Football: Highlights of OUA coaches' conference call

You know how a cordless phone works great for a time then just stops keeping a charge?

That happened on this end during the OUA coaches' conference call about a hour ago. It is supposed to be available in its entirety, but it meant missing some of the answers from Western's Greg Marshall, U of T's Greg DeLaval, York's Mike McLean and Windsor's Mike Morencie. Apologies for that; no offence intended to those teams and schools nor anyone with the first name Mike or Greg. Please click through (this is kind of a long post, plus we do not want to be too OUA-heavy, hence the use of a jump):

Some teasers:

  • Ottawa's Denis Piché is feeling good about his defence, which has some fresh faces and some fresh old faces such as nosetackle Erik Chibuluzo, who anchored the D-line fo the 2006 Yates Cup team.
  • Wideout-kick returner Dillon Heap has probably been underplayed in pre-season chatter about Laurier.

    The Golden Hawks will have a new placekicker vs. U of T, with fifth-year man Chris Mamo concentrating on punting.
  • McMaster is still young in the secondary, but Stefan Ptaszek is pretty effusive in praising some of the rookie pass defenders.

The way the OUA is setting this up is two coaches whose teams are about to play each other will dial in together. One way to make this work best for the audience could be to Tweet first, provide audio later.

Western's Greg Marshall and Ottawa's Denis Piché (whose teams open the OUA season Sunday at 5 p.m. on

Piché, on the rivalry (Western has beaten Ottawa three times in the past 22 months): "Let's be honest, Western is a a good program. They’ve got the resources, the coaching, the installations, the tradition. Any time you have the chance to compete with Western, you look forward to it. In the last 3 games, they’ve had the upper hand and of course, we don't like it. As I tell the kids, last year and was last year and our last year's team will never be recreated, so we have to treat it as new. I think the rivalry we have with Western is a good thing for university sports, one that comes out of respect."

Marshall, on the rivalry: "The University of Ottawa is one of those teams that has always been strong over the years. You definitely match your team against how you do against how the University of Ottawa ... we were fortunate enough to come back against the team (in the regular-seaosn opener) and make an interception at the end of the game."

Ottawa has some cast changes on defence: "Erik Chibuluzo is a great nosetackle. He had some very tough circumstances (his father, Francis, died in 2007) and he had to stop going to school ... he's very athletic, a big man, he's tough to move and he can move. We're very pleased that everything got reorganized and he has a chance at a new beginning. He’s got a chance to finish his degree and he wanted to return to the program, which is very nice.

"We also have a few new kids. (Cornerback) Chayce Elliott is still new. He never got into the full speed of the game after transferring (from Western Washington) and not having a full year. He's had a full winter to start fresh with the rest of the pack. I think that's very important for us. We also have (safety) Josh Hamilton from the Ottawa Sooners, a very intuitive and physical player. Chris Daly from (Burlington) Assumption, who was a first-year last year, is also going to be starting for us. (Outside linebacker) James McNaughton, we thought it was going to be his coming-out party last season, he had a deep ankle bruise and missed most of the season."

"It's going to take 2-3 weeks to figure out what is our best team. We had the exhibition game (vs. Sherbrooke on Aug. 29), but we were committed to playing some of our newer players. We know there’s going to be trial and error."

Queen's Pat Sheahan and Guelph's Kyle Walters

A first point of reference was last season's matchup, a Queen's win marked by a lot of scoring (71 points) and a lot of offence (1,352 yards).

Sheahan: "“You’ve got some very talented individuals on both sides. There are great receivers, great quarterbacks and good running backs on both teams. When you’ve got that combination of skill players, they’re going to make some plays. The offensive lines are pretty good on both teams. There’s going to be some offence in the game. Probably the team that wins is going to be the defence who can slow the other guy down the best."

Walters had a couple questions about his defensive front seven, which since Guelph's Yates Cup berth in 2007 has lost playmakers such as Chris Decker Chris Hladich and Taggart Russell.

"Last year, we had a whack of injuries at those two outside linebacker positions. The benefit of that is some of the young kids who probably weren’t ready to play at the end of the year got to play and got a little bit of time.

"We had a whole lot of kids in there trying and battling for the spots and I can assure you that the guys who are playing those spots earned them this year, which is never a bad thing. They’ll be inexperienced, but they will have earned those spots."

"I know both defensive coordinators will expect more out of their defences. (Queen's is) big and they are veteran on offence. It’ll be tough for us to get in there and mix it up with them. On the same note, we have a veteran offence and we’ll expect to move the ball and score as well."

