The North Texas Stampede have been around for 17 years and are one of the most storied developmental football teams in the state of Texas. They’re not going anywhere either. In fact, a whole new era is just beginning with new head coach Jack Bridges.
“When (team owner) Pat Porter brought me in this off-season, he basically cleaned house,” Bridges told Developmental Football USA. “From his GM to all of his coaches, he brought me in and all of my staff. The players are excited, they want to see what we can do as coaches and we want to see what they can do as players. It’s a whole new staff, even with some of the guys that have been on the prior teams with the Stampede, it’s a new thing for them. You have veterans on the team that are having to prove themselves all over again.”
With the new staff comes a new wave of excitement, which the Stampede coaches look to use to improve on last season’s 10-3 record and so far, they have addressed what they feel are the two main things keeping North Texas from bringing home another championship.
“When I played the game I actually played against these guys,” Bridges said. “The Stampede has always had lots of talent. I just saw some falters and flaws in the structure with these guys, that’s something my staff and I have brought in, structure and discipline.
“As a head coach, you have to bring in guys that think like you and believe what you believe in. I got myself surrounded with guys just like me. I don’t see any falters in that, I see what these guys can bring to the Stampede team. We thought this team was lacking discipline and lacking structure. That’s what we’ve tried to bring since we started OTAs back in September. I’ve been beating them over the head with that since I met these guys in September.”
The Stampede have received overwhelming interest from newcomers wanting to join the team, so the coaching staff will be faced with the difficult task of cutting 15 to 20 players.
“Right now, I’m sitting at about 77 guys right now, almost 80 guys,” Bridges said. “The league allows us to have I think 60 guys, so I’m going to have to do some slim picking before the season.”
Every team in Texas is familiar with the Stampede, and as a result they’re used to having a target on their backs. Their first challenge is coming this weekend when they take on another very prominent foe in the San Antonio Warriors.
“We know the Warriors and their background,” Bridges said. “They are a really high-powered team in minor league football, so it should be a nice challenge for us in our first game this week. I like our chances and believe we can win any game, from the San Antonio Warriors to the Garland Aztecs, I believe we can beat anybody we play.”
With this week just being pre-season and the team still having a full Minor Professional Football League schedule ahead of them, a win isn’t the only thing they’re looking for this week.
“I know they’re pretty tough and make good playoff runs every year, but I have no doubt about our guys as well,” Bridges said. “We’re going to accept all challenges and it just so happens the Warriors are the first one we got. We’re going to play to win, but we want to stay injury free and don’t want to play our starters a whole lot. We want to see what everyone can do and that’s what we’re looking for, as opposed to trying to just come away with the win.”
After this weekend’s game, the Stampede will face the Dallas Trojans on Feb. 4 and the Central Texas Apaches on Feb. 11 before kicking off the MPFL season against the Lonestar Rangers on March 5.
With the new coaching staff, veterans are having to prove themselves again, while rookies are looking to make a good impression.
“We’ve got a few guys that have kind of stood out,” Bridges said. “There are a few guys I can bank on starting this year and playing a big role for us this year. We haven’t told the guys who are going to start, but I think they have an idea of who is going to start.
“The main thing is keeping the competition going, not letting anyone get complacent from the top down. I’ve got a staff built. Every position coach I have, I have an assistant for that position coach. That keeps everybody on their Ps and Qs. It doesn’t delegate to players. I make everybody accountable. When the players see that, it trickles down to the players.”
Despite the changes, several players have gotten the attention of the coaches during OTAs and practice and are expected to factor in heavily this season.
Offensively, the Stampede are fortunate enough to have a gunslinger that is basically an extension of the coaching staff.
“One of our guys we named a captain is Brandon Noohi, who played a little college ball in the Oklahoma area,” Bridges said. “He’s been playing on the minor league level for awhile. He’s won some championships and he was the quarterback for the Oklahoma City Thunder, traveling from Dallas to OKC to play with them, now he’s playing for us.
“He’s an offensive guru, he knows our offense as well as our offensive coordinator. He’s a coach on the field. At this level, when a guy can come and basically tell every single guy on the field what his assignment is, then your offense is in pretty good hands and that’s what Brandon brings to the table. He’s a coach on the field.”
Noohi is joined in the backfield by veteran running back Keith Davis.
“He’s been with the Stampede for a few years,” Bridges said. “He knows the game and he coaches high school football. He’s a coach himself. At this level, guys with that kind of caliber are second to none. He’s a hard runner, he’s a nice-sized guy. He likes to hit the tackles and bounces out. He’s going to be huge for us out of the backfield.”
As if the two weapons in the backfield aren’t enough, the Stampede could have the most decorated receiving corps in the MPFL.
