March 13, 2023
By Daniel Cohen
Happy "AUDL Throws Week"! Let’s take a look at the top handler sets in the league heading into the new season.
5. Los Angeles Aviators: Pawel Janas and Brandon Van Deusen
You might be a little surprised to see a team that went 4-8 last season making it onto this list, but that’s just the kind of impact a singular presence like Pawel Janas is expected to bring to his new team. No player in AUDL history has thrown more assists or had more completions than Janas, and I expect him to pair well with Brandon Van Deusen, who’s been trending towards ‘elite distributor’ status over the past couple seasons. Entering his third season in the league, the 23-year-old made a significant second-year leap, functioning as the primary engine behind the Aviators deep attack in 2022. He led the team in total yards with over 2,000 more than the next closest player, and he should remain a high-volume option in the Aviators offense even with the addition of Janas.
These two could take a sort of thunder and lightning approach with Van Deusen’s deep game and Pawel’s finesse—or maybe thunder and thunder if Pawel wants to go that route—as they’ll look to establish a new identity for the LA offense in 2023.
4. Colorado Summit: Jonathan Nethercutt and [pick another handler/hybrid or two]
First it was Alex Atkins, then Danny Landesman, and a good mix of Matt Jackson, Jay Froude, and Quinn Finer helping out along the way. But this is Jonathan Nethercutt’s backfield, and everyone else just lives in it from time to time. The 2017 AUDL MVP couldn’t have been a better fit for the explosive Summit offense in his first year with the team.
“We’ve got a really good host of receivers downfield,” said Nethercutt at last year’s Championship Weekend press conference. “A lot of my job is just being able to threaten whatever they’re attacking.”
It’s obvious to point to his record-setting huck completions (38 last year) and understand his impact, but the gravity he brings to the field is apparent even when he’s not taking those shots. With an elite lineup of cutters, defenses have to respect (and dread) every deep cut when Nut has the disc in his hands, which in turn opens up the entire offense. His multitude of backfield complements give the offense additional flexibility, and even when Nethercutt gets pushed upfield or is out of the play, there’s plenty of throwing ability across this Summit O-line to advance the disc without relying on one-throw possessions. This is one of the more dynamic backfields in the league that orbits around a true QB1.
3. DC Breeze: Jonny Malks and Rowan McDonnell
With the way DC rotates its handlers, it’s not easy to zero in on a true “backfield”—and likely won’t get any easier with the new additions of Thomas Edmonds and Andrew Roy—but it’d be wrong not to mention Jonny Malks and Rowan McDonnell in this article. The two O-line staples have finished first and second on the team in completions each of the last two seasons, with 500-plus each year. They’re the most versatile duo on this list and have developed incredible chemistry both with each other and the rest of the offense; each player is equally comfortable releasing from the backfield as they are launching the disc to their counterpart 60 yards downfield.
These two play year-round together, co-host a podcast, and own two of the most effective and creative throwing arsenals in the league. There’s no offense in the league that maintains spacing and flow better than DC, and it's field generals like Malks and Rowan that are at the center of it all.
2. Carolina Flyers: Matt Gouchoe-Hanas and Sol Yanuck
The prototypical two-man backfield of Matt Gouchoe-Hanas and Sol Yanuck has been one of the most consistent components of the Flyers offense each of the last two seasons. Yanuck brings the big throws, aggressive disc movement, and timely releases from the backfield while Gouchoe-Hanas serves as the best reset handler in the league. Both guys can work the disc back and forth effortlessly until the offense opens up; their patience and small-space cutting ability makes them a nightmare matchup for opposing defenders.
What makes them the perfect O-line anchors is their general approach of doing what’s best for the offense at any given moment. This offense is loaded with continuation throwers and guys that can get open downfield, but you need a backfield like Gouchoe-Hanas and Yanuck to manage it all, direct traffic, and put everyone in the best position to succeed. The duo isn’t over reliant on any one offensive approach—they excel at knowing exactly when and how to use the tools at their disposal.
1. New York Empire: Elliott Chartock, Solomon Rueschemeyer-Bailey, and Jack Williams
When it’s fully active, there may not be a steadier, more consistent backfield in the league than the Chartock-SRB-Williams combo. This trio was pivotal in leading the Empire to their historic offensive efficiency rate in 2022, whether it relied on Elliott Chartock hucks, the steady hand of Solomon Rueschemeyer-Bailey, or simply “Playoff Jack.” Having the best player in the world in Jack Williams anchoring the backfield is a strong recipe for success, but for a large part of the past two seasons it never needed to be the Jack show in the backfield. Chartock has the throws to fully unlock New York’s loaded receiving core, while Ruschemeyer-Bailey has become one of the most reliable young handlers in the league; SRB threw the disc away just four times in nearly 500 throws last season.
There’s really no way to contain all three of these guys, and when they’re in rhythm and regularly getting the disc to the second level, there’s very little that can stop this offense. Easy resets, sharp break throws, and high levels of chemistry make this backfield the most formidable in the league.
Follow Daniel Cohen on Twitter