Thursdays with coaches: Guelph girds for Western

Highlights from this week's OUA football coaches' conference call:
  • Western coach Greg Marshall noted the No. 2 Mustangs opted not to practise on grass ahead of their visit to Guelph, which could be an issue since there is a 40% chance of rain on Saturday (1 p.m., The Score, liveblog). His reasoning was, "It just wasn't practical."

    Moving practice is usually a pain in the ass, logistically, so one can see where he was coming from. Western also won at Guelph in the 2007 Yates Cup when the field would have been fairly chewed-up.

  • Guelph's Kyle Walters joking about facing Western's big offensive line: "We're going to plan on putting 12 in the box and hope Western QB (Michael) Faulds has an off-day." He was kidding.

  • Injuries, injuries: Laurier's Gary Jeffries said QB Luke Thompson is likely done for the season ... Waterloo's Evan Martin is "day-to-day" with an elbow injury, but Windsor QB Sam Malian will play in the UW-UW matchup. The Warriors are getting middle linebacker Jordan Verdone, a potential all-Canadian, back from a shoulder injury.

  • McMaster's Stefan Ptaszek noted his 2-1 Marauders have a "bit of a quarterback controversy, a bit of a quarterback competition" between Ryan Fantham and Kyle Quinlan.

  • Laurier's Jeffries, on coaching vs. Ptaszek, his former offensive coordinator: "I think the world of him, but we'll knock heads on Saturday, just like we do on the golf course. I can handle Stef on the golf course, not so sure about Saturday.

Fuller, more fleshed-out quotes below the jump:

Western's Greg Marshall and Guelph's Kyle Walters

Marshall, on expectations of a scoring battle: "I would expect there's going to be scoring and it's going to be weather-related. If we get a good dry day, there's a chance there could be a lot of points. Nick Fitzgibbon is as good a running back as there is in our conference, he's as good a pass receiver as he is running the ball. They have (speedy wideout) Jedd Gardner, some good possesion receivers, and Justin Dunk is tough to stop.

"Offensively, we want to control the football, get first downs. Probably Kyle would agree with me, you don't want to give the opposing offence too many opportunities, one reason we were successful down in Windsor (in a 60-7 win) was that the offence had so many opportunities."

On the atmosphere (it is Guelph's homecoming):

Marshall: "I am from Guelph, I didn't play there but I did do a lot of training there. I always look forward to going back to Guelph. There will be contingent of Marshalls in the stands cheering for Western. Two years ago, when we played Guelph in the Yates Cup, it was a hostile crowd, they had the snow-fence around our bench, but it was one of the best college atmospheres that I've been to in a long time. I know Guelph will be loud, but what we have to do is block out the crowd."

Walters: "Well, two years ago, it wasn't much of an advantage for us, but it was as good an environment as I've been around, and that includes all those years in Hamilton (as a Tiger-Cats player) ... ultimately, when the whistle blows, it's just football."

Marshall, on the game also being a homecoming for three Mustangs offensive starters, QB Michael Faulds, wideout Jesse Bellamy and tackle Zach Pollari: "Those are three outstanding players who are all big contributors. Kyle's not letting too many of those Guelph guys slip out anymore, but fortunately, five years ago, we got some good ones."

Marshall, on the Mustangs going from field turf to natural grass: "We would have liked to have some practices on grass. It's not easy to do with all our other outdoor teams needing to practice. It just wasn't practical. We've told the kids, 'Bring different pairs of footwear, try them out, figure out what works.' "

Walters, on the season to date: "Certainly based on the first three weeks, our philosophy is keep their offence off the field. The best defence for us is to control the ball, keep their offence on the bench. Offensively, we've been doing a great job limiting turnovers, continuing drives (picking up second downs). The one area we have to improve with is penalties. We took ourselves out of three scoring drives last week, we ended up kicking six field goals."

On the game becoming a battle of ranked teams: "We don't put too much weight into that. The only ranking I've talked about is that the number-two team in the country is coming in and we have some stuff to clean up."

On containing Da'Riva, Western's tailback platoon of Nathan Riva (No. 16) and Da'Shawn Thomas (No. 2): "We're going to plan on putting 12 in the box and hope Faulds has an off-day ... No, I mean, therein lies the rob. If you jam the box and play cover-zero, Faulds and those receivers are going to skin you over the top. You have to mix it up and try to get some pressure. Those tailbacks are going to get their yards, we have to be sure tacklers and limit them. (Gains of) seven and eight are acceptable, but 40s and 50s are not acceptable. We have to get them down, make sure we limit the yardage."

Marshall, on the sophomore Riva: "He is incredibly fast. He accelerates as quickly as anyone we have. This year he's got a little more weight on, a little more physical. Some of the things people in Windsor told us when we were recruiting him have turned out to be false. They said that he was not really a running back, more of a receiver or a defensive back."

