May 18, 2023
By Daniel Cohen
This week’s Players to Watch feature several game-breaking downfield weapons, capable of exhausting not only their matchups but entire defense units. Loads of scoring potential on the list this week, including a couple key 2023 debuts.
Alex Atkins, Colorado Summit
Making his 2023 debut this Saturday against the Aviators, Alex Atkins returns to the Colorado Summit lineup this weekend for the first time since July 2, 2022, which also happened to be a home game vs. LA. Before his injury, Atkins made his impact just about everywhere on the field last season, whether he was complementing Jonathan Nethercutt as a handler, operating as a downfield striker, or earning the disc back with explosive defensive highlights. He was named to the All-Rookie Second Team last season despite appearing in just eight games, and with an all-around skill set perfectly suited for the Summit offense, his ceiling is as high as any young player in the league.
Hayden Austin-Knab, Atlanta Hustle
While he’s appeared in just 11 career games since 2019, Hayden Austin-Knab seems to make himself known every time he’s taken the field. Ultiworld’s 2021 D1 Men’s Player of the Year has been dominating the college division with the University of Georgia for the past few years, and with a dynamic skill set that features elite range on his throws, impressive in-air athleticism, and a ballhawk mentality on defense, Austin-Knab has the versatility to slot in wherever (and whenever) needed for this Atlanta squad. He made his 2023 debut last week spending most of his time on D-line (4/13 point split for O/D), and the result was two goals and two blocks without a turnover. The Hustle have rotated at least eight different players playing double-digit O-points in each game this season, and without Karl Ekwurtzel, Max Thorne, and potentially Liam Haberfield (questionable) this Sunday against Carolina, HAK could see plenty of action playing both ways.
Jakob Brissette, Montreal Royal
A late addition to the Montreal Royal this year, Jakob Brissette is back at the helm for the Royal offense and will make his debut this Saturday against Boston. Brissette finished eighth in the league last season in throwing yards (4,380) and represented the Royal in the 2022 All-Star Game this past November. Possessing a full arsenal of throws with a variety of release points, Brissette is the most important piece on the Montreal O-line, which actually fared pretty well in their first game against Toronto; they converted on 58.6 percent of their possessions, up significantly from last year’s 47.6 percent average. With Christophe Tremblay-Joncas’ switch to offense and the emergence of rookie Melvyn Brichet, Brissette should have a handful of complementary options as he takes on a Glory defense that has been surprisingly stingy through the first three weeks of the season.
Cameron Brock, Indianapolis AlleyCats
Absent for this past week’s game against Chicago, Cameron Brock returns to the Indianapolis AlleyCats lineup this Saturday as Indy hosts Madison at home. Last time facing the Radicals, Brock went off for seven goals and over 300 receiving yards without a turnover, including the playoff-clinching goal at the buzzer to give Indy the tiebreaker over Madison in the 2022 season series. Since the start of 2021, the AUDL’s all-time leading goal scorer has 16 goals in his last three meetings against Madison. Few teams have an answer for Brock’s downfield receiving prowess, though Minnesota did force two notable throwaways last time he played at home; he has three throwaways already this season after just five all of last year. If he’s his usual reliable self this weekend, the ‘Cats should be able to win their second straight and remain in striking distance of the top of the Central.
Jacob Fairfax, Carolina Flyers (Pictured)
It’s been a different-than-usual year for the Carolina Flyers O-line, but through all of the uncertainty of their rotations, Jacob Fairfax has looked like the most dominant player on the field more often than not. Fairfax racked up a career-high 690 total yards in the Flyers’ first meeting with Atlanta this season, and I’d be surprised if they don’t lean on him again in the rematch this Sunday. He’s the most established downfield threat on the team, and whether he’s finding softspots in the Hustle zone or burning his matchups deep, Fairfax excels at finding space and immediately punishing defenses. This week, the Flyers will have their most complete stable of throwers we’ve seen this season, with Matt Gouchoe-Hanas, Liam Searles-Bohs, Joe White, and Sol Yanuck all expected to play; the latter three will be looking for someone to take the top off the Atlanta defense, and Fairfax stands to be a primary option.
Paul Lally, San Diego Growlers
After missing the majority of San Diego’s first two games due to an early Week 1 injury against Colorado, Paul Lally is expected to be active for the Growlers’ double header weekend to Houston and Austin. Hopefully he’s fully recovered because the team is going to need him to handle a full workload in Week 4; Travis Dunn, the team’s offensive leader, is out this weekend. Dunn has nearly double the yardage total as the next closest player on the team, but it was Lally that led the team with over 6,500 total yards last season, finishing top 10 in the entire league. When healthy, he’s a fully capable offensive workhorse, able to facilitate drives with both his throws and his legs to keep the disc advancing downfield. Whether or not he can take care of the disc with inflated touch numbers this weekend should be a direct indicator of San Diego’s chances of a successful road trip; Lally had a brutal nine throwaways in his last full AUDL game played (last year’s West Division playoffs vs. Salt Lake).
Evan Swiatek, Austin Sol
While the Austin Sol offense has looked a little shaky to start 2023, Evan Swiatek has been his usual self as the O-line’s leading receiver. Swiatek leads the team in both total yards and receiving yards, as he’s been Austin’s best and most consistent player through the team’s first four games. Operating with his signature non-stop motor, Swiatek can single-handedly bail out the offense in high stall situations, and he excels at keeping the disc moving to get the offense back in rhythm. On the defensive side, his field sense and athleticism allow Austin to battle for possession after turnovers, and he’s a deadly crossover weapon for critical D-points. Swiatek scored 11 goals in two career games against San Diego, and he’s coming off a season-high four-goal game vs. Carolina; look for him to get Austin back on track after a disappointing Week 3 road trip.
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