It's time for CIS football again.

Live from Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton, it's the defending Vanier Cup champions Queen's Golden Gaels and the McMaster Marauaders. Join Brian Decker, Neate Sager, and others in our liveblog.

The opinions expressed herein are those of Andrew Bucholtz and not those of The CIS Blog. You can contact him at

It's highly unusual for this blog to run not one, but two posts on the hiring of a CIS media relations staffer. However, in this case, I think it needs to be done. Neate Sager makes a good case below for his concerns about OUA's hiring of Laura Bridgman as their new communications and social media coordinator. Neate makes some valid points, but I think there's another side to the story that also should be presented.

Joe Posnanski wrote an excellent piece the other day on how the coverage of the Tiger Woods saga was primarily a function of the media era we live in, while previous stars such as Hal Sutton had their off-course misadventures largely glossed over. Some of the same logic may apply here. In 2010, there seems to be the presumption that everything a person does should reflect on their career and their professional skills, and I take issue with this.

If you read tales from old-time sportswriters like this great collection of Jim Coleman's work, you find tons of stories of journalists who kept bottles in the desk drawers of newsrooms or engaged in other practices we'd look down on today. One of my all-time favourite writers, Grantland Rice, is widely reputed to have had late-night drinking sessions with athletes he covered like Babe Ruth. My hero Hunter S. Thompson probably wouldn't have a chance in hell of getting a media job today given all the stuff he got up to. I'm not saying those are the correct tactics to follow, but despite behaviour that would be vilified in today's age of Facebook, personal blogs and hyper-observation, many of those writers still managed to carry out their profession at a level some of us today can only dream about.

In my mind, we need a separation of the professional and the private. I've never met Ms. Bridgman and I've never dealt with her in a professional capacity, so I'm going to reserve judgment until I've done that instead of coming to a conclusion based on personal blog posts or brief Twitter bios. This is something that's come up in the past with bloggers (see The Washington Post firing Michael Tunison after he revealed he was Kissing Suzy Kolber's Christmas Ape or the NCAA's Bylaw Blog getting shut down thanks to a blogger's exposure of its author), and it's led to many people writing blogs anonymously to try and minimize professional repercussions.

I'm not a big fan of anonymously-written blogs, as some people use the license anonymity provides in harmful ways, but I understand why people use it for fear of the professional impacts blogging can have. If Ms. Bridgman wrote her blog completely anonymously, we wouldn't be having this discussion. It's not completely anonymous, but that doesn't mean it's relevant to her ability to do her job. And you're not going to see me taking a stand against people running personal blogs on the side under their own names; those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, after all.

The information Ms. Bridgman chooses to put out there may reflect that she isn't overly interested in controlling the message, but I'm not looking for that in an OUA communications and social media coordinator. Speaking as a journalist, I think there are far too many attempts at message control from PR professionals these days, and I think it often hurts the organizations who employ those types of people. What I'm looking for from someone in this role is a person who will help media types get the information they need or are interested in, rather than spoon-feeding them positive stories.

Neate's right that most of the national CIS stories lately have been negative, but I don't think that's necessarily thanks to any failing in media relations. It's a fact of the news business that many of the really interesting stories are negative; a story on a plane crash may be negative, but it's much more interesting than a story on 900,000 planes that arrived at their destination safely. The positive stories are out there, but they're often profiles of interesting athletes or coaches or news on how a school is turning its programs around, and most of those pieces are done at a local or regional level rather than a national one. The way I see it, the job of CIS media relations types isn't to try and divert attention from an event like the Waterloo scandal or the Mike Danton controversy towards a more positive story, but rather to make sure that those covering the negative stories receive all the facts. Doing that well will ensure that their side of the story gets out there. Sure, I'd also like to see CIS media relations types drawing attention to positive stories about their athletes and schools, and I'm happy to write about those things as well, but the fact remains that the negative stories will draw the most attention on a national scale.

Experience also isn't the be-all and end-all for how successful someone will be at a position (fortunately, or younger people like myself would never be able to land a decent job). It certainly plays a role and can be a crucial asset, but I don't think it's the only thing that should be considered. If it was, no one would ever be hired, as everyone would have to have already done the job they're applying for. Ms. Bridgman may not have the experience of other candidates who applied, but that doesn't necessarily mean she isn't the right person for the job, and she may bring a new perspective rather than doing things a certain way for tradition's sake. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in a purely experiential hiring philosophy.

Laura Bridgman may be very successful in this new role, or she may not be. We'll have to wait and see. I don't think that the personal information she has chosen to put out there has much of a bearing on her ability to take up this professional opportunity, though. I'd rather judge her by what she does (and will do) in her job than what she chooses to write on a personal blog.
  • Here's an exhibition game score that won't make you sick and kill you: Calgary 20, Alberta 14. Again, though, without first-stringers for much of the contest (Eric Glavic threw seven passes and left with 85% of the game to play), one wonders how important these scores are. (Calgary Herald)

  • Staying with the Dinos, the first-place votes in this coaches' poll tell us Blake Nill considers Saskatchewan to be the best non-Calgary team in the conference. (Canada West)

  • Would you like some OUA Optimism Rankings, which are "entirely arbitrary and based on absolutely nothing"? Then you're in luck: Arden Zwelling has 'em up on his blog at the Gazette. (Western Gazette.)

  • File this under "changing the culture at York": after their gigantic loss, coach Warren Craney already knew what he plans to tell his team: "While some of you play Playstation, the Laval players are in the weight room." Favourite stat from the game? York had 9 rushing yards to Laval's 326. (Le Soleil)

  • has been doing their own CIS football previews. Any word on who's writing these? I've only seen them credited to " staff." apparently just re-running the football previews from the CIS site. Never mind; I hadn't read the "official" previews, so I didn't recognize them. (

  • Stefan Ptasek has encouraging (or pressure-filled) words in Larry Moko's preview of tonight's Mac/Queen's opener (don't forget our liveblog!). Said Ptasek of QB Kyle Quinlan, "We'll sink or swim with his ability to get it done. He's ready to be a marquee player in this league." (Hamilton Spectator)

  • Calgary-Saskatchewan on Saturday is going to be a good one. (The Star-Phoenix)

  • It's a shift from the pocket to press row for former Guelph QB Justin Dunk. (Guelph Mercury)

  • David Grossman has a decent piece on York and Toronto. (Toronto Star)

  • Shane Kelly's apparently unaware of the Laurier-Western rivalry. Says coach Gary Jeffries, "He’s just going down to London." And odd-QB-out Luke Thompson will play free safety. (The Record)

  • CP's Dan Robson has a CIS football preview in the Globe. (Globe and Mail)

  • The Carleton men's team is suffering from something, says Wayne Kondro, since they've now lost twice to NCAA teams. Or, you know, it's August. (Ottawa Citizen)

  • The Golden Bears' defeat of the Martlets in this year's national championship made TSN's top 10 sports streaks since, before that game, McGill had won 86 in a row. (TSN)

  • Brant Hilton, an all-star rookie goaltender in 2007-08, has left Regina after three seasons for an opportunity with the Mississippi RiverKings of the Central Hockey League. (Regina Cougars)

  • Former Thunderbird Liz Cordonier and her partner Jamie Broder received a silver medal after finishing second in the senior women's category at the beach volleyball nationals. Cordonier finished 11th in our player rankings. (Vancouver Sun, via @ubctbirds)
The following was originally posted at Out of Left Field, and the opinions expressed here are those of Neate Sager and not those of The CIS Blog. You can contact him at

Far be it to ask how putting a relatively inexperienced recent grad who doesn't come off as serious-minded in charge of media relations will help Ontario University Athletics be taken more seriously.

With football training camps underway, it's fair to wonder if OUA was going to tell us who to contact for media inquiries. It turns out Laura Bridgman, who previously worked in media relations with the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League, has been named communications and social media coordinator of Canada's largest university athletics conference. The very capable Josh Bell-Webster left for a similar position with the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association earlier in the summer.

It's justifiable to riff on this hiring. Part of this blog's beat is advocating, if not begging the highers-up in Canadian university athletics to do well by their underrated and outstanding product. At some point, they have to realize the PR machine needs to be shipshape. You just wonder if the OUA could have invested a little more to get someone more seasoned, who might think better of referring to her physician, who's facing a drug trafficking investigation, as "Dr. Hottiepants" on her blog. (We'll get to that in a second.)

