As the upcoming 2018 season rapidly approaches, the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks will be playing without the aid of several key aspects. The Steelhawks have lost two wide receivers in Warren Oliver Jr and Darius Prince and defensive back Eddie Davis III this off-season.
The losses of those three players will affect the strength and aggressiveness of the Steelhawks moving toward the season’s beginning. Veteran Quarterback Warren Smith Jr. will be affected the most out of any player.
Smith lost two of his best wide receivers, who combined for a total of 1,270 receiving yards last season. The combined receiving yards of Oliver and Prince, made up 65 percent of Smith’s 1,953 passing yards in 2017.
As for the future careers of the three players, Oliver Jr. signed with the Duke City Gladiators of the Champions Indoor Football (CIF), Eddie Davis III signed with the Jacksonville Sharks, and Darius Prince told Inside the Arena back in September that he will play with the Philadelphia Soul for 2018.
“The future is with the Soul or higher,” he told Stephen Ur. “Lehigh [Valley] is a great organization, but it was a platform to get to a higher level such as the Soul or CFL/NFL.”
Warren Oliver Jr.
Warren Oliver Jr. will move on from the Steelhawks to continue his career with the Duke City Gladiators, members of the Champions Indoor Football league. He will leave the Steelhawks after having a solid 2017 campaign, appearing in all 10 of the team’s games last season.
He had a total of 552 receiving yards. He averaged 55.2 receiving yards per game and scored a total of 15 touchdowns.
Prince left the Steelhawks to become a member of the Philadelphia Soul prior to ArenaBowl XXX. Prince had an incredible 2017 season with the Steelhawks, as he tacked on a total of 718 receiving yards. He compiled an average of 71.8 receiving yards per game, and had a season total of 20 touchdowns.
He also scored two touchdowns in ArenaBowl XXX for the Soul back on Aug. 26. Philadelphia won their second consecutive title and Prince was named the game’s MVP.
Eddie Davis III
Davis will move on to playing with the NAL’s Jacksonville Sharks, after only playing in four games for the Steelhawks in the 2017 season. Davis III compiled an impressive total of seven interceptions in four games with the team.
Where does the roster and team stand at now?
With the loss of Oliver, Prince, and Davis, the Steelhawks have some off-season work to complete. Even though they just lost three players, the team still has Warren Smith Jr., Brandon Renford, Tommy Dover, Rodney Hall and Undra Hendrix II.
Hendrix was signed this off-season, after he spent the 2017 season with the High Country Grizzlies, former NAL members. Hendrix played in all 10 games compiling an average of 29.8 yards a game. He also scored a total of 12 touchdowns.
Renford remains as the only star wide receiver on the Steelhawks team. He compiled a total of 552 receiving yards and a total of 14 touchdowns on the season. He averaged 55.4 receiving yards per game.
Smith will return to the team, as their veteran quarterback. Smith played in all 10 games, with 169 completed passing yards in 256 passing attempts. He had a total of eight interceptions within the 256 passing attempts. He passed for 1,953 yards, and compiled 56 touchdowns, and a bold average of 195.3 passing yards per game.
Dover and Hall will both return to defense for the 2018 season. Hall had seven interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, as he played all 10 games last season. Dover had eight sacks last season, and he also played in all 10 games, as well.
The Future of the Steelhawks
Even with the loss of significant leaders, including head coach Chris Thompson, the Steelhawks could still manage to be successful. New head coach Bob Kohler has already began the search for new players to fill in the empty roster voids.
If the right signings are made, the team could get back on the path of success. The impact Davis, Prince, and Oliver made was huge, but the team will have to overcome the painful loss of those players.
Kohler will use his 40 plus years of coaching to bring in new and experienced players, and will also rely Smith Jr. to “fly” the Steelhawks to success.
The league schedule has yet to be released, but according to multiple sources, the season will begin in April and end in August. This is a different look from last season, when the season ran from March to July.