“One is a rookie, but he doesn’t play like a rookie,” Bridges said. “This is his first year playing minor league minor league football, Kiante Griffin, he played at Baylor University. He’s probably going to catch the MPFL by storm because they don’t know anything about him. He’s probably going to be one of our main go-to guys.
“Lenny Williams, he’s been around the Stampede for a while. He’s not the explosive guy, more of a possession guy that’s going to keep the chains moving. He has sure hands and guys are going to follow him.
“Michael Newhouse played at Texas Tech, he’s a big physical guy. DBs don’t like messing with this guy off the line, DBs try to press and jam you, but you can’t do that to this guy. He’s a change of pace and he’s going to bring a lot to the table as well. He’s been around semipro for a few years as well, but this is his first year with us as well.”
Every good offense begins up front with the offensive line and that’s not an area the Stampede are lacking in either.
“Our offensive line coach is Octus Polk,” Bridges said. “He played his college ball at SFA and he played for a few uears with the Chicago Bears. Those guys feed off their coach and he has those guys rolling.
“Jeremy Roberson, he’s one of our main guys on the offensive line and Darren Billups, he’s another veteran on the offensive line and Chris Mason. Those guys are three of the main offensive linemen, veterans that have been with the Stampede for a while, they are big guys that can play. Jeremy is still doing tryouts for indoor teams. He’s one of those guys that may be with us for the rest of the season, but may not be if he gets picked up at a higher level.”
The Stampede’s star-studded roster doesn’t end with offense.
“On defense, it starts with our defensive line,” Bridges said. “They are very, very strong. We’ve got a guy at d-tackle, Skyler Graham, that brings a lot to the table. He’s a heavy load at that nose and d-tackle spot, along with Demonte Randall. He’s coming off an all-star season and Demarcus Cummings. He’s a beast on the defensive end. The defensive end spots are going to be one of our main spots because we got some ends coming like no other. Cummings on one end, we have another new guy also coming from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brandon Hearne. He’s a beast on that d-line as well.”
If the defensive line isn’t too much for opposing offenses to handle, the rest of the front seven is solid, and there’s not one single weak spot.
“Our linebackers are very strong,” Bridges said. “Cornelius Houston, he’s been playing middle linebacker for the Stampede for probably about 14 years. He’s getting a little older, but he’s still very, very strong. We’ve moved some younger guys in that middle spot, but he’ll be playing more outside linebacker than he did in the past. He’s a 14-year veteran and brings a lot to the table.
“One of the guys we’re looking to hold down that middle is Chris Hayes. Chris is a monster, talk about a Brian Urlacher, Clay Mathews type of guy. He plays sideline to sideline. He’s full of energy and full of power. That’s Chris Hayes. He’s going to play in the middle a lot because he runs sideline to sideline and he’s real physical.
“Another guy is Cortez Glenn, he’s a linebacker that’s been around awhile. He’s a meat eater, he likes to eat, and not food on the table. He likes to eat on that gridiron. Julius Miller is another veteran linebacker with the Stampede that brings a lot to the table as well.”
Looking to feed off any scraps that the powerful front seven is an equally talented defensive backfield.
“Our Secondary is pretty solid too,” Bridges said. “We’ve got some pretty solid corners. Jeremy Carlton, he holds down the corner, he’s a fairly young guy but he’s been with the team a few years. He’s pretty solid. I’m not going to worry about him too much when it’s time to go man-to-man.
“The other side, we’ve got a guy by the name of Stewart Glenn. He holds down the other corner, he’s pretty solid, been around awhile. He’s doing his thing. He can hold down the corner. We do have some younger corners coming in that are going to be pushing Jeremy and pushing Stew at the corners.
“Our safety spot is looking real good. Bernard Daniel, he was at the Minnesota Vikings camp. He’s a man amongst boys and he shuts it down. He even shuts down our practices sometimes so I can only imagine what he’s going to do on Saturday nights. It’s his first year with the Stampede. The Minnesota Vikings, anyone that’s been around that level brings a certain mentality to the table.
“JC Childers, he’s another one back there that’s a veteran with the Stampede and he’s going to bring some spunk back there as well. We’ve got a newcomer that’s coming, Isaiah Johnson. It’s his first year with the Stampede. He’s going to turn some heads as well.”
The Stampede may just have enough quality pieces in place at both side to unseat the defending champion, Texas Bullets. While they know it won’t be an easy task, it’s something they definitely have their eyes on.
“We’re going to treat every game the same, but there will be some games we circle,” Bridges said. “Obviously right now the Texas Bullets were the champions, so that’s who everybody wants to beat. We get the chance to play the Bullets twice, both home and away. We’re looking forward to those games for sure. We definitely want to circle those games, but we’re going to take every game as if it’s the last game.”
Look for more Stampede news at DFUSA.