Have you noticed that, since Jan. 1, the only CIS stories which got the most nationwide attention — former NHLer Mike Danton playing hockey at Saint Mary's, how McMaster handled the firing of men's basketball coach Joe Raso, Waterloo nuking its football season — largely were treated negatively and were subject to sensationalism? Perhaps negative stories travel farther, faster, but that can be exaberbated in a vacuum in which the drive-by media doesn't know about the upbeat stories. It's only put in front of them fleetingly since not enough schools make an effort with media relations, often criminally overworking communications people, especially in sports.

No offence to Ms. Bridgman, who also was a communications assistant with the OUA for four months in 2008, but the choice to hire her should give people who are passionate about the conference's potential pause to wonder. Please be clear this is directed at who hired the person, not the person who was hired. Entrusting a key communications position to someone rather callow who is also careless about what she puts out there about herself might be a step back.

The point goes to context. The entire CIS just spent the summer doing damage control after a doping scandal, yet its largest regional association just hired a PR person who during the interview period, blogged about being treated by Dr. Anthony Galea, a Toronto physician facing criminal investigations in Canada and the U.S., including being "charged with unlawfully treating NFL players with unapproved drugs including human growth hormone." (Pro Football Talk, Aug. 15.)

So it goes from putting out Waterloo fires to entrusting media relations to someone who, on her easy-to-find blog, didn't seem to acknowledge or understand the serious nature to Dr. Galea's notoriety, instead brushing it off as "drama, drama, drama." That's a little curious. You don't want "drama" from a PR person. Here's the quote in question.
"The man who injected my ankle, Dr. HottiePants, is actually Dr. Anthony Galea. He founded his clinic (ISM Health & Wellness) when I was 4 years old. My love of old men wins again!

"The name sound familiar? He's the doctor that's treated Tiger Woods, A-Rod, and others in the states without a license to practice in the US. Read the telling story about him in The Washington Post from June. Oh even without trying, I'm all drama, drama, drama!"
That's really showing perspective. It also comes off as bragging.

Typically, with media relations, you hire someone with a vast body of related experience who is known and respected in those relevant networks, like a SID from one of the 19 OUA schools. Or you hire a journalist who knows the subject matter and is looking for a job change. Most public relations hires, especially for a senior position, fall under either heading. Take it from someone who saw numerous newspaper colleagues take communications jobs between 2007 and early 2010!

Instead, it looks like OUA, rather than shell out for a more seasoned media pro, hired someone young (turning 25 next month), inexperienced and Toronto-centric for a job that involves commuting to its Hamilton office to work long hours and weekends. Should they be let off the hook if it turns out they skimped on salary? No. The position is an investment, not an expense.

Doing that job does require a certain amount of levelheadedness and savvy. So help one who might have trouble finding those qualities reflected in what Ms. Bridgman has made available about herself on the Internet. Prospective employers usually do Google the names of job applicants, or should. Did the OUA take a look for itself.

It goes without saying that people, especially media pros, have to keep their fun side and professional side separate. Some blur the lines more than others. (It'll be the death of me someday.)

However, in less than 10 seconds, you can click from Ms. Bridgman's professional profile, to the Twitter account (which is now protected) where she self-applies a descriptor such as "Barbie blonde," to her personal blog. No one is judging 99% of it, but it's that other 1%, including the material quoted above, that irks.

Point being, it's hard to get wrapped around how OUA prez Gord Grace's choice fits with trying to raise his conference's profile. He and executive director Ward Dilse know the association has to come across more professionally.

The bar should set at having a resident communications specialist who comes off as self-aware, insofar as that's reflected in covering her/his tracks online. You have to believe Dilse and Grace had applications from people who were better-qualified and more mature than this — female, male, 20-something, 30-something, 40-something, whatever.

Put another way: A league that deals with a male-dominated sports media went and hired a young woman who last year blogged about having her panties exposed ("navy lace boyshorts for all those walking on a different street this morning and are curious to know") by a chance gust of wind while walking in downtown Toronto. Someone who uses phrases such as "PR chickies" is representing the OUA--full of competitors who are progressive female athletes.

No one is saying you cannot hire a young woman. You just have to hire an experienced communications professional for such an important communications position.

Please believe that this post was not written without some pretty intense ethical debate between some of this site's writers and media pros who are passionate about all things OUA and CIS. Writing about an OUA hiring when others who applied are friends of the blog is akin to walking through a minefield.

It needed to be said. An organism only grows if it exposes itself to light. Having people talking about anything CIS critically is a sign of progress. Watch NFL Network. It doesn't shy away from picking at pro football's warts, because it's part of the conversation.

Each CIS regional association needs more of those folks around, spreading the gospel, bringing new ideas. No offence to Laura Bridgman, but based on what she has put out there, you can question whether the OUA's decision fulfills those aims.
In 50 words or less: Have a tough act to follow after losing major components of their Vanier Cup-winning team, in all three phases of the game. Coaches Pat Sheahan and Pat Tracey have raised the bar to where anything below fourth in the OUA is below standard, but it will take time.

[Ed. note: We apologize for the insufficiently short nature of this preview, but Neate couldn't really find anything to say about Queen's. — R.P.]

Burning questions:

WILL the running game with returning tailback Jimmy Therrien, be good enough to provide offensive balance while scrambling sophomore QB Justin Chapdelaine learns the ropes? And how much will Chapdelaine and the offence benefit by having 11 days off between the first two games?

MIGHT senior receiver Devan Sheahan make it four seasons in a row that a grad of a west-end Kingston high school has caught 800 yards' worth of passes for the Gaels?

HOW MUCH of a pass rush will a young yet relatively experienced (given its youth) defensive line generate as the likes of Kyle MacDonald, John Miniaci and Frank Pankewich expand their roles?

WHAT is the secondary, whose returnees made only one interception in the regular season in '09, going to look like? Queen's won five games last season where the opposing QB passed for 350-plus yards. Is that a sign of trouble ahead defending the pass or an offshoot of the fact all five of those games involved facing a fifth-year passer (a season opener vs. Guelph and Justin Dunk, Western's Michael Faulds twice, Laval's Benoit Groulx and Calgary's Erik Glavic) they'll never see again?

IS 6-foot-11, 318-pound left tackle Matt O'Donnell going to become a CFL first-round pick? And does his height justify taking a late-round flier on him in Year 2 MUBL draft, on the off-off-off-off-chance he takes up basketball? He could get rebounds and blocked shots, man.

HOW many more lifetimes do we have to pass through before we see a return specialist have a season like Jim-my Al-lin did in 2009 (five special teams TDs)?

WHICH is it, Golden Gaels or Gaels?

2009 recap: (11-1, 7-1 OUA). Bill Cosby once said, "The past is a ghost, the future a dream, and all we ever have is now," but this is never getting old. I plan on playing it at a wedding reception someday, not necessarily my own.

The Gaels, who had gone 7-1 or better three times since 2002 without earning a championship banner, finally landed the (whispered) Great White Buffalo. They won three come-in-off-the-ledge playoff games, outlasting Western by four points in the Yates Cup, Laval by three in the Mitchell Bowl and Calgary by two in the Vanier Cup to become No. 1.

(Self-indulgent inside joke: Ask John Bower about the come-in-off-the-ledge part as it pertained to a certain Streaming Sports Network contributor.)

It was the greatest comeback in Vanier Cup history (winning 33-31 after being down 18 points at halftime). It was also the first time a team from Ontario won a national final outside Ontario. (Okay, it was only the second time the Vanier Cup wasn't played in Ontario. But still: precedent-setting!)

Pat Sheahan became the first head coach in CIS history to record two post-season wins over Laval (the other coming in '98 when Concordia beat the Rouge et Or in the Dunsmore Cup). Another fun fact: Queen's now has the distinction of being the most recent Ontario team to win a national playoff game in Quebec and most recent to win one out West, although the latter happened in 1968.

Queen's also became the first school to make a Vanier Cup appearance in five different decades and the Golden Gaels finished fourth in The Canadian Press voting for the country's team of the year.

Brannagan, the graduating quarterback, got votes for the Lou Marsh Award as Canada's male athlete of the year, while rush end Shomari Williams became the first overall pick in the CFL draft, going to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Not bad for two guys who weren't even voted second-team all-Canadian, really.

(In fairness, Williams didn't put up big numbers in the regular season; just three sacks in six games, a half-sack less than he had in one game vs. Laval.)

