HOW much has everyone in Hawks-land mentally replayed the five interceptions QB Luke Thompson had in the playoff game vs. Western?
IS it in poor taste to say a D-lineman who gets de-cleated by NCAA transfer Michael Knill was "Knilled?"
WILL receivers Dillon Heap and Josh Bishop make Laurier fans forget Andy Baechler and Joel Wright?
2008 recap and record — (7-3, 6-2). In a sense, the 36-28 season-ending semi-final loss to Western was somewhat of a microcosm of Laurier's season, with a rough start followed by a lot of positives. The Golden Hawks fell behind by 26 points vs. the Mustangs, but rallied to close within a touchdown before the Western salted it away.
Similarly, in the regular season, having to break in 12 new starters, including three O-linemen, contributed to a 1-2 start which easily could have been 0-3 (they beat Guelph by only two in the opener). However, Thompson got a lot of reps in his first full season, accounting for 20 total touchdowns, while youngsters such as Chambers, LB Mitchell Bosch and DB Courtney Stephen made names for themselves in the OUA as rookies. A six-game win streak included a one-point win at Ottawa and a post-season shutout against McMaster.
Setting up '09 — Luke Thompson has had a season to grow into the role and should have more talent surrounding him, notwithstanding a question mark at tailback. Absorbing 11 interceptions and 25 sacks in the regular season was somewhat a byproduct of being young and aggressive (and having young blockers), but his athleticism worked to his benefit. The play he made for the go-ahead score against Ottawa, ducking pass rusher Ian Hazlett and throwing a 75-yard TD pass (around the 5:00 mark of the highlight reel below) furnishes some idea of what he's all about.
Thompson should have a good blocking group, especially with the much-vaunted transfer of 6-foot-5, 315-lb. tackle Michael Knill, who walked on successfully in the Big Ten at Michigan and Michigan State. Two Winnipeg Blue Bombers draft choices, lineman Adam Bestard and receiving fullback Peter Quinnie, also return.
Laurier tries to run a balanced offence (see Pettapiece's calculations) and it struggled by times last season to run the ball. Finding an every-down back or at least a platoon is no doubt a priority. Receiving-wise, the Hawks have veterans in Dillon Heap and big inside receiver in Josh Bishop. Wideout Shamawd Chambers was a freshman starter last season, plus Alex Anthony had a great showing at the world junior championship.
Defensively, there are 10 starters back. Each position group has an impact player with end Chima Ihekwoaba, MLB Mitchell Bosch and free safety Courtney Stephen.
Returning starters — 8 offence, 10 defence
Stepping out — WRs B.J. Malott and Troy Leach, RB Ryan Lynch, OL Scott Evans, LB Luke Pinder
Stepping up — QB Luke Thompson, FB Peter Quinnie, WR-KR Dillon Heap, WR Shamawd Chambers, SB Josh Bishop, OL Adam Bestard, LBs Mitchell Bosch and Giancarlo Rapanaro, FS Courtney Stephen, CB Taurean Allen.
Breakout performers — DE Chima Ihekwoaba. Ihekwoaba's 2008 season was truncated by injuries, but he did enough to garner an East-West Bowl invitation.
Future reference — RB Rashad LaTouche is waiting in the wings. He helped his Toronto Thunder win an Ontario Varsity Football League title. Wideout Alex Anthony and linebacker Simon Ryder-Burbidge were also high-priority recruits.
Coach & coordinators — Gary Jeffries (8th season), Ryan Pyear, offence; Ron VanMoerkerke, defence
Enrolment — 11,869 undergraduate
Stadium/atmosphere — Laurier just did a major upgrade to University Stadium, which sits in a picturesque area of Waterloo. The turf was replaced and friends report everything with the setup has been improved, including one of the OUA's better beer gardens. Attendance is affected somewhat by Frosh Week/Homecoming syndrome, where students tend to be once- or twice-a-year fans, but overall it's a good atmosphere.
Off-the-field factors — None, really. Laurier, save for a couple down years in the early 2000s (3-5 in 2001 and 1-7 in '02), has been consistently solid over the past two decades. It won the OUA's most recent Vanier Cup in 2005.
Alumni in CFL — Alouettes LB Joel Wright, Argonauts WR Andre Talbot, Blue Bombers S Ian Logan, Tiger-Cats LB Yannick Carter, Tiger-Cats WR Corey Grant, Stampeders DE Justin Phillips
From last season's preview — "The combination of a young team and a challenging early-season schedule could really stretch the positivity that's fairly abounded around the Laurier program since 2003." Still, they ended up 6-2.
Stock up or stock down — Up. They might be a year away from a serious Yates run.
Monday, Sept. 7 at U of T, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 12 at Western, 1 p.m. (University Rush)
Saturday, Sept. 19 vs. Waterloo, 1 p.m. (University Rush)
Saturday, Sept. 26 at McMaster, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 3 vs. Ottawa, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 9 vs. Windsor, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 17 at Guelph, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 24 vs. Queen's, 1 p.m.