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7 players to know from the second weekend of the AAF

We’ve got NFL vets, college stars, and a couple guys you may not have heard of among Week 2’s standouts.

AAF: Orlando Apollos at San Antonio Commanders Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The second week of the Alliance of American Football’s opening season has come and gone, and while it may have lacked the big plays and crushing hits that defined the opening weekend, there was no shortage of action that could easily be described as “football.” The league’s combination of old pros and collegiate stars churned through another set of four games, providing an oasis in the football-free stretch between Super Bowl 53 and the 2019 NFL Draft.

Week 2 was a showcase for some familiar faces and overlooked players looking to jump start their gridiron careers. So who left the biggest mark on last weekend’s action?

Joel Bouagnon, Salt Lake running back

Bouagnon carried 11 times for 70 yards and a touchdown against Birmingham, which counts as a veritable offensive explosion given the early standards this league is setting. I liked his burst to the outside on a 24-yard run late in the third quarter of the Stallions’ loss:

The former NIU Husky was first-team All-MAC in 2015, and he’s spent time on practice squads for the Packers, Lions, and Jets. He turns 24 in March and might be one of the AAFers an NFL team would be likeliest to look at, as he plays a revolving-door position. — Alex Kirshner

Zac Stacy, Memphis Express running back

The former Vanderbilt University all-time rushing leader’s comeback kicked into gear Saturday despite a 20-18 loss explained away by the fact Christian Hackenberg is his quarterback. He became the first player in league history to record a 100-yard rushing game when he carved up the Arizona Hotshots despite zero semblance of a passing game in front of him — Hackenberg needed 25 passes to throw for just 102 yards.

Stacy’s experience was on full display throughout the game as he ran with a combination of power and patience that kept Arizona reeling.

His 159 rush yards are tied with Ja’Quan Gardner for the league lead. Stacy will be 28 years old by the time the upcoming NFL season starts and hasn’t played in the league since 2015, but his brief retirement appears to have recharged the former Rams and Jets tailback. — Christian D’Andrea

Karter Schult, Salt Lake defensive end

Schult’s flown under the radar his whole football career. He played his college ball at Northern Iowa and, while he was there, won the Buck Buchanan Award as the best defender in all of FCS in 2016. That year, he had 17 sacks and 24 tackles for loss. He had two and three against Birmingham, with the sacks coming two plays apart in the first quarter.

Here’s the first, where he beats a tight end who was supposed to at least chip him:

The Iron could’ve prevented that with a better back-side seal, but it goes to the point that you maybe shouldn’t try to block Schult with a tight end or back.

And here’s the second, where he deals with a chipping tight end before beating the left tackle cleanly and forcing a fumble on a sack:

He generated at least one other pressure all on his own late in the game. He continually bothered the Iron’s Luis Perez, who was the AAF’s best QB in Week 1. — Alex Kirshner

Jalin Marshall, Orlando Apollos wide receiver

Marshall will forever have a place in AAF history. Last week, he scored the first touchdown in the league’s debut, an athletic grab that was initially ruled incomplete but then overturned as we got a peek at a policy the NFL should adopt: transparent instant replay. The former high school quarterback even added a Philly Special-style touchdown pass later on.

This week, he missed his second shot at a touchdown pass when his lob to Charles Johnson fell incomplete. Yet he made his other moments count, including this catch up the middle that he turned into a 57-yard gain thanks to a couple of good moves:

The Apollos, now 2-0, were behind all game to the San Antonio Commodores until Marshall’s score tied things up in the fourth quarter:

They never looked back.

Marshall’s stats weren’t eye-popping Sunday (three catches for 84 yards and the touchdown). But his routes were impressive and the attention the defense gave him helped open things up for Johnson — who finished with seven receptions for 192 yards and a touchdown— to dominate.

At only 23, the former Jets receiver and return man is doing everything he can to earn another shot at the NFL. — Sarah Hardy

Charles Johnson, Orlando Apollos wide receiver

Marshall was great, but Orlando’s biggest star Sunday was Johnson, who exploded for seven catches and an absurd 192 yards. The former Packers draft pick was unstoppable down the field, averaging 19.2 yards per target in Week 2’s highest-scoring game.

Johnson’s got 82 more receiving yards than anyone else in the league through two weeks. While he was never quite able to follow up an explosive rookie season in 2014, the three-year NFL veteran still has some jets as he inches closer to age 30. — Christian D’Andrea

Trent Richardson, Birmingham Iron running back

The former No. 3 overall pick had a very Trent Richardson stat line on the ground, carrying the ball 19 times for 41 yards. But he was impactful in the passing game, where his six receptions for 50 yards led the Iron. His 2-yard touchdown plunge with 4:40 to go in the fourth quarter served as the game’s deciding points in a 12-9 rock fight. — Christian D’Andrea

Philip Nelson, San Diego Fleet quarterback

Nelson’s numbers were categorically bad Sunday. He completed only 14 of his 30 passes for 146 yards and an interception. And while he was able to run the ball for 28 yards, he was also sacked three times.

This was not one of those times. Instead, it is art.

Nelson has never played a down in the NFL and is unlikely to, because once you’ve done that, there are no more worlds left to conquer. — Christian D’Andrea