One more fun fact: Would you believe the Gaels and Alabama Crimson Tide have each won national titles in the same season three times in the past half-century, 1978, '92 and 2009? Of course, Andrew Bucholtz would point out Boise State didn't join the NCAA's top football division until 1996.

Departures: Just a few [/understatement].
  • More than likely, both bookends of the defensive line, Williams and Osie Ukwuoma. The latter is focusing on his first year at Queen's law school and has not practised this season, which might explain why some season previews list Ukwuoma as a returnee and others say he's departed.

  • Five of the regulars in the "back eight" — linebackers T.J. Leeper and Chris Smith (now with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers); plus cornerback Jimmy Allin and his team-high five interceptions, all-star D-back Dave Rooney and safety Matt Vickers, who had a key end-zone INT in the Vanier Cup;

  • The country's most prolific passing combo in both 2008 and '09, Toronto Argonauts practice squadder Brannagan and wideout Scott Valberg, along with wideout Mark Surya (who transferred to Laurier). Each receiver made decisive fourth-quarter TD catches during the playoff run;

  • Offensive guards Vince DeCivita and Jon Koidis;

  • Two of the three regular backs, tailback Marty Gordon (team-high 6.4 yards per carry) and blocking back Patrick Corbin. Both are now on the coaching staff, along with Valberg.
Eight regular or part-time starters return on offence, five on defence, along with do-it-all placekicker-punter Dan Village.

Arrivals: Six-foot-three, 260-pound DE Derek Wiggan has already made his intentions clear to someday become the second coming of Shomari Williams, continuing a recent run of good Gaels D-linemen that also includes the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Matt Kirk and Edmonton Eskimos' Dee Sterling. Wiggan also told the Toronto Star in June that he wants to be a judge, so we'll have some fun thinking up a catchphrase.

You can hear it now: Sack by Wiggan! He's rendered his verdict, and it's an eight-yard loss!

Presuming a 1992 birthdate, Wiggan was born in the year when the Gaels won the Vanier Cup and Night Court ended its run. Thus he was born to wear the Tricolour and someday, a jurist's robe.

The Gaels' recruiting class might have been more about quality than quantity, since they already had a large roster. (OK, Mr. Glass Half Full.)

The notable newbies on offence include a backfield tandem from Burlington Notre Dame, 6-foot-3, 210-pound QB Billy McPhee and tailback Keith Lagace. Queen's also got a highly touted receiver out of London, Dimitris Korakianitis.

Receiver Aaron Gazendam, who played under Gaels legend Tim Pendergast at Kingston Holy Cross, opted to stay home. (In a bit of an omen, Pendergast, the QB of Queen's 1992 national championship team, guided Holy Cross to its first-ever city title not long before Queen's went on its run.)

Switching back over to the D, LB Sam Sabourin out of Ottawa has some promise, to put it mildly. Sheahan has called Sabourin, who attended South Carleton in Stittsville, Ont., the most prepared rookie linebacker he's ever seen.

Keep an eye on: Chapdelaine has been likened by his coach to Phill Côté, the slippery scrambler who guided Ottawa to the 2000 Vanier Cup and also won a Hec Crighton Trophy in '99 (that season, he set a conference record for most rushing TDs in a season, and he was a quarterback).

In fact, Chapdelaine showed a flash of his potential as a dual-threat QB during the Oil Thigh No Brannagan game last season, Queen's Week 3 win over Ottawa which was decided by a slo-pitch score, 20-8. One play that's frozen in memory is the then 17-year-old true freshman keeping the ball on a zone read and doing a little soccer-style hesitation move that froze an Ottawa defender. Having created some space, Chapdelaine then scooted for a vital first down.

If Ottawa had won that day and everything else had played out the same way, the Gee-Gees would have finished first instead of fourth and Queen's would have ended up in third place. Who knows how recent CIS football history might have been?

So, Chapdelaine brings poise — and poise counts! — but what about his passing?

Some hasty first impressions formed based on the limited action he saw as a raw rookie in September, when Brannagan was injured. However, Kingston Whig-Standard sports editor Mike Koreen has observed Chapdelaine's mechanics are no longer "a bit shot-put-like" after an off-season of tutoring. The Vancouver native presumably benefited from getting No. 2 quarterback reps in 2009, a rare privilege for a frosh.

He's still just an sophomore, though, so rein it in. Pointing out, "Matt Saracen was a sophomore the year Dillon won State!" is irrelevant, since that was four years ago, and fictional.

There are some returnees around Chapdelaine. Fifth-year centre Dan Bederman is back as the fulcrum of the offensive line, along with the tackles, O'Donnell and Derek Morris, who did a good job keeping pass rushers off Brannagan. The Gaels' offensive efficiency was helped by the fact their starting QB was sacked just five times in the regular season (we'd add the playoff totals, but the CIS website doesn't have any boxscores available from last year's playoffs. It's only history).

Leading rusher Therrien and the receiving trio of Devan Sheahan (522 yards in regular season on a 14.2-yard average), tight end Chris Ioannides (501, 11.1 avg.) and wideout Blaise Morrison (421, 16.2 avg.) each return.

Queen's, whose pro-style attack last season featured a lot of five-receiver sets and just enough runs to keep defences honest, likely will have some drop-off in its receiving depth. It is worth noting 6-foot-5, 220-pound wideout Tom Howes, who had a neat slash role last season as a short-yardage QB and backup receiver, was in the East-West Bowl, which speaks to his raw ability. Greg Plumpton was the sixth receiver last season and Giovanni Aprile (not pronounced the same as the month; it's Ah-preel) was a major recruit in 2009, so they're in the mix.

Defensively, Alex Daprato, who plays that sort of halfback-linebacker hybrid which has evolved as a reaction to the spread offence, is probably Queen's most proven returning starter. One untold story of the championship season was how Tracey found roles for The Other Guys, younger players such as Pankewich, MacDonald, Miniaci and DE Ted Festeryga along the line, plus a pair of East-West Bowl picks, ILB Stephen Laporte and DB Ben D'Andrea. They, among others, will each have to do a little more.

Young cornerback T.J. Chase-Dunawa also profiles as that defensive back-return specialist type.

It's been erased by memories of the championship run, but Queen's was a little bend-don't-break by times in the '09 regular season, with sacks and takeaways few and far between. It was almost like they saved their ballhawking for do-or-die games. Witness the defence coming up with three takeaways and a blocked field goal in the second half of the Vanier Cup.

Village is coming off a 12-of-13 regular season on field goals and made pressure kicks at the end of the first half in both the Yates Cup and Mitchell Bowl. He punted reasonably well, although the team had some early-season team issues with blocked punts.

Finding a returner to provide a modicum of Allin's magic, well, that would be good.

A 5-3 regular season seems to be a popular prediction for Queen's. The opener at McMaster and the Battle Of The 613 vs. Bradley Sinopoli and Ottawa on Sept. 25 stack up as swing games.

Earning a home playoff game for a fourth consecutive season seems like a reasonable goal, although the margin for error seems slim. That hasn't happened since 1988-92, the Doug Hargreaves days.

Coach & coordinators: Pat Sheahan and assistant coach/defensive coordinator Pat Tracey, who are entering their 11th season together in Kingston, each earned their second Vanier Cup ring last season. (Sheahan was offensive coordinator on McGill's '87 team and Tracey was a star player when Guelph won in '84). The two Pats have helped bring one of the country's most storied programs into the modern era, sending a steady stream of players on to the CFL. Ten Gaels are currently on CFL rosters.

Sheahan doubles as O.C., but his older son, Ryan Sheahan, is vital as the quarterback coach/video coordinator. Defensive backs coach Ryan Bechmanis serves as special teams coordinator.

Off-the-field factors: One is the law of diminishing returns. This is bound to exert some influence on the Gaels' fortunes, if the past two Ontario schools which won the national title are any indication.

Laurier, the 2005 champ, reached the Yates Cup the following season and has not done so since, despite four consecutive top-3 finishes. Ottawa followed a similar pattern after winning it all in 2000. It lost in the Yates in '01 (its first season in the OUA after the old O-QIFC disbanded) and took a few years to become a contender again. It's self-evident, but championship teams often reach a peak, and that might affect Queen's in 2010.

