Thursdays with coaches: Marshall on Laval, Guelph has weapons not named Dunk

Transcript of the weekly OUA football coaches' conference call:
  • Ottawa running back Jordan Wilson-Ross is practising, so it sounds like he has not totally been ruled out for the Gee-Gees-Laurier Golden Hawks University Rush game.
  • Laurier's Gary Jeffries confirmed QB Luke Thompson is out for the season with an ACL injury.
  • Western's Greg Marshall was asked by a Hamilton radio reporter about what the Mustangs learned from last season's Vanier Cup. He said straight out that they're not ready to compete with Laval.
  • Queen's Pat Sheahan and Windsor's Mike Morencie were kibitzing. Sheahan: "Mike, what time should I arrive for dinner?" Morencie: "We eat when you show up."
  • Morencie noted QB Sam Malian has been limited in practice with a "deep bone bruise" on his throwing hand and is unlikely to play this week.

Ottawa's Denis Piché and No. 8 Laurier's Gary Jeffries (who meet in the University Rush game, which will be liveblogged!)

Piché, giving a mid-season report card on the 2-2 Gee-Gees:
"It doesn't say much for the student when the mark is 50%. We can run with anyone, we can play with anyone, but we haven't been able to put a 60-minute game together. We hope to start doing it this week."

Jeffries, giving his mid-season report card: "We're a work-in-progress. We're still growing. We're certainly not where we thought we would be. As Denis said about his team, we're very inconsistent. We've had four strong games on defence and with our special teams, but offence, we just didn't get it going. In Hamilton last week (30-14 win over McMaster), we started to see some signs of growth."

Piché, on Ottawa's youth: "We're happy with our young guys, we have a lot of second- and third-years across the board. Any time you're in a situation where you have an idea of what to do, but haven't had the opportunity to do it, it's new and it's different ... consistency is what we need to address and have addressed ... our defence has bent but did not break. I think the young guys are responding pretty well. It is no different with our offence, we've sputtered a bit in the red zone (four field goals last week). That comes back to consistency."

On Wilson-Ross' prognosis: "It's improving every day and tonight we'll have a better idea ... yesterday he was running and catching the ball and doing some things, so we'll have a better idea of where he is tonight."

Jeffries, on leadig rusher Mike Montoya's fumble issues (he coughed it up on the goal line last week, although the ball was recovered for a Laurier touchdown): "That's been discussed a lot ... It's just a matter of concentration, focus. There is a shoulder problem, might be a bit of an issue, but I think it's more focus. We've working on it this week this week, clawing at it, smacking at it whenever he touches the ball."

On new starting QB Evan Pawliuk's progress (276 yards and two TDs in his first start): "He's really grasped what we're trying to do, he's managed that offence. We didn't give him too big a package for last week. He sees down the field well, he's able to read, go from our first read to our second read. He got the ball to some of our athletes who need to get the ball for us to be successful. We're thrilled with his progress. We think he can only get better."

McMaster's Stefan Ptaszek and Western's Greg Marshall:

Ptaszek, on facing Western: "Midway through the season, they have the most balanced and complete offensive attack in the league. We have to keep them off the field because that is the only way to slow them down consistently. Our defence has been playing well, so it's going to be a challenge."

On Mac's progress (2-2): "We have yet to prove that we can beat a top-ranked team in Ontario, which is a step we plan on taking this year. Got close vs. Queen's (8-7 loss), competed with Laurier, we get another chance to do it this week. We're hopeful our kids get the feedback that they're looking for from this game."

On facing a Western homecoming crowd: "We had 6,000 at our home opener, so it's something we have faced. Managing noise and communication is always an issue. We're a younger football team, so the crowd is something to deal with. The only way is to have some early success, take the crowd out of the game."

Marshall, on using No. 1 Laval as a measuring stick after playing them in last season's Vanier Cup: "What did we learn (from last season's Vanier)? Laval's a good football team and you'd better be prepared. One thing playing late in the season affords us is more playing. Our players might have got another month than players at some other schools ... we're not there yet. We're not able to compete with Laval. We have to recruit and compete better. Laval's set the bar. We can complain all we want, 'they're a football machine, they're a pro team' and you'd be right, but they have set a standard for all the other universities. If we're complacent, if we settle for being a mediocre team,

On whether OUA teams should try to recruit older players to close the gap with Laval: "In the short term, that is a way to go. We recruited (guard) Matt Norman out of Vanier, we recruited (cornerback) Jamie Symianick out of Vanier College. He's a freshman but he's 21 years old, he's had four years at Vanier College playing a very good level of football. Those guys are able to come in and compete right away. Do I want to see in Ontario where we have to recruit older players and not recruit 17, 18 year old players? No, not necessarily."

On Guelph QB Justin Dunk's suspension: "It's unfortunate, it's unfortunate for Guelph. As far as I'm concerned, I've been called a lot worse. Like I told London media, when you coach the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, you hear a lot of things. I don't think it was meant as an attack on Western. He's a good player and he got a little bit too excited. There are some things you say in the locker room you can't say on the field. Guelph is a very good team and I have a lot of respect for (coach) Kyle (Walters) and the program he is building. It doesn't bother us, we've been called a lot worse."

Dennis McPhee (Waterloo) and Kyle Walters (Guelph)

McPhee, on getting off the schneid with a 49-0 win over Windsor: "The kids needed the win badly. It upgraded the belief in the things we're doing. But the bottom line is it's one game."

