2016 Atlanta Hustle Preview
What to expect from the Hustle offense this season
The Atlanta Hustle’s offensive strengths are veteran savvy, long throwers, and team speed. With a year in the AUDL under their belts, expect the offensive efficiency to tick upwards. They will be capable of grinding and gunning, mixing the two to keep defenses off balance. They will run defenders ragged, sideline to sideline, waiting for an opening to attack downfield for big chunks of yards. With more weapons to choose from there should be a wider rotation.
The Atlanta o-line will see some significant changes downfield this season. Jay Clark is not in Atlanta anymore while outside constraints may lead to increased time on defense for playmakers Christian Olsen. Brian Moore will be working in the midwest this summer.
Dylan Tunnell will again anchor the 2016 offense complimented in the backfield by Kyle Stapleton. These two power handlers shrink the field with their deep shots and effortless breaks. Unlike last season, Dylan is entering 2016 free of injury and has looked more dynamic in preseason action. He is strong leader with an analytical mind who quickly reads defenses on the centering pass. Stapleton uses excellent balance and body control to move his mark allowing the offense to reverse field for counter attacks. When he catches the disc going forward his flick hucks can attack end line to end line.
Mark Poole will again roam the mid space leveraging his versatility and field sense to punish the break side and fill in behind the disc. New addition Max Leonard is expected to carve out a similar role. He is a capable deep thrower known for his ability to break the mark. Both short-mids do a good job of attacking sideline to sideline and mixing in threatening deep cuts to keep defenders off balance but most importantly cutting intelligently to complement those behind them.
Atlanta is adding a new core of explosive cutters downfield. Elliott Erickson has exceptional burst, speed and lift as well as a resume that boasts big game experience on the college, club, and national levels. Austin “Draco” Taylor has the speed and quickness to match Erickson. He is tireless, intelligent and has a quiet intensity about him. With extra space to operate these burners will be running away from defenders. Both also have the deep and break throws to make you pay.
Did anybody mention Matt Smith? Good. Then we don’t have to (but we will). He’ll be breaking ankles in the South again. Yes his change of direction, hops and speed are highlights but what’s most impressive is the timing of his cuts. He gets open when throwers can hit him. He is slippery and clever. Matt’s flare and style give the offense swagger. Matt is embracing a leadership role this season that includes acting as a driving force with the Hustle’s outreach efforts alongside assistant coach Miranda Knowles.
Opponents will feel the pressure when trying to match up defenders for this group. With two new alpha cutters in the mix Smith could have even more opportunity to attack deep space.
The Hustle will infuse some height into the offense this season through Sam Gainer and Trenton Spinks without sacrificing speed. Sam is a playmaker who is strong attacking the disc in the air but is equally as dangerous coming under to take a deep shot. Trenton Spinks was 2nd on the team in blocks last season routinely taking and winning the hardest matchups in the division. Most notably Trenton pulled off the Snake-in-the-grass last season in Atlanta’s OT thriller over Raleigh. Spinks, who often gets teased for possibly being a robot, is blossoming from a relentless defender into a formidable offensive weapon. His rare combination of size, speed, and endurance will allow him to be a two way impact player this season.
Look for offensive 8th man Steven Hicks to continue his role scoring off the bench. He is a capable offensive and defensive handler posting 16A, 16G and 8 blocks. Hicks flows like water, fitting to the pieces around him. Evan Boecking is new this season and projects to play a similar role. Boecking is a smart, crafty handler who is flexible enough to play both ways. The coaches trust him and he will gain minutes as the season progresses.
What to expect from the Hustle defense this season
Depth. This roster is deeper and more skilled. Expect tighter coverage and fewer easy points for opponents. All seven players will be capable of generating a turnover. A major focus will be on converting more of those turns into breaks this season.
The Hustle defense begins with Robert Runner. If Dylan is Atlanta’s quarterback then Runner is their middle linebacker. He was the team MVP last season, not because he led the roster in blocks, but because he always makes the play the team needs and says what they need to hear. He is a general and the defense eagerly follows. He is first to pick up the disc, calmly aligning his troops before initiating the offense. He distributes to playmakers and strikes with his smooth lefty breaks.
Expect Allan Laviolette to step into Michael Spear’s vacancy. A team defender, he is capable of generating just as many blocks with his quickness and field sense while also carving up defenses with his creative throws. Laviolette’s quick decisive game is exceptionally dangerous in short field situations. His pulls will pin offenses back requiring a long march to score.
Christian Olsen played primarily offense for the Hustle last year and he wasn’t praised enough for it. In only 10 games played he had 30 A (2nd), 31 G(2nd), and 7 Blocks. If he played four more games he would have been knocking on the door for the All-South team. On defense he has the capacity to make game changing blocks too. Adding his skills to this defensive unit should help their conversion rate.
Ben Breault was another contributor for the defense that was off the radar at the start of the season. Breault notched a stout 20 assists, 9 goals, and 4 blocks last year in 10 games. He is the type of fast, tireless, and hungry cutter/defender that Atlanta covets.