Walters, on his running back, Fitzgibbon: "He's more of patient runner, doesn't have the flat-out speed of a Nathan Riva. He moves well laterally, can make people miss in the open field.

Queen's Pat Sheahan and York's Mike McLean

Sheahan, on how he feels about being 3-0:
"Fortunate. We feel very fortunate."

Sheahan, on a procedural change Queen's made after giving up 49 points in Week 1 to Guelph, with defensive coordinator Pat Tracey coaching from the sideline instead of the spotters' booth: "When your coordinator stays up top or comes down, there's a give-and-take. For the past few years, Pat has enjoyed being in the perch. We've had some turnover in coaches, our linebacker coach (Chris White) left and he was a great gameday organizer. Ryan Bechmanis, another assistant, our defensive backs coach, is also special teams coordinator so he has other duties. So Pat coaches the bench while Ryan and Bob Vespaziani (defensive coach and a long-time CFL assistant) are up in the booth."

On reserve QBs Justin Chapdelaine and Tom Howes, who filled in for Dan Brannagan the past two weeks: "Not many pure freshmen step into CIS and rip it apart. For the time Justin has been here, I will say this, he is one of the better-prepared QBs I have had the privilege to work with. He has talked more football sitting around the dinner table than most kids will in their first three years of college football just because of who his dad (B.C. Lions asst. coach Jacques Chapdelaine) is ... Tom Howes is a big ol' country boy, he's a gunslinger, he can throw the ball 70 yards, but he hasn't had a lot of snaps."

McLean, on York's injuries: "We're pretty beat up. We're a young squad which is not real deep. You lose 8-10 starters it gets a little bothersome. It's been tough to run a proper practice. On the bright side, we have some young kids who are getting some time and are starting to make progress.

On defence, some of the young guys (first-year defensive ends) Joe Shyminsky, Colton Bonnah, Justin Brear, plus the linebacker, Robert Yeomans, we're going to be getting this week, are all looking really, really well. (Receiver) William Austin has been very good for us. The biggest one has been Nick Coutu, he's a sophomore quarterback but he's playing like a junior or senior."

On emerging tailback Jacob Appiah: "Last season, he played a full OVFL season (with the Etobicoke Eagles) and came in pretty banged-up. Near the end of the year, he had two excellent practices and we saw the things can do ... he's just breaking into the league and we're ecstatic with where's he at, so far."

On rebuilding: "So many things that need to start being done right on and off the field that it is hard to pick one. This is really and truly the first year of a building phase. We're happy with what we've brought in. We're under no illusions. It's going to take another year or two to get the numbers to where they need to be ... we've got some scabs and warts and until we get rid of them, we have to wear them proudly."

Laurier's Gary Jeffries and McMaster's Stefan Ptaszek (Laurier is playing on Mac's campus for the first time since '02):

Jeffries, on Luke Thompson's status:
"It's a very serious knee injury. Have not had the MRI. The likelihood of his return this year is very slim."

On new starter Evan Pawliuk, who will be backed up by freshman Dan Daigle (who is from Stoney Creek): "The experience factor is big, but we're confident in the young kid, good arm, he's fairly mobile and he's quite bright. He sees the field quite well ... We were concerned (with an ankle injury Pawliuk suffered). We had to get him some reps in practice. He's been good all week. He got taped up. He's had a good workweek."

"(Pawliuk) throws the ball extremely well. He's got a stronger arm than Luke. The receivers have been catching the ball from him all season long."

Ptaszek, on whether Ryan Fantham or the younger Kyle Quinlan starts (each got equal time vs. York last Saturday): "There is a bit of a quarterback controversy, a quarterback competition with our club. I think we'lll name a starter for Coach Jeffries around 12:59 p.m. Saturday."

Ptaszek, on his young secondary facing a Laurier pass-receiving corps with Shamawd Chambers, Josh Bishop, Alex Anthony, Saxon Lindsey and Dillon Heap: "Top to bottom, they are the most athletic receiving corps in the conference if not the country. They are not only great receivers are good blockers. Our young kids are going to have to get off the blocks, get away from those veteran guys. One thing that might be to our benefit is that young kids sometimes don't realize how big these games are. They fly around, oblivious. I'm not sure they appreciate what they're getting into."

Ptaszek, on last season's 29-0 playoff loss to Laurier: "We've looked at it. They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, we took a look at what was going on. They have great players, who are going to make great plays. Given the QB situation, the line of scrimmage ll be even more important."

On the rivalry (Ptaszek and Jeffries were both career Golden Hawks before the former became Mac's coach in 2006, after Laurier won the Vanier Cup):

The only emotion that would be extra is that Coach Jeff is one of my best friends in the world. Focused on task at hand, getting our 90 young men ready to compete for a Yates Cup. If I let my personal feelings get in the way, that would be selfish."

