When the historic occasion of toe meeting leather happens on Oct. 1, the Chinese Arena Football League will be underway. The Guangzhou Power may not be one of the teams talked about as far as favorites, but don’t entirely count them out in the Super Series.
Their coaching staff has deep roots in the Arena Football League, highlighted by head coach Ernesto Purnsley, whose near 20 years of coaching experience includes crafting championship defense in 2005 to help the Colorado Crush win the ArenaBowl.
While the draft was spread fairly evenly between domestic and international talent, the Power used two late picks (12th and 19th rounds) to shore up some experience under center with JJ Raterink and Alex Carder. Raterink, who last played in the AFL in 2015, spent six seasons with five different teams.
His best season came in 2012, setting career highs in completion percentage (66.8), passing yards (4,870, breaking Kurt Warner‘s franchise record), and touchdown passes (93, breaking Aaron Garcia‘s franchise record).
Known for a scrambling ability and as a dual threat, Raterink also has 41 rushing touchdowns to his credit. This key ability will allow for wide receivers like Duane Brooks, Lavasier Tuinei, and former Wuhan Institute target Xun Da Qiu time and space to get themselves open. Speaking of Brooks, he will arguably provide the biggest boost to special teams. In 2015, along with a 60-catch season racking up 559 yards and seven touchdowns, Brooks set a single-season record returning eight kickoffs for touchdowns, earning First Team All-Arena honors in the process.
While speed is the name of the game on offense, size will be the key feature of the defense. With domestic players like Baiyang He (6’4″, 286 lbs) and Xu Guo (6’2″, 275 lbs) anchoring the line, the front five will also have the tenacity of Tyre Glasper, who has spent a storied seven-year career with the Arizona Rattlers. At 6’3″, weighing in at 265 lbs, Glasper is known to get at the quarterback, highlighted by an 11-sack season with the Rattlers in 2015 as part of 35.5 in his career.
Anchoring the secondary is Virgil Gray, Glasper’s teammate with the Rattlers from 2011-13. When he wasn’t running back kicks (six return touchdowns in 2011), he was intercepting opposing quarterbacks. Gray had a career best 15 picks in 2013, returning three for touchdowns. In his six-year career, Gray snatched 47 passes, taking seven back to the house.
Between a fast offense and a fierce defense, Guangzhou could be one of the teams to beat in 2016. It all starts when they face the Qingdao Clipper on Oct. 1 in the second game of Round 1 of the Super Series.