The Hustle’s core defenders are back. Already known for generating blocks, Anders Olsen is rounding out his game with another college season under his belt. Sun Choi may have had the best offseason of anyone on the team. He looks poised to breakout. He is all energy and has as sudden a first step as Erickson. Robert Bradham won the 2015 workout warrior award. He is a tenacious defender who notched 22 goals last year, all priceless breaks. Sean Sears was 5th on the team with 12 blocks. He has a good mix of size, speed, intelligence, and physicality. Sean is also a trusted receiver who can be counted on to make difficult catches in tight coverage. Ryan Archibald is a versatile matchup defender, as likely to get a hand block with his length as he is to swat away a floating disc.
Tyler Haskell is not new to the Hustle. He made the team last year but never got to play because of a knee injury. He is another tall, fast, and physical defensive presence that the Hustle expects to contribute this season. At 6’ 6” David “Daisy” Berendes is expected to compliment 6’ 7” Taylor “Tree” Goforth in defending the big bodies of the South division. Berendes is a cerebral and experienced player who will be a valuable asset to the Hustle in many dimensions. Goforth broke his foot in the middle of last season. He is healthy now and trending toward his old form as a two way player.
Three newbs getting buzz in camp are Nathan Vickroy and Kelvin Williams. Vickroy, whose older brother was added to the Charlotte Express roster, is young, athletic, and skilled. He has a high ceiling and is expected to be an impact player once he gets adjusted to the AUDL game. Williams could contend for the Hustle lead in blocks this season. He has long arms and tremendous closing speed. Kelvin can dictate offensive players into cuts he wants them to make setting them up to generate a block. In his third season playing, Kelvin is still developing as a player. He is intelligent and our staff is impressed with how fast he integrates their coaching. JP Burns, a Bama Secs Select choice from KSU with a season of Chain to his credit, is yet another powerful and athletic defensive weapon for the Hustle to utilize.
The Hustle are also excited about the trio of UGA players they’ve add this year. Senior Sam Little has a polished game and carries himself as a pro already. Once he finishes his Georgia career he will be seen shredding marks with his low release backhand for both the offense and defense. UGA captain, Parker Bray, is in his third year playing and has shown remarkable play making ability. Homegrown Nathan Haskell is one of the more exciting talents in the whole South region. At times his potential seems limitless. The Hustle are hoping he develops into a cornerstone piece in Atlanta for years to come
On the mend
The Hustle are starting the season without leader and marking specialist Matthew Knowles. Knowles is slowed by a non-ultimate related back injury. Knowles tallied 12 blocks last year, many of which were hand blocks, stifling some of the best throwers in the division. Knowles is also a clever and creative handler that will further cement an improved defensive handler core when he returns. Until then he is admirably impacting the team from the sidelines at practice, coaching younger players and providing input to the staff. Last year, at 19, Ryan James appeared out of thin air to make the team and earn a number of starts on the d-line. He was a productive handler defender that displayed lots of promise. A groin pull has held him out of preseason action but he's looking to rejoin the team soon.
Top level Atlanta playmakers Jay Clark, Michael Spear, and Byron Liu have all left the city. Spear and Liu will see action in San Francisco for the flamethrowers while Clark will suit up in Boston this season.
Work will keep Brian Moore off the field this season. Playing primarily offense last season Moore had 21A, 25G, & 4 blocks.
Blake Hannah and Sebbi Di Francesco are both out for 2016 recovering from injury but expect to see them in the mix next year.
#WhosThat - Picks for breakout player of the year
- Mark Poole –> Austin Taylor, Elliott Erickson, Nathan Vickroy, Anders Olsen
- Kyle Stapleton –> Elliott Erickson, Kelvin Williams, Evan Boecking, Sam Little
- Robert Runner –> Sam Little, Nathan Vickroy, Allan Laviolette, Sam Gainer, Sun Choi
- Matt Knowles –> Nathan Haskell, Nathan Vickroy, Kelvin Williams, Sam Little, Elliott Erickson
What they are saying
“Trenton will draw taller matchups but his strength is speed and endurance. Most tall guys won’t be able to keep up.” – Mark Poole
“I expect the D line to be the strength of the Hustle this year.” – Kyle Stapleton
“ATL block city” – Robert Runner
“Elliot Erickson is too explosive to be contained in a racquetball court, much less on an AUDL field.” – Kyle Stapleton
“The intensity of his personality and training are unmatched.” – Robert Runner on Allan Laviolette
“Trenton can outrun a Prius.” – Kyle Stapleton
“The robot does not stop. Mechanical, methodical, just straight up money. Expect big things from the snake in the grass.” - Robert Runner on Trenton Spinks.
“Christian Olsen, Nathan Vickroy and Kelvin Williams - I think that these guys are going to get some monstrous Ds that put the hustle back on sportscenter.” – Matthew Knowles
“The trunk monkey is back.” – Robert Runner on Elliott Erickson
“He comes with a fire in his belly and is ready to work toward victory. His speed and athleticism and quickness make him a key component in the handler defensive schemes.” – Robert Runner on Sun Choi
The Young Guns - 45% of the roster is under 25. 20% are under 23.
Bros – The Hustle has two sets of brothers this year – Back are Anders and Christian Olsen while we add Tyler and Nathan Haskell. If Alex Vickroy were to switch jerseys from the Charlotte Express he and Nathan would make a third pair. The two could potentially guard each other on April 9th at Silverbacks Stadium
Frank Wooten, yall. Tops on the Hustle in jersey sales and looking to pad his lead in 2016.