Jeffries: "When Stef got the opp after the Vanier Cup, as much as I hated to see him go, I knew it was what he needed. He's going to have a long great career doing what he's doing. As Stef says, it certainly goes both ways. I think the world of him, but we'll knock heads on Saturday, just like we do on the golf course. I can handle Stef on the golf course, not so sure about Saturday."

Ottawa's Denis Piché and U of T's Greg DeLaval

Piché, on a 1-2 start:
Our goal is to reach our full potential when it really, really count. We put ourselves in a tough situation. This season is not predicated on beating Queen's and Western in Weeks 1 and 3. It's a process, it's ongoing and we are still early in the process."

"Every year, university sports is all about cycles, it's so important that your veterans are there to lead and inspire who might not have all the answers and the experience. They're the corporate memory. They're buying in."

On Ottawa's penalty issues (OUA-most 426 yards after three weeks): "Some of our kids have got to settle down. We have lot of guys in new roles and first-year kids. From the outset, we said it would be learning process, three-four games to learn to play together, to learn what it is to play it at this level. We're still in the process and we're obviously hoping to see an improvement in that category on Friday night."

On the receivers' tough day vs. Queen's, including a dropped touchdown pass: "It was just a tough game all-around. These receivers are not rookies. They've been performing for us for two, three, four years, other than Steven Hughes, who's new to us but not new to the league (having previously played at York). We have a lot of confidence, as long as we protect up front, we should be fine."

Evalating Brad Sinopoli, who had three INTs and was sacked four times vs. Queen's (one sack, the rusher was totally unblocked): "I thought he played very well in the first two games and he had a bit of a tougher go last week. That being said, you have fourth- and fifth-ear starters who have those games. They're not machines. We're pleased with his development and he has to rebound from what we thought was an average performance, for what he can do."

DeLaval, on finding positives: "We're young, in particular on offence, we have eight new people. We're progressing, as we continue to watch film and correct errors, hopefully we'll progress and get a couple wins."

"We had over 500 yards of offence versus Guelph. We really needed that. We had a tough time moving the ball the first two games."

On his QBs, Andrew Gillis, Jansen Shrubb and Jordan Scheltgen, a Simon Fraser transfer who will be eligible this week: "Andrew will play for us, he'll be our starter. We're very comfortable with Jansen coming in off the bench. One guy that gets overlooked is Jordan Scheltgen ... Andrew, gives us a running attack, Jansen has good pocket presence. Jordan is a mix between the two, he's mobile and he's got some good pocket presence. We'll go with Andrew, but if the situation dictates, we'll look to either of the two backups."

Windsor's Mike Morencie and Waterloo's Dennis McPhee

Morencie, on bouncing back from a 60-7 loss to Western:
"As far as the debacle last weekend, our mantra in practice has been, 'next play, that's where your focus has to go.' Nothing you can do about Western, we have to face Waterloo. They're very fast. I am very interested to see how our kids respond."

Sam Malian will return from a two-game absence, but what about the running game? "We're a much different animal. Kamar Anglin and Paul Lefaive have been our two primary guys. Kamar is more of a shake-and-bake guy and Paul will try to run you over. Cody Butler has been a bit of surprise, how well he's blocked and giving us an occasional carry from the fullback spot."

McPhee, on an 0-3 start: "We're not scoring. First and foremost. We had a 20-play drive vs. Laurier and it ended on the four-yard line, not even in the field goal. We're getting in the red zone and not scoring."

On tightening up the defence, which gave up 204 yards to Laurier's Mike Montoya last week and 232 to Ottawa's Jordan Wilson-Ross the week before: "We've faced some good backs, there's no question. I'm sure the mindset of most teams has been to run the football. We're a little undersized ... Am I concerned about the run? Absolutely. Right after scoring, we have to stop the run."

On injuries to QB Evan Martin (day-to-day) and LB Jordan Verdone (expected to play): "Martin is day-to-day with an elbow injury. Once a QB's elbow goes, it's over. Jordan practised Wednesday and I expect you are going to see Number 44 flying around the field on Saturday."

On his young group of tailbacks, Marco Visentin, Matt Socholotiuk and Steve Lagace: "I'm really happy with their progress, to a point. Marco is more of a kid who can run the rock a little bit inside and catch the ball out of the backfield. Steven is a transfer from Saginaw Valley State, he didn't play much there, he's taking time to get up to speed. The big surprise has been Matty, he's got great feet for a big guy. I'm happy with a point, but we have to score touchdowns."

On wideout Sean Cowie's impact with Josh Svec's transfer to Western: "Sean's a real seasoned vet, he's all-time leading receiver at Univ of Waterloo, he offers tremendous leadership in the locker room and on campus. Sean's responded very well. He's mentored some of our younger players. We have (slotback) Mike Squires starting to step it up and a bit and (rookie wideout) Nick Anapolksy has done some good things. When Sean goes off into the real world, we're going to miss him."

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