Gators Coaching Legend Steve Spurrier Leads Orlando Apollos Into Season Opener Tonight

By  //  February 9, 2019

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former cocoa standout Tarean Folston starts for Atlanta Legends at RUNNING BACK, 8 p.m. on CBS

WATCH: Here Steve Spurrier’s coaches talk about his genius and humanity on this episode of “THE LAUNCH.”

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – After all the preparation and hard work of training camp and practices, the start of the inaugural season of The Alliance of American Football — is little more than just hours away.

The Orlando Apollos will host the Atlanta Legends, at 8 p.m. tonight on national television at Spectrum Stadium, home of the UCF Knights.

But what can we actually expect when the Legends and Apollos line up across from one another tonight?

After all, neither team has played more than one scrimmage and a joint practice or two during camp.

But combining what we have seen with what we know about the coaches and personnel of both teams, we can offer up some educated guesses.

The Offenses

Apollos head coach Steve Spurrier, who also serves as the team’s offensive coordinator and play caller, is something of a known quantity.

He’s been coaching football for decades and, though the Apollos’ “Sun ‘n’ Gun” offense is an updated, 2019 version of the Head Ball Coach’s scheme, Spurrier’s goals are basically the same as always: establish the run and get the ball into the hands of his playmakers in space.

The Apollos have speed up and down the roster, especially at the skill positions.

Running back Akeem Hunt is very fast through the hole and has good instincts for running to daylight. All the Apollos’ wide receivers bring speed to the field, as well.

Charles Johnson (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) also has excellent size for a receiver and can outjump or outmuscle defensive backs.

In addition, the Apollos have an experienced, poised quarterback in Garrett Gilbert, who knows exactly what he has to do to execute Spurrier’s offense.

ABOVE VIDEO:  At running back for Atlanta, Central Florida native Tarean Folston will start. He was born in Cocoa and played football at Cocoa High School before attending Notre Dame, where he rushed for more than 1,700 yards in his college career

“My job is to get it to those guys and let them go to work. We’ve got some guys that can do some pretty special things with the ball after they get it,” Gilbert said recently.

Atlanta’s offense is a bit harder to gauge. Offensive coordinator Michael Vick is in his first coordinator job, though Legends head coach Kevin Coyle says all the offensive assistants have had a hand in crafting the team’s scheme, which he describes as having a little bit of everything.

“We’re going to be a wide open offensive football team,” Coyle said. “We’re going to mix the run game, the throw game, the screen game, the RPO (run-pass option) game … you name it, we’ve got it, as everybody seems to, these days.”

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The Legends’ quarterback situation was somewhat murky coming into Week 1. Both Aaron Murray and Matt Simms worked with the first team during Atlanta’s scrimmage in San Antonio.

And while Simms will start against the Apollos, Coyle did not rule out both quarterbacks seeing the field Saturday.

“We’re not necessarily looking to be a two-quarterback type of operation, although we’ve talked to both of them about being prepared for that situation, if it arises,” Coyle said.

At running back, Central Florida native Tarean Folston will start.

He was born in Cocoa and played football at Cocoa High School before attending Notre Dame, where he rushed for more than 1,700 yards in his college career.

Denard Robinson will also see time in the Legends’ backfield. The former University of Michigan quarterback spent multiple seasons with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, where he lined up at running back, wide receiver and Wildcat formation quarterback.

Look for the Legends to try and test the Apollos’ fast defense early.

The Defenses

ABOVE VIDEO: The Orlando Apollos will host the Atlanta Legends, at 8 p.m. tonight on national television at Spectrum Stadium, home of the UCF Knights.

Orlando has the speed in the defensive backfield to run with any receivers in The Alliance, and the front seven has both the size and the speed to stop the run and get after quarterbacks.

Apollos defensive coordinator Bob Sanders has installed a base 3-4 scheme, with tall, speedy outside linebackers in Earl Okine and Jacob Pugh III, and big, hard-hitting inside linebackers in Reggie Northrup II and Terence Garvin. But Sanders says there could be different looks throughout the season.

“We’re going to try to be as multiple as we can,” Sanders said.

Coyle has more than 30 years of experience as a defensive assistant in both college and the NFL. He was Atlanta’s defensive coordinator at the beginning of training camp but took over as head coach after then-head coach Brad Childress stepped down.

Coyle says the Legends’ plan on defense is to play hard and make game-changing plays.

That makes the Apollos’ ability to make catches in traffic and hold onto the ball critical come Saturday. In fact, avoiding those kinds of mistakes is something Spurrier and his staff are really emphasizing in the run-up to the game.

“You always hope you don’t have crucial bad mistakes, fumbles (opposing teams) pick up for touchdowns or tipped balls that go for a touchdown,” Spurrier said.

While it won’t be known until Saturday night exactly what kind of team each head coach has, fans should expect to see plenty of aggressive play on both sides.

Tickets:

Want to watch the Orlando Apollos open the inaugural season of The Alliance of American football against the Atlanta Legends on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, CBS)? You buy tickets for that — and all Apollos games — right here.

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