CIS Countdown 2009: York Lions

Burning questions:

WHICH unit will improve more, the defence or offence?

HOW close is York to winning a game after starting from scratch last season?

CAN they block well enough to sustain some offence?

adjustment will kicker Adam Moretti, an Australian, have to make for the wind swirling differently in the Northern hemisphere?

2008 recap and record — (0-8). It is just best to do a memory wipe and keep it in context. York, in its first season under a new coaching staff, had 29 first-year players on the roster in 2008 and sometimes went into games with only 42 or 43 players in uniform.

Setting up '09 — A good baseline will be how much more respectable the scores are this season. York is still going to be a young team and McLean is fully attuned to how steep the hill is after being outscored 471-32 last season. Building an offensive line is a big part of the starter kit: Boris Radulovic figures to anchor the group, along with fifth-year seniors Patrick Assinick, Brian Blackmore and Matt Davis and honest-to-goodness 320-pound rookie Austin Roy, whom McLean has "pencilled in to start right now at right guard for us." (Sudbury Star, Aug. 10). Running back Jason Marshall played in the East-West Bowl in the spring. The plan is to have Saint Mary's transfer Patrick Hooey and second-year QB Nick Coutu compete for the No. 1 job at camp. Coutu was hotly recruited coming out of high school.

Defensively, York has some returning talent with third-year LB Steve Reading (team-high 39 solo tackles last season) and second-year cornerback Arlond Lett.

Breaking that 11-game losing streak is likely a lot to ask, but if the scores get closer, you'll know York is headed in a good direction. The short training camp exacerbates the challenge faced by rebuilding teams.

Returning starters — 7 offence, 8 defence

Stepping out — DE David Mills, DB Jerome Walker

Stepping up — T Boris Radulovic, QB Nick Coutu, RB Jason Marshall, LB Steve Reading, CB Arlond Lett, DB Theo Feroiu

Future reference — G Austin Roy and K Adam Moretti. York's kicking game was just a rumour last season, so it has recruited Moretti, a native of Australia. There is a neat human interest angle, plus he seems to be pretty good at booming the ball.

Coach & coordinators — Mike McLean (2nd season), Beau Mirau (offence). Most of York's coaching staff has been reshuffled.

Enrolment — 45,890 undergraduate; 4,796 post-grad

Stadium/atmosphere — York Stadium (capacity 2,500) kind of pales next to some of the other sports facilities around York U, such as the Rexall Centre tennis stadium, CanLan Ice Centre (ne Beatrice Ice Gardens) and the school's track and field facilities. However, the hot dogs there always hit the spot (just ask Christopher Walken).

Off-the-field story — The three-month faculty strike probably affected the amount of students applying to the school and football is no different. That could set back the rebuilding efforts.

McLean has looked outside the Golden Horseshoe for recruits, hitting up Northern Ontario and Western Canada, which he and Mirau know well from their days with the Edmonton Huskies. With respect to the north, Roy, a Sudbury lad, spoke recently of his hometown being known for "hard-hitting, smash-mouth football" and wanting to let the rest of the province's football followers that players from Sudbury "are tough and love to hit." Who knows, maybe there is more where that comes from.

Alumni in CFL — Lions DE Ricky Foley, Argonauts RBs Andre Durie and Jeff Johnson

From last season's preview — "This will be a transitional year."

Stock up or stock down — Nowhere to go but up.
Monday, Sept. 7 vs. Windsor, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 12 at Guelph, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 19 vs. McMaster, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 26 at Queen's, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 3 vs. U of T, 2 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 8 at Western, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 17 vs. Ottawa, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 24 at Waterloo, 1 p.m.
(Bye: Laurier)
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