The second off-field issue is, well, the field. Queen's is marking its 40th season at Richardson Stadium, but alumni are working against the clock to raise money to replace it. Being one of the few Top 10 teams which plays on real grass probably worked to the Gaels' advantage now that most teams have gone to field turf. However, Richardson is badly showing its age (no one was put out when out-of-town media called it "rickety" last fall because you can't get mad when someone speaks the truth).

Every other OUA football school except Ottawa and York has upgraded its field within the past decade, so Queen's is overdue to get with the times. Queen's principal Daniel Woolf has vowed to get something done before the end of his term.

From last season's preview: "In the grand scheme, Queen's likely stands the best chance of thwarting [two-time OUA champion] Western. The Gaels face a lot of doubters after the post-season woes and surely know they will be reminded of it at every turn this season, but give a good team enough chances and they will pull it off eventually. They are under the radar, but could surprise. It's happened before at Queen's."

Also, "Which pass rusher does the opposing running back stay in to chip on, Osie Ukwuoma or Shomari Williams?"

Williams was MVP of the Mitchell Bowl, in which Ukwuoma made the decisive fumble recovery in the final 90 seconds after a strip sack by Pankewich.

Stock up or stock down: UP. There will be a dip in the 2010 standings, mind you, but ideally for Queen's, the national title should change the perception of the program. And help with getting that new stadium.

Tues., Aug. 31 at McMaster, 7 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 12 vs. Windsor, 1 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 18 at Guelph, 1 p.m. (University Rush)
Sat., Sept. 25 vs. Ottawa, 1 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 2 at Western, 1 p.m. (University Rush)
Sat., Oct. 9 vs. U of T, 1 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 16 at Laurier, 1 p.m. (University Rush)
Sat., Oct. 23 vs. York, 1 p.m. (Legacy Weekend)
In 50 words or less: Even with more questions this year than last, the Huskies remain the top team on paper in the AUS. It remains to be seen how their lineup, including an inexperienced receiving corps, fares against the top teams from outside the conference.

Burning questions:

—ARE the Huskies going to claim their fourth-straight AUS title, or will they be stuck with a three-peat that Pat Riley won't let them sell celebratory shirts for?

—WILL hosting Laval in their lone interlock game (Week Two) be a boon, allowing them to pick up experience against quality opposition, or a setback, perhaps hurting their record and destroying their confidence?

—IF they make it out of the conference, will the Huskies be able to overcome a tough trip west across several time zones to likely face either Calgary or Saskatchewan in the Mitchell Bowl?

—CAN the (AUS) empire strike back? Former Huskies' QB Erik Glavic blew up the Saint Mary's Death Star in last season's national semifinal, but he could again have to confront his replacement (Jack Creighton) in the Mitchell Bowl if both Calgary and Saint Mary's get there.

2009 recap and record: 7-1 regular season, 1-1 playoffs

Saint Mary's got off to an unusually poor start last year, losing their first regular-season game to conference rival St. FX. They then rolled off seven straight conference wins to clinch first place in the conference and a first-round bye, and then beat the X-Men 31-22 in the playoffs before losing 38-14 at home to Calgary in the national semifinal.

Key departures: Second-team All-Canadian centre Derek Weber, second-team All-Canadian P/K Justin Palardy, and AUS first-team all-star receiver Carl Hardwick. Hardwick may be the toughest loss, as there isn't a lot of experience in the rest of the receiving corps [Monty Mosher, The Chronicle Herald].

Key arrivals: OL Sean Swanney, receiver Kyle Ritchie, receiver Harrison Brown, FB Kurt Tonowski. Swanney's a highly-touted offensive lineman straight out of Calgary's Foothills High School who has plenty of size (6'6'', 300 pounds). Ritchie and Brown could make significant impacts in the receiving corps this year, and Tonowski is a four-year junior football vet who played OL with the Victoria Rebels; his size (5'10'', 240 pounds) makes him a bit small to play on the line at the CIS level, but he could turn into one heck of a blocking back.

Keep an eye on: DL Dan Schutte. Schutte, another Alberta-raised guy and a former All-Canadian, struggled with injuries last year. If he can stay healthy, he could cause some havoc on the line. The Huskies also have plenty of experience in the backfield, as Devon Jones and Craig Leger are both in their fourth season; it will be interesting to see who claims the number-one role.

Coach and coordinators: Steve Sumurah is back for his fifth season as head coach and his 11th year at Saint Mary's (where he was the offensive coordinator for four Vanier Cup appearances and two championships). He's also coached at St. FX and in the AF2 (the smaller Arena Football League circuit). His overall record as a head coach with Saint Mary's is 24-7, 29-11 if you include playoff games. Sumurah will also be acting as offensive coordinator and coaching the quarterbacks. Danny Laramee is back as defensive and special-teams coordinator.

Off-the-field factors: Saint Mary's will get one interesting neutral-site game this year, as they take on Mount Allison Saturday, Sept. 25 in Moncton as part of the CFL's Touchdown Atlantic celebration weekend (the Argonauts and Eskimos play the next day). It should be a chance for them to show off their program to a CFL audience. They also aren't losing a home game out of the deal, as Mount Allison is the nominal home team for that one.

From last season's preview: "Chances are, SMU is on the upswing. How fast Creighton loses the training wheels should be a major variable for the eastern Huskies (who might end up hosting the western Huskies in a bowl game)." Neate got it all right except for the Dinos heading east instead of the western Huskies.

Stock up or stock down: Down slightly. There are some key losses for the Huskies, so they don't seem as formidable overall as they were last season. However, Saint Mary's still likely has their dominant position in the conference: St. FX has more questions to answer, and Acadia and Mount Allison seem unlikely to take over top spot just yet, so the AUS is likely still the Huskies' to lose. Whoever the eventual AUS champion is, though, they will probably have an awfully tough path to the Vanier Cup through either Calgary or Saskatchewan. Thus, as Yogi Berra would put it, this year could be déjà vu all over again for the Huskies with an AUS championship and a stumble in the Mitchell Bowl.

Schedule (all times Atlantic):
Sat. Sept. 11 SMU at Acadia 2 p.m. Eastlink
Sat. Sept. 18 Laval at SMU 2 p.m. HC - Eastlink
Sat. Sept. 25 SMU at Mount Allison 1 p.m. @ Moncton
Fri. Oct. 1 Acadia at SMU 7 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 8 SMU at StFX 7 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 15 StFX at SMU 7 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 23 MTA at SMU 2 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 30 SMU at Acadia 2 p.m. Eastlink

  • Growing pains are inevitable for any coach new to the CIS level, and it sounds like Guelph's exhibition against Concordia brought some of that necessary pain to Stu Lang. (Guelph Mercury)

  • There's competition in the Huskies' camp, according to Brian Towriss, who "sees it as 28 players trying for 24 spots, with another dozen travel jobs to fill." Two of those players are QBs Parker Siemens and Trent Peterson, both wanting to be the backup in Saskatoon. Well, they probably want to start, but you know what I mean. (The Star-Phoenix)

  • Radical changes at UBC, as Shawn Olson has made players run sprints if they don't hustle enough! Oh, you laugh, but according to running back Dave Boyd, "In the past we've been able to get away with it. The coaches threatened that they would run you, but there was no consequence." (The Province)

  • The talk is now a half-season lost for Nathan Riva, and with a less experienced quarterback than the Mustangs are used to, might the Western offence prominently feature backs Ben Roberts and Kenny Eansor in the early going? (London Free Press)

  • Western and Saskatchewan played an exhibition game of negligible import. The Huskies' Laurence Nixon didn't play much, but still managed 10 yards per attempt. If you're keeping score at home, it was 40 to 12 for the Dogs. (The Star-Phoenix)

  • And McGill beat Toronto 40 to 17, with the Blues having, according to the stats, 13 minutes of possession in the second quarter yet somehow not scoring. As Neate pointed out, OUA teams have now lost out-of-conference exhibition games by 41, 17, 28, and 23...and York hasn't finished losing to Laval yet! (59-0 at the half, last I heard.)

