CAN Marc Mueller step in and move the offence in his first season as the starting quarterback?
WILL a tough schedule to start the season put the Rams behind the 8-ball or elevate their game?
WILL their defensive backfield, with all starters gone from last season, be a glaring weakness or pleasant surprise?
2008 recap & record — (5-4, 5-3). The Rams' season started last season with back-to-back losses, first to the 2007 Vanier Cup champions from Manitoba and then to cross-provincial rival Saskatchewan. The Rams then ripped off five wins in their final six regular season contests, including a win over Manitoba at home in the final regular season game of the season to secure a playoff berth, while eliminating the Bisons from playoff contention in the process. The Rams dropped their Canada West semi-final meeting with the eventual conference champions Calgary in the Stampede City 24 - 17.
Regina ranked in the top three in the Canada West in both total offence and total defence - second in total offence averaging 380.8 yards per game, and third in total defence at 367.3 yards per game. Nationally the Rams ranked eighth in conference-adjusted offence thanks in large part to their 244.3 average yards passing per game, but were ranked 21st in conference-adjusted defence.
Setting up '09 — The Rams will be in tough to start the season with games against Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Calgary. Those three games be a good measuring stick for how the '09 version of the Rams will fare. A new quarterback may dictate how well the offence performs after the departure of Teale Orban, who lead the Rams' potent passing game last season.
Returning starters — The Rams have seven offensive starters returning from the 2008 squad: C Brenden Bennett, RT John Hashem, LG Devin Hillier, WR Mark McConkey, SB Brenden Owens, WR Jordan Sisco, and FB Sheldon Tillotson.The defence will be returning five starters from last season: MLB Bruce Anderson, SLB Brandon Ganne, WLB Thomas Irving, DT Bjorn Person, and DE Mike Picken.
Stepping up — The Rams will need QB Marc Mueller to step in and take over for departing QB Teale Orban. Mueller has been apprenticing under Orban for the past two seasons to prepare for the starters job. Mueller has quarterbacking in his blood, as he is the grandson of the late, great Ron Lancaster who quarterbacked the Roughriders for 16 seasons. With the graduation of SB Chad Goldie, SB Jason Price will be looked to help make up for the 53.9 receiving yards per game Goldie averaged last season. At 6’5”, Price showed signs of his potential with 99 receiving yards against Calgary in the playoffs last year.
Stepping out — The Rams will be without five offensive starters from last season: LT Ryan Ackerman, RB Luke Derkson, SB Chad Goldie - who holds the conference record for career receptions, RG Nick Hutchins, and fifth-year QB Teale Orban who is the all-time conference leader in passing yards, pass completions, and touchdown passes. Seven defensive starters are moving on from Regina: HB Aadon Fieger, HB Darren Geddert, CB Tamon George, S Charlie McCrystal, DT Paul McDill, CB Andrew Rumbaugh, and Regina all-time sack leader DE Stan van Sichem.
Breakout performers — After leading the Rams in both receptions per game (4.3) and receiving yards per game last season (56.4), 2008 Canada West All-Star WR Jordan Sisco will be looked to continue his strong play and be a go to receiver for Mueller. Canada West All-Star LB Brandon Ganne was tied for the conference lead last season with an average of 6.9 tackles per game, and was tied for the team lead with 3.0 sacks. The strong-side linebacker will be a key for the Rams defence.
Future reference — 6’3” OL Steve Hanson joins the Queen City crew after three seasons with the Regina Thunder. While with the Thunder, Hanson was named their outstanding offensive player and outstanding offensive lineman in 2008. Joining Hanson will be 6’7” OL Chris Mercer. Mercer was a force while with the Saskatoon Hilltops being named the PFC’s Outstanding Lineman in 2008 along with earning All-Canadian, and PFC All-Star honours in ’08.
Coach & coordinators — Head Coach Frank McCrystal is the only head coach the Rams have known since they entered CIS football back in 1999. McCrystal has been the head coach of the Regina Rams Football Club dating back to 1984 when they were members of the Prairie Junior Football Conference. McCrystal guided the Rams to a Hardy Cup championship and Vanier Cup berth back in 2000 in only the program’s second year competing in CIS, and in 2007 he was recognized as both Canada West and CIS Coach of the Year. The Rams coordinators are: offensive coordinator Bernie Schmidt, and Paul Dawson on the defensive side of the ball.
Enrollment — 10 100 (8 210 undergraduates; 1 890 graduates)
Stadium/atmosphere — Mosaic Stadium is home to both the Regina Rams and the CFL’s most beloved team. While the Rams don’t draw the same crowds as their CFL counterparts, the Rams have a storied tradition in the city of Regina and have a strong fan base. The Rams averaged 2 481 fans per home game last season, ranking second in Canada West average attendance behind only the Saskatchewan Huskies. Mosaic Stadium’s benches aren’t the most comfortable seats to watch a game in, but Mosaic has a ton of character and has a true football feel.
Alumni in NFL and CFL — SB Jason Clermont (Saskatchewan Roughriders), SB Chris Getzlaf (Saskatchewan Roughriders), OL Chris Hutchins (Saskatchewan Roughriders), DB George Tamon (Saskatchewan Roughriders), RB Neal Hughes (Saskatchewan Roughriders), OL Brendon LaBatte (Winnipeg Blue Bombers), WR Chris Bauman (Hamilton Tiger Cats), DE Stan van Sichem (Montreal Alouettes), P Jon Ryan (Seattle Seahawks).
Stock up or stock down — Down. The Rams will be in tough with QB Teale Orban's departure and a lot hinges on his replacement Marc Mueller. The Rams stock is taking a slight hit with Orban's departure, but the Rams will still be in the playoff picture coming down the stretch. Predicted record: 4 - 4.
From last season's preview — " It may be a bit of a tougher year for the Rams, given their losses at running back and on defence. [. . .] I'm thinking they'll probably finish 5-3 this year."
Schedule (all times local):
(with information from Braden Konschuh, SID, Univeristy of Regina)
Friday, September 4 vs. Manitoba - 7 p.m.
Friday, September 11 @ Saskatchewan - 7 p.m.
Friday, September 18 vs. Calgary - 8 p.m.
Saturday, September 26 @ British Columbia - 2 p.m.
Friday, October 9 vs. Simon Fraser - 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 17 @ Alberta - 1 p.m.
Saturday, October 24 @ Calgary - 1 p.m.
Friday, October 30 vs. Saskatchewan - 7 p.m.
Games can be heard on 620 CKRM