This week in the Alliance of American Football was defined by defense. So far on these top 10 lists, there have been 61 individual players who have found a spot on the list, and only 25 of them (41%) are defensive players. This week the league’s defensive players played their way onto this list. The Iron & Apollos have secured the playoff spots in the East, but the West continues to be up in the air.

Who helped their teams secure the win this week? Who was a stud in defeat? We have the top ten individual performances in the AAF’s eighth week right here.

Honorable Mentions:

Tim Cook, Arizona Hotshots Halfback
Rashad Ross, Arizona Hotshots Wide Receiver
Brandon Silvers, Memphis Express Quarterback
Steve Williams, Salt Lake Stallions Defensive Back
Garrett Gilbert, Orlando Apollos Quarterback

10. Gerrard Sheppard, Memphis Express Wide Receiver
9 receptions, 98 yards, 1 2-PT

In the Memphis Express’ dramatic and controversial loss to the Orlando Apollos, wideout Gerrard Sheppard was a model of consistency for the Memphis offense. With Johnny Manziel getting injured and removing that dynamic of their offense, quarterback Brandon Silvers kept going back to Sheppard. Silvers was missing his usual favorite target as Reece Horn didn’t get into the game due to a thigh injury. Instead, the former Towson University product Sheppard made a living this week catching short routes and netting the Express five first downs on receptions.

9. Sterling Moore, Arizona Hotshots Defensive Back
6 tackles, 1 pass defended

The Arizona Hotshots managed to come out of San Antonio with a win and a share of the lead in the West, and Sterling Moore was a big factor in their win. Moore has bounced around the NFL for the past eight years, getting his most playing time with the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. This week Moore lead the Hotshots in tackles and helped keep the Commanders offense from breaking the big plays they normally like. Moore has brought an experienced presence to the Hotshots defensive back end as their linebackers are free to roam and make plays in the second level.

8. Will Hill III, Orlando Apollos Safety
4 tackles, 2 passes defended, 1 interception

The second NFL-experienced safety on this week’s list, Will Hill had one of his best games on the back end for the 7-1 Orlando Apollos this week. The former Florida Gator has a big first quarter red zone interception of Johnny Manziel to prevent the Express from getting their first score of the game. Hill has had trouble sticking with teams, being released from the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 due to a fourth failed drug test and being released from the Hamilton Tigercats of the Canadian Football League for “character concerns”. So far Hill has been a solid contributor for a talented Apollos defense, securing his first interception of the year and continuing to get bunches of tackles.

7. Ryan Moeller, San Diego Fleet Safety
2 tackles, 2 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery

The San Diego Fleet had a rough time against the Stallions, scoring only three points and falling to 3-5. It wasn’t all bad, as Ryan Moeller had a tremendous game forcing turnovers. Moeller had all three of his turnovers inside of the Fleet’s own 25-yard line, including picking up a fumble by Salt Lake quarterback Josh Woodrum in the Fleet’s endzone. The former Colorado Buffalo has four interceptions now on the season which ties him with teammate Kameron Kelly and San Antonio’s De’Vante Bausby for the lead in the Alliance.

6. Charles Johnson, Orlando Apollos Wide Receiver
8 receptions, 135 yards, 1 TD

Orlando wide receiver Charles Johnson’s twitter name is Mr. Inkredible, and he has consistently lived up to that in the Alliance. Johnson is the leading receiver in the league with 687 yards and had a clutch touchdown grab for Orlando this week. He did more damage with his legs this week as well, racking up 79 yards after the catch. Johnson has a quarterback in Garrett Gilbert who can maximize his talent, which helps. Although he is older than some other receivers (at 30 years old) he could still get a look from NFL teams as a depth receiver.

5. Beniquez Brown, Birmingham Iron Linebacker
3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 3 passes defended

The Iron were buoyed once again by the play of their defense this week, and Brown was the anchor of that effort. Though he didn’t have the packed stat line of some others on this list, the former Mississippi State Bulldog made key plays for the Birmingham defense and is sitting second in the Alliance in total tackles. Brown had a sack on third down, and a pass breakup when the Iron were backed up in the red zone that prevented an Atlanta touchdown. There are studs on all three levels of the Iron defense, and this week it was Brown’s time to shine.

4. Trent Richardson, Birmingham Iron Halfback
18 carries, 83 yards, 1 TD

Former third overall pick Trent Richardson has been hard to peg in the Alliance. Richardson leads the AAF in rushing touchdowns with 11. His rushing average has had a lot to be desired coming into this week, never averaging more than 3.5 yards per rush. This week was the week the former Alabama standout put it all together. Richardson powered through contact and hit a new season high in rushing yards. While it will be tough for Richardson to find a spot in the NFL, he continues to improve as the season moves on for a now playoff-bound Birmingham squad.

3. Jeff Luc, Atlanta Legends Linebacker
8 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 QB hits, 1 forced fumble

Atlanta came up short against the Birmingham Iron, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort from Jeff Luc. He terrorized both Birmingham quarterbacks who saw playing time by totaling three sacks. Jeff Luc found space to make tackles due to the space-eating abilities of the Atlanta Legends defensive line. That allowed Luc to make tackles in space and stuff his stat line. The fumble forced by Luc was recovered by the Legends on the Iron 24, leading to a field goal. Luc and the defense have played well for the Legends, who haven’t found the offense to put a complete effort together.

2. DeMarquis Gates, Memphis Express Linebacker
6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble

The AAF’s leading tackler, DeMarquis Gates had another full day for the Express. His strip fumble of Garrett Gilbert was recovered for a touchdown. It was Gates’ fifth forced fumble of the year and gave the Express the lead in the third quarter. Gates was the AAF Defensive Player of the Week last week and has a good shot at the award again. At only 23, Gates has a great shot to find a home on an NFL roster next year. He has a shot at being Defensive Player of the Year in the Alliance and has been the glue holding the Express defense together.

1. John Wolford, Arizona Hotshots Quarterback
17/23 passing, 216 yards, 1 TD, 1 2PT

The Hotshots are tied for the West lead in part because John Wolford has found his groove. Wolford has been a stable presence in the passing game during the Hotshots’ three-game winning streak. This week Wolford connected on a deep touchdown to electric receiver Rashad Ross to put the Hotshots on top. He also held on to the ball with no turnovers against the ball-hawking Commanders defense. Wolford’s efforts kept the Hotshots on track with 10 first downs through the air. The Hotshots are looking good, and Wolford is the catalyst for their well-timed surge.

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