KEY DEPARTURES: QB Kyle Rowley (Orlando), WR Brandon Thompkins (Utah), FB/LB Micah King (San Antonio), OL Shannon Tevaga (Utah), DL Mike Alston (Utah), DB Josh Ferguson (Utah)
KEY FREE AGENTS: WR Rod Harper, DL Jeremy Geathers
MARQUEE MATCHUPS: Arizona (Week 4), at Utah (Week 8)
PROGNOSIS: The Spokane Shock had the misfortune of playing in the best division in the AFL last season, as a 10-8 record was not good enough to propel Spokane to the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Shock fans hope that outcome will not be duplicated in 2013 and Head Coach Andy Olson was quick to field a team he believes can match up with the Shock’s high-powered divisional foes. For the second consecutive year, the team will open camp with Erik Meyer under center. Meyer was lost for the season after suffering a concussion in Week 1 last year. The 17th-ranked rushing offense from a year ago still does not have a true fullback on the roster, but offensive lineman Andrew Nierman will likely fill the void once again. The team will also again rely on record-setting receiver Adron Tennell for big plays. Tennell set franchise marks last season for receptions, yards, touchdowns and points. He will be assisted this season by the returns of second-year men Steven Black and Jeffrey Soloman, as well as the additions of a handful of rookies, including fellow former Big XII standout Brandon Kinnie. The Shock will look to solve last season’s defensive woes with a handful of fresh faces. Former Clemson Tigers Kourtnei Brown and Rennie Moore will join second-year man James Ruffin along the defensive line. Two more rookies, William Green and Chase Vaughn will also be in the mix. The linebackers look to be set, with Jack – Terence Moore – and Mac – Beau Bell – both returning from last year’s squad. The team’s biggest free agent acquisition came in the area that needed it the most – the secondary. Spokane’s defensive backfield will feature the League’s leading tackler from a year ago, Cameron McGlenn, who joins the Shock after two seasons in Iowa. McGlenn will team with All-Arena DB Terrance Sanders to improve a unit that ranked dead last in the AFL in passing defense a year ago, despite Sanders’ record-breaking year. The squad will also bring back veteran assistance in Ruschard Dodd-Masters, Paul Stephens and Patrick Stoudamire, as well as rookies Josh Pleasant and Thad Turner. One area the Shock will not have to worry about in 2013 is the kicking game, as 2012 Kicker of the Year Kenny Spencer returns for his second season in the League. The talent in the West Division certainly has not diminished over the offseason… and if Spokane’s rookie pool develops as anticipated, the competition for West Coast supremacy will only get more intense in 2013.