  • The AlwaysOUA Question Mark Watch sits at two, but the newly-christened AlwaysOUA Convoluted Lede Watch has its first hit. Here's their Ottawa preview. Keep going back for the rest of the series to save me some linkin' time. (AlwaysOUA)

  • David Grossman talks to Michael Faulds about his new job, running the offence at York. The picture of Faulds with QB Nick Coutu is rather apt. Coutu's numbers have been...well, not to have a go at him, but they've been horrid, frankly. There's no good way to spin a 33% completion rate (2009), or zero touchdowns vs. eight INTs (2008). Even if York's entire team is so bad that no quarterback can stand a chance, and it's therefore not Coutu's fault, having Faulds spend hours watching video with him can only help. (Toronto Star)

  • Who wants to track the prognostications of the Golden Bears' O-lineman, Nick Ternovatsky? After Alberta allowed just three sacks in 2009, he says, "I think we can beat that." One sack per four games. Will they do it? Please, no wagering. Also Jerry Friesen gets "one game at a time," "all guns blazing," and "realize our potential" into a mere 600-word piece. Good show. (Edmonton Sun)
No one should make too much of results from games played after only a few days of training camp. Still, the OUA's results bear being listed in point form, n'est pas?
  • Sherbrooke 41, Ottawa 0
  • Concordia 40, Guelph 23
  • Saskatchewan 40, Western 12
  • McGill 40, U of T 17
  • Laval 76, York 0
Four of those five teams have a conference opener in just a few days. The charitable view is this is a season like no other, thanks to Waterloo putting everything in an uproar. It's bound to be a little messy in the early stages.

Three teams which were in the Top 10 last season, including Laurier and McMaster, did not have a tune-up game.

Of note, apparently U of T has cooked up an offensive package to take advantage of quarterback Andrew Gillis' unique passing and rushing skills.
"U of T didn’t feature its package against McGill, but there is a no-huddle dimension, known as lightning.

"When it's firing on all cylinders, Gillis looks like an athletic Boomer Esiason, throwing darts on the run and directing his offence.

" 'We want to be play fast,' [offensive lineman Josh] Gibbs added. 'Once we get the kinks out, I do believe we can be an explosive offence.' " (Toronto Sun)
Smart Football explained idea of "play fast" a couple years ago, trying to have ball snapped quickly and give the defence less time to prepare. Hey, it is the Varsity Blues. They have to try something.

U of T apparently had backup defenders in when McGill first-string QB Jonathan Collin did a lot of the Redmen's offensive damage in the second quarter.

Meantime, speaking of York, Lions rookie head coach Warren Craney told Le Soleil he actually had to cancel what he had planned for the first day of camp, Aug. 20, after half the players showed up late. That falls under the Changing The Culture heading.

A York-Laval one-liner, just say hey, York has lost by more (80-0 to Queen's in 2008) and Laval has won by more (94-0 over first-year Sherbrooke in '03). The Rouge et Or ended up averaging more yards per rush than the Lions averaged per completion, never mind per pass attempt. Laval's defence and special teams even managed to score two touchdowns.

Laval, not unlike the Oklahoma Sooners did in a 77-0 Big 12 blowout of Texas A&M back in '03, took pains not to run up the score. They didn't score in the fourth quarter and also kneeled out the clock at the end of the game after reaching the 5-yard line.

That game never should have been played, as someone pointed out in July.
In 52 words or less: With the reigning Hec Crighton winner back and an abundance of offensive weapons, the Dinos are sure to be an exciting offensive squad again in 2010. The defending conference champs look poised for another successful season in what looks to be a two horse race for first between the Dinos and Saskatchewan.

Burning questions:

CAN the Dinos live up to the high expectations, and avenge their Vanier loss in '09?

IS it possible Erik Glavic can have a third Hec Crighton worthy season?

WILL anyone be able to stop the Dinos' dynamic offence?

2009 recap and record: (10-2) After going 7-1 during the regular season, the Dinos went 2-0 in Canada West playoff action including a thrilling 39-38 Hardy Cup win over the Saskatchewan Huskies to claim the conference crown. With the conference title in their back pockets, Calgary headed east to face Saint Mary's in the Uteck Bowl with a trip to the Vanier Cup on the line. With a 38-14 win in Halifax, Calgary downed the Halifax Huskies to advance to their first national title game since 1995.

In the Vanier Cup the Dinos met the Mitchell Bowl champion Queen's Golden Gaels, and after racing out to a 25-7 halftime lead looked poised to capture the program's fifth national title. Calgary wouldn't, however, emerge from PEPS in Laval as Vanier Cup champs that late November day, as the Gaels ripped off 26 unanswered points in the second half to hand the Dinos a deflating 33-31 loss in a game that slipped away from Calgary.

The Dinos were a dynamic offensive team in '09, leading Canada West in scoring offence averaging 39.5 points per game during the regular season – good for third in the nation behind Laval (41.6) and Western Ontario (41.9). Calgary was also second in the nation in total offence, averaging 576.8 yards per game during the regular season. Those impressive offensive stats were buoyed by a defence that surrendered the second fewest yards per game (367) during eight regular season games.

Departures: Deke Junior (QB), Taylor Altilio (REC), Andrew Obrecht (DL), Deji Oduwole (DL), Matt Grohn (DB), Chase Moore (DL)

Arrivals: Eric Dzwilewski (QB), Adam Ballingall (QB), Kiefer Olson (QB), Keaton Jones (RB), Braden Heffernan (REC), Milos Zivkovic (REC), Grant Potter (OL), Branden Stevens (OL), Andros Agathos (K), John Mark (K), Ian Shaw (DL), Mike Forzani (DL), Zack Agathos (LB), Chris Folk (LB), Craig Adamson (LB), Anthony DesLauriers (S), Doctor Cassama (DB)

Keep an eye on: Safety Anthony DesLauriers. A transfer from Simon Fraser, DesLauriers will be able to step in right away and contribute for head coach Blake Nill's team. An All-Canadian at SFU, DesLauriers is a big time recruit for the Dinos and their secondary that struggled at times last season. DesLauriers was a sixth round pick of the Toronto Argonauts in the 2009 CFL Draft, and should help a Dinos secondary that gave up 278.9 yards per game through the air during the regular season in '09 – second most in the conference, despite the Dinos' overall defensive strengths.

Coach and coordinators: Head coach Nill is entering his fifth season as the skipper of the Dinos football program, and has elevated Calgary from a 2-6 team in his first season at the helm to a Canada West power that competes on the national level. In addition to his head coaching duties, Nill will also take on the role as defensive coordinator for the Dinos after the departure of former d-coordinator John Stevens in February of this year. Offensive coordinator Greg Vavra is also entering his fifth season on Nill's coaching staff, and will once again have a full stable of offensive thoroughbreds to work with this season. Vavra played his collegiate ball at Calgary as QB, guiding the Dinos to the program's first Vanier Cup title in 1983, and took home the Hec Crighton.

From last season's preview: “It is hard to go up from a Hardy Cup, but the Dinos are hoping to do exactly that and improve on their 5-3 regular season finish from a year ago. The team returns all of its offensive weapons plus adds a former Hec Crighton winner as their new quaterback.”

Stock up or stock down: Up. It's tough to say things could get much better in the Stampede City after they went 10-2 last season, but with almost every offensive player back, and some key additions on the defensive side of the ball, you can't say the Dinos' fortunes are trending down. Calgary looks ready to battle, yet again, with an equally impressive Saskatchewan Huskies squad for the conference crown in what should be an exciting race.

Schedule (all times Mountain):

Saturday, August 28 vs. Alberta - 7 p.m. (pre-season)
Saturday, September 4 vs. Saskatchewan - 7 p.m.
Friday, September 10 vs. Regina - 7 p.m.
Saturday, September 18 @ Alberta - 1 p.m.
Saturday, September 25 @ Manitoba - 12 p.m.
Saturday, October, 2 vs. UBC - 1 p.m.
Friday, October 15 @ Saskatchewan - 7 p.m.
Friday, October 22 @ Regina - 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 30 vs. Alberta - 1 p.m.
In 50 words or less: Honestly? It's Laval. The only question is how many playoff games they'll win.

Burning questions:

WILL Laval play for a Vanier at PEPS? Finishing first in the Q ensures they don't have to leave Quebec City once during the playoffs.

HOW will the offence perform with a new QB, likely Bruno Prud'homme, and a new O-C?

HOW effective will their defence be? Especially against the run. Last year they gained twice as many rush yards per play than they allowed on the ground--mostly because they gave up less than three yards per attempt, but also because of one star rusher who's back this year.

2009 recap: It was all going well until the Mitchell Bowl. You remember the Mitchell Bowl. Unless you were silly enough to spend that afternoon out with friends, and didn't see a snap of it. Before that November afternoon delight, Laval only lost once (at Montreal) and won every other game by three touchdowns except one (at Sherbrooke, but the Vert et Or didn't even score a major). They had just 80.9 penalty yards per game last year; Montreal, as is their wont, were whistled for 138.9 yards per game--an incredible 58 per game more than the Rouge et Or, which is like spotting the best team in the league 10 points before the game even starts.