On whether Luke Balch or Evan Martin starts at QB; "We're not sure yet ... you can't take away anything from what Luke Balch has done."

On facing Guelph without Dunk: "With Justin being out of the game, it is just going to highlight the talent Kyle's brought in there, there's a lot of talented kids on that team. The running back, Nick Fitzgibbon, might be the most well-rounded back in the league ... They have great young talent, they'll probably lean on Fitzy a bit, the receiving corps is very good, their offensive line is very well-coached, defence is as good as any in the league. Dunk is fine athlete, isn't a coach in this league who wouldn't want to have him, but Guelph has more than one bullet in the gun."

Walters, on bouncing back from a last-second loss to No. 2 Western: We're at the point now in our program where it is a tough pill to swallow with the way we lost to Western. We got over it, it was come in Monday and start prepping for Waterloo. It's just one of eight games that we get to get ready for the playoffs."

On Guelph's struggles pressuring the passer (only one sack from a D-lineman after four weeks): "You have options. You can either stick with your four-man pass rush and try adding some stunts or move some people around to try and get better matchups. It is an area of concern for us. You can try sending more bodies, but then you risk exposing the secondary if you sacrifice coverage. It's a decision we have to make, week-to-week, from team to team. It's certainly disappointing that we're having a lot of trouble generating pressure with a four-man rush."

On fill-in QB Kurtis Dance: "He's a good student of the game, we've plenty of kids going around this week with a chip on their shoulder over all the talk about Justin. They're interested in stepping up, challenge, to protect the new quarterback, to run the ball. Our receivers know they'll have to extend themselves a little more to make plays."

On WR-KR Jedd Gardner's status: "Jedd's fine. It was more of a whiplash effect than a concussion (that took him out vs. Wester). He was cleared to come back medically. Caution is the side to err on, as the doctor suspected at halftime, less of a concussion than it is whiplash."

Queen's Pat Sheahan and Windsor's Mike Morencie

Sheahan, on QB Dan Brannagan being back to 100%:
"I would say so. He's thrown the ball very well this week in practice. He looks the way a fifth-year quarterback is supposed to look. The game has slowed down. He's making good decisions."

On a soft early schedule: "It's not the kind of 4-0 that causes you to stick your chest out and beat it. We almost lost in week 1, in week 3 against Ottawa without our starting QB, we were lucky, we had a few bounces, otherwise it would have been a much closer game. In McMaster game, we won by a point. Really, we could be a 2-2 team quite easily. Our record, it's the kind of 4-0 that's good. We know who we are, we have to outwork teams, we don't outtalent people, we have to coach our asses off. It's good that no one is carrying on with those airs

With a rumoured Thaine Carter return, how about T.J. Leeper's work at middle linebacker? "He's one of those silent Saturday heroes. The kid is borderline brilliant. He does very well school, he has the marks for medical school. He's very strong kid, very good in the weight room, he can do 22 times in the (225-pound) bench press. He's very very physical. He doesn't have the flamboyance that Carter has, very tough, very physical, he's a smash-mouth player, good guy i the A and B gap. The way the game is going, the MAC linebacker has been a plug-type backer. In terms of tackling the running back between the tackles, he does that very well."

On Queen's long trip to Windsor: "I refer to this affectionately from the mother of old road trips. We have one kid from Regina, he's bused 10 hours to Edmonton, he doesn't know what the fuss is all about. In Quebec, they have to bus to Acadia for the interlocking games, they don't want to listen to us whimper about travel."

Morencie, on needing to force turnovers: "Our defence has had an inability so far to effect field-position change with a big pick, a big fumble recovery, a big sack. We have to do much better in this area. Danny (Brannagan) is going to throw the ball, defence is going to have to play better."

On health of Malian: "I doubt he's going to be play this week. He's had limited reps, we thought his hand was broken last week. It turned out to be a pretty severe bone bruise, there's very very small chance he'll play. He has not had enough reps to be ready to go, don't want to take a chance ... Sam gives us a chance to be competitive, but it would be foolhardy on our part to take a risk."

On opening holes for the running game: "I thought we'd be farther along with the running game ... we had great difficulty vs. Western and Waterloo, getting people off the line of scrimmage, getting into second-and-medium. We need greater production, or else we're very limited in what we can do."

Toronto's Greg DeLaval and York's Mike McLean

DeLaval, on the GTA rivalry: "The reality is, when Saturday rolls around, it is a bit of a different game. Generally, U of T and York, they play their best games against each other, we're expecting York to play their best game of the year."

On rookie receiver Ben Sharpe, who had his first 100-yard game last week: "He was highly recruited by other programs, he's great speed, he'll definitely be an impact player for next few years. He's very aggressive, he's contributing on special teams. He's a returner, also a kicker. He's tremendous athlete who we think is just going to get better and better."

On Toronto's ability to hang with teams for three quarters before fading: "I think it's more our ability to cope with adversity. We are outmatched in some areas, certainly. I don't know if our guys handle that adversity well. It's a cultural thing that we're trying to change, the 6½ years of straight losing ... we are trying to build their confidence. A lot of it is physical, but a bigger part of it is mental."

McLean, on his players' motivation: "Tuesday, we put a few new wrinkles in. Last night was one of the best practices we've had all year. There's a lot of familiarity between the coaches. We're looking for a exciting game on Saturday."
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