Friday, Feb. 23, 2007 | 7:06 a.m.
You truly won't be able to tell the players without a scorecard when the Las Vegas Gladiators open the home portion of the 2007 Arena Football League season in three weeks.
In addition to a new arena and a new head coach, this season's roster likely will feature only two players who wore a Gladiators uniform in 2006. Considering the team posted a dismal 5-11 mark last year, that might not be a bad thing.
Of the nearly 40 players who took part in the team's first scrimmage inside the Orleans Arena earlier this week, only three were on the team last year. Of those three, one (wide receiver Kevin Prentiss) played in only two games and another (lineman Tupe Peko) is out for the season with an injury. Joe Douglass, the Gladiators' second-leading receiver and scorer in 2006, is the only other returnee.
The roster shake-up was no accident, according to Danton Barto, who comes to Las Vegas after five seasons as a head coach in the af2.
"It's no offense to those guys," Barto said of the players who were not invited back. "I think when you come in as a coach and you're trying to change things around, you've got to bring in your own guys and that's what I wanted to do.
"It's not a slap in the face to any of those guys; it's just that I wanted to bring in my type of guys."
Tuesday's 90-minute intrasquad scrimmage confirmed what Barto said he expected going into training camp.
"I think our defensive pass rush showed that we're a pretty good defensive team," Barto said. "I think we've got some pretty good ones out here and we're only going to get better."
Barto singled out linemen Terrence Martin, John Nix and Karon Riley - all AFL rookies - for their ability to pressure the quarterback. Barto also said he was impressed with the play of defensive backs Earthwind Moreland and Vontez Duff.
Offensively, Barto said he liked what he saw from the veteran Douglass and the second-year Prentiss. Barto said he is counting on Prentiss (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) to replace the bigger and more physical Marcus Nash, who led the Gladiators in receiving and scoring last season.
"I think Kevin Prentiss brings us something special," Barto said. "He's obviously a lot different player than Marcus Nash ... but I think he'll be plenty explosive for us."
The new partnership between the Arena Football League and ESPN (in which the cable sports network now owns a portion of the league) will result in at least 29 games being televised this season on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
But don't look for the Gladiators to appear on national television unless they advance to the playoffs; Las Vegas is not scheduled to play on any of the network's 18 regular-season games.
ESPN2 is scheduled to televise 14 Monday night games throughout the season. Although the Gladiators host San Jose in their regular-season finale June 25, ESPN2 is scheduled to televise the Dallas-Colorado game that evening.