Another reason to stay in Quebec City:: For all those who say Laval's especially vulnerable when they travel, their season and playoff results over the last three years might agree with you: on average, they win by 24 at PEPS and by 19 everywhere else. That difference of five points is more than your standard home-field advantage, but then again, it doesn't matter whether you win by 19 or by 24, does it?

Departures:: QB Benoit Groulx, OL Louis-David Gagné, OL David Bouchard, DL Jean-Philippe Gilbert, S Samuel Lajoie, S Alex Surprenant.

Arrivals:: DE Arnaud Gascon-Nadon (from Rice University), DE Bruno Lapointe (Buffalo), RB Guillaume Bourassa (Collège Lennoxville Champlain College), RB Pascal Lochard (Cégep Vieux-Montréal), OL Philippe Lavertu (Collège François-Xavier-Garneau).

Keep an eye on: Pascal Lochard, perhaps? A CEGEP standout at Vieux Montréal, and presumably recruited heavily by the Carabins in addition to the Vert et Or, Lochard could step into Sebastian Levesque's cleats, and maybe even fill them capably. Certainly he's someone whose name we'll "hear a lot of in the next few years". Gascon-Nadon is also an interesting addition, as Neate discussed last year; he's performed pretty well at the NCAA level in the past.

Coach & coordinators: Les hommes de Glen Constantin, as they're often called, have gone 80-22 under his watch. He returns for season number 10. Offensive coordinator is Marco Iadeluca (first year); defensive coordinator is Marc Fortier (fourth year). There are seven other coaches, as befits a team with boatloads of money, and there is also speculation surrounding the newly-available Danny Maciocia, originally from Montreal. But despite dining with Constantin and others, Maciocia is not joining Laval (or any university team) this year.

Off-the-field factors: Laval gets another shot at playing in a Vanier Cup at home this year after last year's disappointment. That's a lot of pressure to be under, though, and there are quality opponents to be found both within and outside of Quebec that might get in their way. If Laval makes it that far, the home-field advantage could be critical, but they'll have to stay focused week-to-week rather than looking ahead to the end of November. As Neate wrote last month, though, the Quebec champion gets to host a national semifinal this year. If Laval can make it out of the conference, it's PEPS all the way in.

From last season's preview: "Sebastien Levesque is good. Really, really good." -Jared Book.

Well, 9.3 yards per rush later, Jared's really, really right.

Stock up or stock down: Neutral. The Rouge et Or were good last year and they'll be good this year, especially if the D is up to par. Our readers gave them 78% of the vote in the "who will win the QUFL poll." So that just leaves a bunch of playoff games at PEPS between them and another Vanier Cup.

Schedule: (all times Eastern)
Sun Aug 29 1:00pm vs. York (LOPSIDED EXHIBITION)
Sun Sep 5 2:00pm vs. McGill*
Sat Sep 11 7:00pm at Sherbrooke
Sat Sep 18 1:00pm at Saint Mary's*
Sun Sep 26 1:00pm vs. Sherbrooke
Sun Oct 3 1:00pm vs. Concordia
Sat Oct 9 1:00pm at Montreal*
Sun Oct 17 1:00pm vs. Bishop's
Sat Oct 23 1:00pm at McGill
Sat Oct 30 1:00pm at Concordia
* Televised or webcasted on Radio-Canada

Once again, several hat-tips to the official preview (link goes to PDF, in French) are in order.
The fans have spoken!

Back in 2007 the football community got together to start their own Top 10 ranking system. Prior to the formation of the UFRC ranking system there was always a lot of criticism for the weekly Top 10 lists released by the CIS. As a result a group of fans in the online community decided to take it upon themselves to post a Top 10 and see how their opinions would match up.

Since then the group has grown in numbers and now enters its fourth season (third full season) as strong as ever. With the early start of the OUA season days away, the committee, consisting of fans, former players, family members of current players and members of the media, compiled a Preseason Top 10 heading into 2010.

For the first time in the preseason poll, and only the third time in the 22 weeks these rankings have run, a team other than the Rouge et Or claims the top spot in the nation. As competition begins last season’s Vanier Cup finalists Calgary Dinos (#1) are viewed as the premier program in the nation. Blake Nill returns many starters to his Calgary team, including All Canadian Quarterback and Hec Crighton winner Erik Glavic.

The Dinos look to improve upon the way their season ended last year, with a narrow loss to Queen’s in Quebec City on the last week of the season, and the Fans believe they have a legitimate shot at making that dream a reality.

In the runner-up position heading into the season lands the Saskatchewan Huskies (#2), the Hardy Cup finalists, who are also looking to make amends to a less than favourable end to 2009. The Huskies were a botched field goal away from ousting the Dinos and one gets the sense they’re eagerly awaiting the rematch; thankfully for them they will not have to wait long as the two will meet in Week 1.

Clearly this shows that the winner of the West will be poised to succeed this coming year.

Finding a new and somewhat unusual home in the rankings is the Laval Rouge et Or (#3), dropping further than they ever have in the Fan’s Poll. The Mitchell Bowl finalists are going through a number of significant changes for the coming year, including a new Offensive Coordinator in Marco Iadeluca to teach a new, as of yet undeclared Quarterback to fill the shoes of former Hec Creighton winner Benoit Groulx (who takes over the reigns as the new Offensive Coordinator at Bishop’s this season).

There are questions to be answered at Laval and until they see the results the Fans seem ready to wait before crowning them best team in the nation once again.

The Ottawa Gee Gees (#4) head into the year as the Yates Cup favourites. After losing out to McMaster in the OUA quarter-finals last season the Gee Gees welcome a new Head Coach and now enter the season with high expectations. A lot of those expectations will lay with incumbent QB Brad Sinopoli as he heads up a veteran team with plenty of depth.

Rounding out the top five is the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (#5). Losing at home in the semi-finals to Western last season Laurier also hopes to find a better result in 2010. Many believe with the strength of their recruiting class and transfers – including a number from the suspended Waterloo Warriors program – will allow the Hawks to make a statement in Ontario.

The McMaster Marauders (#6) follow right behind Laurier in the rankings, continuing with the OUA trend of the Preseason Poll. Following a very tough and highly entertaining 2009 season where five teams finished the regular season with a record of 6-2 or better it may very well turn into another race to the finish in the OUA. MAC looks to play a big part in that hotly contested road to the Yates.

The Montreal Carabins (#7) have been given the confidence as the second ranked team in Quebec and the squad to give the Rouge et Or a run for their money in 2010. The Carabins were the only Quebec team to defeat Laval last season and hope to recreate that result early as the two meet up again. The St. Mary’s Huskies (#8) are considered the class of the AUS as they enter this season looking to avenge a poor showing against Calgary in the Uteck Bowl.

Rounding out the preseason edition of the rankings are the two teams that played in that amazingly entertaining Yates Cup final last year, the Western Mustangs (#9) and defending Vanier Cup champions Queen’s Golden Gaels (#10). Both teams had tremendous success last year - Queen’s most notably - however both teams also suffered key losses to their outfits.

Both team's all star Quarterbacks, Michael Faulds for Western and Danny Brannagan for Queen’s, that lead these teams have moved on along with a number of veteran starters on both sides. It is expected they will still compete in conference however until the season starts, the Fans appear willing to wait and see what the changes mean to each team.

It’s never easy to place who falls where before any teams has played a game and as a result nine other teams received votes. The Concordia Stingers fell just short of the Top 10, followed closely by Alberta and then Bishop’s. Other teams receiving votes were Sherbrooke, Manitoba, St. Francis Xavier, Regina, UBC and Mount Allison. Expect to see a lot of interesting movement over the first few weeks as everyone tries to decipher what team falls where.

Heading into the season anything can happen, however with the first game of the season only a few days away the Fans believe that these are the teams to watch out for in 2010 in CIS Football.

