharp throws, and incredible decision-making, Gouchoe-Hanas stabilizes the entire Flyers offense and has been arguably the best reset handler in the league since his rookie year. He’ll make his 2023 debut this Saturday against Austin, though he’ll be without his typical backfield counterpart in Sol Yanuck; Elijah Long has stepped up in Gouchoe-Hanas’ absence and should now serve as the yin to Gouchoe-Hanas’ yang. MGH will look to get the Flyers back on track, as they look to avoid their first 0-3 start in franchise history.
Jonny Malks, DC Breeze
46.8 percent efficiency for the DC Breeze offense through the first two games of the season—that ranks in the bottom half of the league (barely, but still). Put simply, they’ve looked weird. And it’s going to be on guys like Jonny Malks to turn this thing around, especially in one of their two biggest games of the season this Saturday against the New York Empire. Malks has committed six turnovers through the first two games, tied for the most on the team. And while he leads the team in touches and total yards, his volume hasn’t yet translated into efficient production for the O-line. He did look better last week against Philly, and hopefully will continue trending upward as the Breeze solidify the offensive rotation, but he’s going to need to take better care of the disc if DC’s going to keep pace with New York. How he fares against one (or multiple) of Marques Brownlee, John Randolph, or Bretton Tan should tell the story of the Breeze offense this Saturday.
Ryan Osgar, New York Empire
The reigning AUDL MVP is always going to be a matchup problem in whichever role he’s forced into, but DC was the first team last year that limited most of the damage Ryan Osgar could inflict as a thrower. The Breeze threw a few different looks at him in the 2022 East Division Championship Game, deploying a combination of Jasper Tom and David Cranston, and the result was four throwaways, zero completed hucks, and a single assist. Osgar of course still scored five goals, and would eventually set a single-season playoff record with 17 goals last year—he also casually set the single-season playoff record for assists the season prior, with 18—but taking away the engine of New York’s deep game allowed DC to hang with them better than any other team could last year. The Empire will be missing another deep throwing threat in Elliott Chartock this week, so Osgar’s role may especially be worth watching this week in the highly anticipated rivalry game.
Jake Radack, Austin Sol
Jake Radack and the Austin Sol offense are facing their first true test of the season this week after back-to-back games against the two other Texas teams. The top thrower on the Sol O-line, the offense’s success often hinges on Radack’s performance. In their 2022 road trip to Atlanta and Carolina, Radack had 10 throwaways across the two games, both losses; in the win over Carolina later that year, Radack recorded just two throwaways and completed all three of his hucks. When Radack’s on, he’s got the supporting cast downfield to light up the scoreboard, and he may even have a bit more insurance this year with newcomer Duncan Fitzgerald looking fully capable of taking on half the backfield workload. Facing Atlanta’s zone and Carolina’s army of handler defenders, Radack will have his work cut out for him in an effort to steer the Sol hype train to a successful weekend.
Brandon Van Deusen, Los Angeles Aviators
After leading the Los Angeles Aviators last season in total yards, Brandon Van Deusen is set to play his first game of the year tomorrow night against Portland. Van Deusen’s presence was missed in last week’s Game of the Week, as the LA offense struggled to find a rhythm with their debut backfield of Pawel Janas and Jason Vallee. There was a lack of cohesiveness without last year’s primary distributor, and Van Deusen should play a sizable role in his return to the lineup; adding another big throwing presence alongside Janas should open up more options for the offense and ease the transition into this new era for LA. Still, there are going to be questions with this offense, especially early in the season, and it’s worth watching how Van Deusen’s role shifts from last season as the new LA system works out its kinks.
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