Walters also addressed the hamstring injury to wideout-kick returner Jedd Gardner.

"If Jedd’s lining up against Queen's, it’s not like we'll put him out there to be a decoy. If he's healthy, he'll be at full speed. If he's not 100 per cent healthy, he won't be playing."

Laurier's Gary Jeffries (whose team hosts U of T of Monday)

On last season's semi-final loss to Western: "Used the way the season ended as a real motivating and driving force … we competed with Western in their backyard and it was a heck of a football game. The kids never gave up. Our goal is to get back and go farther."

Laurier is pretty set on defence, so a lot of the questions focused on offence:

On dual-threat QB Luke Thompson, in his second season starting: "We are extremely excited about Luke Thompson. He's mobile, smart, he's definitely our leader. He's a playmaker, he's creative, he's the real deal. He had a great winter. With last year’s experience behind him, we expect him to have an all-star calibre year."

On the post-Ryan Lynch backfield: "We have a fourth-year player, who's really paid his dues. Mike Montoya, in all likelihood, going into Game 1, is going to be our starter. He's big strong kid with some speed. If we can keep him healthy, he's going to be very, very good."

"With Ryan leaving, we went out brought in four or five young kids. One is Anton Bennett, (former Western running back) DJ Bennett's brother, out of St. Andrew's (College). He's a real talented kid, very competitive. He probably won't dress Week 1, but if we have any injuries, he’ll be the first one up."

On the defence being ahead of the offence early in the season: "There are more veteran kids over on that side of the ball … we have some good quickness. Pretty pleased."

Laurier is a bit more settled in the offensive line and receiving group: "With Andrew Dietrich coming back with Michael Knill coming in from Michigan State, we think our offensive line is as good as it’s been in a long time."

On the receivers: "We think this is definitely a real strength. We've got Shamawd Chambers who caught 38 passes last season as a rookie. (Slotback) Josh Bishop returns for his fourth year, another very talented kid out of Mississauga. There's also Saxon Lindsay, another kid out of Markham. The kid who we feel is going to have a tremendous year is Dillon Heap. He was our punt returner last season and did a great job. He's a Mormon and did a two-year mission in Chile. He came back in the first week in September (last season) not having touched a football in two years. Now, with a year of training under his belt, he's probably the best athlete on our field through the first nine days of camp."

On the Labour Day start in the OUA: "The first game is always a big challenge. We’re fortunate that we were able to get some work in last week with Con and Waterloo. It’s your first real test. Certainly, you try to prepare as much you can. Not knowing what the expect from the other team offensively, defensively, special teams, it’s a bit of a crapshoot. You have to adjust on the go."

On rookie running back Rashad LaTouche, from Donald A. Wilson Secondary in Toronto, trying his foot at placekicking: "We're going to give an opportunity to a freshman. He has a strong leg, he's been pretty consistent. Our incumbent, Mamo, will handle the punting."

Windsor's Mike Morencie (whose team faces York on Monday):

Unfortunately for readers, this was where some technical issues reared their head. Morencie noted Windsor will use a "little more of a five-receiver package" in its first season with Daryl Stephenson. NCAA transfer Kamar Anglin is the frontrunner to get most of the work in a "three- or four-headed" offensive backfield.

Waterloo's Dennis McPhee and McMaster's Stefan Ptaszek:

McPhee's focus was mostly on the changing of the culture at UW, applying some of that innovation Waterloo is famous for to sports: "There’s been a few changes at the top of the food chain … we're trying to be more outside the box. They have been very traditional here ... it's readily apparent that people care about athletics here."

"The evolution starts with our own turf, having our own field. They're building permanent stands which should be done any time. We've really worked hard to get out in the community… engage students, big campus, 16 engineers …

Waterloo is a "very young football team ... "most of the kids are sophomores." There will be a lot of new faces around QB Evan Martin and wideout Sean Cowie, including the new tailback, Steve Lagace, frosh fullback Matt Socholotiuk (who "should be seeing a lot of time on Monday") and Mount Allison transfers Andrew Hickey and Mike Squires.

Ptaszek (again, phone problems) noted backup QB Kyle Quinlan has been "the surprise of the camp" and will have the No. 2 spot after Ryan Fantham.

The coach also had a lot of praise for the admittedly young defensive back corps, joking that Mark Gergen, Cody Lynch, Andrew Suyra, Mike Bailey and Stephen Dennis have been dubbed the "fab five" and are "athletic as heck." Ptaszek's phrasing (going off memory) was that the secondary should be less of an Achilles heel.

I promise to be smoother and quicker with this in weeks to come!
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