  • The CIS coverage at the Windsor Star, especially in basketball, is among the best in the country. I say that because it's true, but also so I can feel better about making fun of a small part of their Sam Malian piece. They credited "one CIS blog" instead know, The CIS Blog...for the quotes they pulled from Luke's Windsor preview. Actually, the quotes aren't used properly--two of Luke's thoughts were reordered and fused together. And their sentence isn't actually complete. But other than that, fine work. (Windsor Star)

  • An always OUA blog has their Laurier preview up, and they get credit for not saying "down the road" or "across the street" to denote the action of physically transporting oneself between the Waterloo and Laurier campuses. The Hawks are the second of two teams in this preview series whose offensive line is a "giant question mark." Does that make punters the en dashes or em dashes? (AlwaysOUA)

  • Greg Marshall is looking forward to giving some of his players their first opportunity to be on a plane. Um, that is, to play an exhibition game against the Saskatchewan Huskies. It's part of the Mustangs' crazy early schedule, with four games in 16 days. Marshall advocates for a national interlocking schedule, a weekend where everyone (well, half the teams) travel and play opponents they've never played before. Fewer Western games against the OUA's second division is simply a bonus. (The Star-Phoenix)

  • Still with the Huskies, over at Huskie Football Outsider they have a Q&A posted with coaches Bart Arnold and Travis Serke, in advance of that exhibition game, held at Griffiths Stadium in RumouredForeignTakeover Park. (Huskie Football Outsider)

  • If you're wondering how today's Guelph-Concordia exhibition game went, well, it was 24-10 Stingers at the half and didn't get any closer, Guelph losing 40-23. Just in case you needed a reminder that this was an exhibition game, you'll read that the Gryphs "managed to achieve their goal of getting a lot of players into the game." (Guelph Mercury)

  • Jonathan Pierre-Étienne is back with the Carabins after a stopover with the B.C. Lions. (


  • Here's some news on Eric Neilson and former Varsity Red Darryl Boyce, who are both "fighting for positions in the professional hockey ranks after enduring injury-plagued 2009-10 seasons." Both men are 26, which makes it more difficult to climb the ladder than for someone straight out of junior, but they have AHL opportunities at the moment and possibly more. (The Daily Gleaner)

  • Missed this the first time around, but our Evan Daum has ranked the top 5 recruiting classes in men's hockey. Spoiler: the AUS does well. (South Campus Sports)
For this next preview, we'll trust the wisdom of Dallas Carpenter from Huskie Football Outsider. Take it away, Dallas:

In 52 words or less: The Huskies are poised to take the next step this year, and should finish first or second in Canada West. They were a last-minute, missed field goal from advancing to the Uteck Bowl last year, and it should be just as close between the Huskies and Dinos this season.

Burning questions:

CAN the Huskies offence come out of the gate firing in 2010? Last season was a tale of two halves, as the Huskies scored 55 points and averaged 352.5 yards of offence in their first four games before lighting up their opposition in the second half, putting up 156 points, an average of 460.5 yards of offence, and winning their games by an average margin of 29.5 points.

WILL the Huskies continue their dominant play on defence in 2010? As dominant as the Dinos were on offence, the Huskies were just as dominant on defence, holding their opponents to 112 points against in 2009 and 83 points against in 2008. They will be challenged by the departures of cornerback Grant Shaw, a Canada West All-Star and Second Team All-Canadian, and linebacker Taylor Wallace, the Canada West defensive player of the year in 2009. However, with eight of 12 starters in only their first or second year last season, the maturation of the defence overall should keep them playing at a similar level as the past two seasons.

HOW will injuries affect the Huskies' season this year? It seems as though a key injury or two has a major impact on this club every season, with injuries to running backs Dathan Thomas, Jeff Hassler and Tyler O’Gorman forcing them to start rookie receiver Garrett Bolen at tailback early last season. In addition, a sprained ankle kept their leading tackler and pass defender, safety Bryce McCall, out of the Hardy Cup, an injury which many observers felt cost the Huskies a trip to Halifax. It is hoped Saskatchewan’s offseason training program, which is run by offensive line and strength and conditioning coach Bart Arnold (and is known as “Bart-U”), will minimize the trips to sick bay in 2010.

2009 recap: The Huskies finished 7-1, good for first in Canada West. The Huskies beat the Regina Rams 53-23 in the Canada West semi-final and lost to the Calgary Dinos, 39-38, in the Hardy Cup. The high point of the season was the week one overtime victory over the Calgary Dinos, while the low point came in week three with a 27-7 loss to the Alberta Golden Bears.

Departures:: On offence, the Huskies graduated starting receivers Scott McHenry (now of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers) and Cory Jones. Running back Tyler O’Gorman and left guard Hubert Buydens, a Canada West All-Star each of the past four seasons and a Second Team All-Canadian in 2006 and 2008, also used up their eligibility. On defence, the Huskies lose both starting cornerbacks, 2009 Canada West All-Star and Second Team All-Canadian Grant Shaw (now the starting placekicker with the Toronto Argonauts) and 2008 Canada West All-Star and Second Team All-Canadian Jon Krahenbil. They also graduated linebacker Taylor Wallace, who was the President’s Trophy nominee as the top defensive player in Canada West last season.

Arrivals:: Mitch Stevens, the fourth leading receiver in the Prairie Football Conference with the Saskatoon Hilltops in 2009, and transfer Dale Furber, who was a starter on the offensive line for the Simon Fraser Clan each of the past two seasons, will ably fill holes on offence. Gregg Woytowich, a 2007 and 2008 CJFL All-Canadian at cornerback for the Hilltops, and Dane Bishop, a 2009 Carr Conference MVP nominee in Edmonton and an Alberta Senior Bowl starter at linebacker, are expected to make immediate impacts on defence.

Keep an eye on: Slotback Braeden George, who starred at receiver for the West team at this spring’s East-West Bowl, has the CFL written all over him. This physical and fast receiver led the Huskies with 244 yards and four touchdowns in their two playoff games in 2009.

Coach & coordinators: Coach Brian Towriss heads into his 27th season as Head Coach of the University of Saskatchewan. He is joined by Defensive Coordinator Ed Carleton (18th year) and offensive coordinator Brent Schneider (14th year). Under Towriss’ tenure, the Huskies have compiled a 132-75-1 regular season record, winning 11 Hardy Cups, nine Bowl games, and three Vanier Cups. The Huskies have not missed the playoffs since 2000, and have finished first or second in the conference six times in the past ten years.

Off-the-field factors: The fan support of the Huskies is second-to-none in Canada West, averaging 4,370 fans in the regular season, almost 2,500 better than the Regina Rams, who had the second-best following. The atmosphere and noise at Griffiths, which includes a band and NFL-level pyrotechnics, has been cited by opposition coaches as having an impact on their teams' play and ability to communicate on the field. It has also been mentioned as a factor by many top recruits who wish to play in front of a loud, boisterous crowd and fun atmosphere.

From last season's preview: "Defensively, Bryce McCall came in last year to fill the void left by Dylan Barker and exceeded all expectations. McCall may not match his 5 interceptions from last season, but will continue to be a leader on defence." -Richard Zussman

McCall was indeed a leader once again, leading the Huskies with seven interceptions and 45.5 tackles. His physical presence and ball-hawking ability was sorely missed in the Hardy Cup against the Dinos, but he is back and fully healthy for his third year with the Huskies.

Stock up or stock down: Even. The Huskies have taken progressive steps in each of their past three seasons and are expected to challenge the Dinos for the Canada West title once again.
Most don’t realize that the Huskies underwent a major roster turnover over the past two years and that 11 of 24 starters were in their first or second year of eligibility last season. This squad is maturing, especially along the lines of scrimmage, and has veteran leadership in key areas such as quarterback, linebacker and receiver to rely on when times get tough. It will take everything they have to get by Calgary, but as they proved last season, they are one of the few squads in Canada capable of doing just that.

Schedule: (all times Eastern)
Fri Aug 27 vs. Western (non-conference)
Sat Sept 4 @ Calgary
Fri Sept 10 vs UBC
Sat Sept 18 @ Regina
Fri Sept 24 @ Alberta
Fri Oct 1 vs. Manitoba
Fri Oct 15 vs Calgary
Fri Oct 22 @ UBC
Fri Oct 29 vs Regina
In 50 words or less: The Stingers have had a competitive training camp as they deal with life without three of the top 10 selections in the last CFL draft. The Stingers are young, but with key veteran starters returning they should contend for a playoff spot in a competitive Quebec conference.

Burning questions:

WHO will step up as the leader of a defence without Cory Greenwood?

HOW will a change at defensive coordinator affect a team whose defence was a weak spot last season?

