2013 Preview: Chicago Rush

Joe Phinisee recorded 77 tackles and five interceptions with the Cleveland Gladiators last season.

Feb. 13, 2013

2012 RECORD: 10-8 (2nd, National Conference Central)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2011, lost to Arizona Rattlers in Semifinal Playoff Game

COACH (RECORD): Bob McMillen (23-13 overall, 23-13 with Chicago)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Reggie Gray (140 receptions, 1,937 receiving yards, 48 receiving touchdowns, 1,292 kick return yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Joe Phinisee (77 tackles, 12 PBU, 5 INT)

2012 OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 4th overall (4th passing, 5th rushing), 6th scoring (58.2 ppg)

2012 DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 16th overall (16th passing, 3rd rushing), 13th scoring (58.0 ppg)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Gino Guidugli (from Milwaukee), QB Carson Coffman (from Utah), WR Rodney Wright (from San Jose), WR/LB Marcus Everett (from Milwaukee), DL Jacob Hardwick (from Utah), DL Anthony Hoke (free agent), DB Joe Phinisee (from Cleveland)

KEY DEPARTURES: WR Jared Perry (to Arizona), OL TJ Watkins (to San Jose), JLB Kelvin Morris (to Orlando), DB Brandon Freeman (to Pittsburgh)

KEY FREE AGENTS: QB Russ Michna, QB Luke Drone, WR Terrance Turner, DB Vic Hall, K Joe Houston

MARQUEE MATCHUPS: Iowa (Week 1), at San Antonio (Week 3)

PROGNOSIS: Despite a 10-8 record in 2012, the Chicago Rush missed the postseason for the first time in franchise history last year. This year, they will likely be without quarterback Russ Michna for the first time in five years, as the team’s all-time leading passer has yet to come across the transactions wire. In his absence, AFL veteran Gino Guidugli will make the southbound trip down I-94 after spending the last two seasons in Milwaukee with the Mustangs. The “Italian Stallion” got the job done with his legs as much as his arm in 2012, scoring 18 rushing touchdowns and passing for 86 last season. That athletic ability in one player should be a welcome addition to the Rush, who used a combination of Michna’s arm and Luke Drone’s legs to achieve nearly identical numbers last year. However, Guidugli will need to take care of the football as he tied the AFL single-season record with 25 interceptions in 2012. Should Guidugli struggle, the Rush have also added second-year quarterback Carson Coffman, who started over Collin Klein at Kansas State. The offense should get some firepower from Chicago’s touchdown king, “Big Play” Reggie Gray, who returns for his third year with the team. Gray will figure to once again be the focus of the offense after the team lost 2012 NET10 Rookie of the Year Jared Perry to the Arizona Rattlers earlier this offseason. Though Perry’s near record-setting production will be difficult to reproduce, the Rush did make some waves with the addition of longtime San Jose SaberCats receiver and kick returner Rodney Wright. Wright, along with Ironman Marcus Everett and a healthy Troy McBroom – who missed all of last season recovering from an injury – should make for a solid receiving corps. On the defensive side of the ball, the addition of defensive lineman Anthony Hoke should provide some much needed quarterback pressure. The loss of Jack linebacker Kelvin Morris to Orlando will no doubt hurt, but the addition of Everett – a Second Team All-Arena selection in 2012 – should help ease the pain. Mac linebacker Nekos Brown returns to the squad, as does defensive back Jorrick Calvin, who blossomed into a pleasant surprise as a late season acquisition last year. Calvin will team with Semaj Moody and the newly-acquired Joe Phinisee in the secondary. If free agent and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Vic Hall does not return, Rush fans can at least take solace in the fact that the defensive backfield is in very capable hands.