WILL having Bryan Chiu on board help a young offensive line with two starters graduating?

2009 recap: 3-5, fourth place. Very similar to Bishop’s 2009 season. Started off 0-4, won the next two until losing a nail biter to Bishop’s on the season’s last day. They ended up losing to Laval in the semi-final. Rob Mackay returned after missing most of 2008 to injury but the team was let down by a young and inexperienced defence that never found their game.

Departures: LB Cory Greenwood, WR Cory Watson, OT Kristian Matte, RB Cedric Ferdinand

Arrivals: LB Max Caron, LB Travis Bent, QB Tyler Pritty, RB/KR Raul Thompson

Keep an eye on: Travis Bent. While he isn’t playing the middle LB spot vacated by Greenwood (that task is looking to go to Caron) he was a unanimous high school all star in Toronto and will be an asset to the Stingers on the outside as the school continues their transition into Canada’s Linebacker U.

Coach & coordinators: Gerry McGrath is back at head coach and is the offensive coordinator, but this year has added an assistant offensive coordinator and has a new defensive coordinator. Bryan Chiu is assistant offensive coordinator and his transition to coaching has already earned rave reviews. Chiu is responsible with blocking schemes and is taking control of the running game as McGrath tries to balance the offence. The expectation is for Chiu to take over the offence in a few years. Phil Roberts is the defensive coordinator for the second time at Concordia after Warren Craney left to become head man at York. Roberts seems to be focusing on coverage, and McGrath said that the defensive coverage is as good as he’s seen since 1998 when the team went to the Vanier Cup.

Off-the-field factors: There are questions about every team in the Quebec conference this year and no clear indication of how things will go behind Laval who is the presumptive favourite. Concordia, after a couple of veteran teams, now has a younger team (as is the cyclical nature of university sports) but there is enough talent on board to expect them to be close to a playoff spot.

From last season's preview: “Thanks to Laval dominating competition throughout the playoffs last year, it proved that despite Concordia being the second best team in their conference, they are one of the best teams in the country – and came closest to beating the Rouge et Or.”

Stock up or stock down: Down. For the short term, it is unrealistic to consider Concordia one of the top teams in the country like I thought it was going into last season. However, a lot of key youngsters on this team should be key members of this team when the stock starts to rise again.

Schedule: (all times Eastern)
Saturday Sept 4 7:00 @ Bishop's
Saturday Sept 11 1:00 vs Montreal
Friday Sept 17 7:00 @ McGill
Saturday Sept 25 1:00 vs Bishop's
Sunday Oct 3 1:00 @ Laval
Saturday Oct 9 1:00 vs McGill
Saturday Oct 16 1:00 @ Sherbrooke
Friday Oct 22 7:00 @ Montreal
Saturday Oct 30 1:00 vs Laval

  • The Spec talks about Mac's experienced O-line, including Justin Glover's ongoing transition from defensive tackle to offensive tackle--a position he first started playing in last year's East-West Bowl--and coach Stefan Ptaszek points out "sophomore linebacker Ben D'Aguilar" as a player to watch this year. (Hamilton Spectator)

  • "There are two things that Craig Gerbrandt loves about playing football." Unfortunately we never learn what the second thing is, unless "ideally" is the new synonym for "secondly." We do learn some things, like how the Alberta defensive lineman is big, strong and likes to tackle people--sounds like he should try playing football! (Edmonton Journal)

  • Is it the Blind Side effect, all these stories on linemen? Here's one on Calgary's Alex Krausnick-Groh. (Cochrane Eagle)

  • Monty Mosher (@MontyMosher) has a brief rundown of the AUS teams. (Halifax Chronicle-Herald)

  • The Sackville Tribune Post writes more in one article than most papers do in one season on the local CIS football team, in this case the Mount Allison Mounties--specifically, their new O-C Scott Annand who has Paopao'd with the Bills and Patriots, and assisted with the Als and Stamps up here. (Four of you got that joke; for the others, it means he appeared with those NFL teams as a guest coach.) The story's worth a click, even if Mount A is in tough again this year. (The Sackville Tribune Post)

  • Always OUA (@AlwaysOUA) has their Guelph preview posted. According to them, Chris Rossetti is here to play the part of the 1985 Tony Fernandez. (Never mind. You're too young.) Both the O- and D-lines are question marks, but they think the Gryphs can overcome. (Always OUA)

  • Not a link, but Ottawa has finished first in our OUA round of polling, leaving us with the Gee-Gees, Rouge et Or, west Huskies, and east Huskies in the voters' minds as the bowl participants. Make your votes on the bowl games now!


  • Darren Zary does another good job, this time on his profile of Paul Craig, striker for the U of S, who according to his coach brings "a very professional approach to the game"--something Bryce Chapman hasn't "seen here for a while." One assumes his other players also act like professionals, just not very professionally. (I kid, I kid.) Rejected headlines for this piece include "When the heart is engaged, the headers will follow" and "Love can send you off ... to Saskatoon." (Saskatoon Star-Phoenix)


  • KDLT out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota has some details on the South Dakota State's men's team back-to-back pummellings of the Wesmen (105-53) and Bisons (94-60). Winnipeg started off with a 21-0 run, so losing by 52 isn't so bad, really. But if you see any Winnipeg Wesmen on campus today, do not make eye contact and do not approach. (KDLT) More at as well.
We welcome Deux Fans from to preview their team of choice, les Carabins.

In 50 words or less: After losing the most key players in the Q, will the Carabins be able to keep up? Helped by an easy schedule, the answer lies within the experienced coaching staff needed to help the younger ones “step up”, the much needed discipline, and a minimal injury year.

Burning questions: We definitely have too many burning questions for this team...

CAN Alexandre Nadeau-Piuze be a more than adequate QB?

WILL the defence, especially the renewed front seven, be able to keep les Bleus in the game?

CAN the first- and second-year players replace the fourth- and fifth-year players effectively?

CAN Rotrand Sené maintain his progression after his tremendous first year?

2009 recap: After an impressive start and a victory at home against Laval, which brought them to the top of the UFRC Top 10, they seemed to cool down, with losses against Sherby & Bishop’s. They went full stride into the Dunsmore Cup, but the hostile PEPS and way too many injuries kept them from the upset.

Departures: QB Marc-Olivier Brouillette, DE Mathieu Brossard, DE Martin Gagné, LB Gaius Renelick, LB Joash Gesse, LB Christian Houle, CB Hamid Mahmoudi, WR Kevin Rivet, WR Mathieu Razanakolona, CB Jerry-Ralph Jules, C Stephane Turner, DB Jean-Michel Lafrance, OL L-A Aubertin.

Arrivals: S Delian Charles (transferred from Bishop’s), DE David Menard (two-time collegial AAA All-Star), OL Olivier Quevillon, DL Jean-Sebastien Martel (who's 240 pounds and ran a 4.36 40-yard), QB Mathieu Dostie, WR Maxime Fournier-Rioux, CB Tony Rayapin (directly from France).

Keep an eye on: All the vets who will have to maintain the Carabins' essential quality: WR Frank Bruno, DT Gregory Alexandre, DB Jean-Gardy Clermont, OL Sébastien Taché and FB Mark DeLuca.

Coach & coordinators: Marc Santerre is entering his 5th year and has had the same OC (Pat Gregory) and DC (Denis Touchette) since his arrival. They can also count on full time Spiro Ferodouros who brought the Carabins’ special teams to the top of the Q last year and who will try to repeat this year with kicker/punter Pierre-Paul Gélinas as his main weapon. They also have a new QB coach Sean Dougherty, formerly of McGill, tasked with making sure Alex Nadeau-Piuze and especially the two new QB rookies progress rapidly to be able to be compete.

Off-the-field factors: Everybody knows about the Montreal-Québec rivalry, but for different reasons, Les Carabins seems to have a rivalry with every team in the QUFL, with the possible exception of McGill. Therefore, each game is tough and usually has a lot of penalties.

Stock up or stock down: Neutral – There’s way too much “if” to say up, but too much talent and commitment to say down.

Schedule (all times Eastern):
Thu Sep 2 7:00pm vs. Sherbrooke
Sat Sep 11 1:00pm at Concordia*
Sat Sep 18 1:00pm at St. F-X
Fri Sep 24 7:00pm vs. McGill
Sat Oct 2 1:00pm @ Bishop's
Sat Oct 9 1:00pm vs. Laval*
Sat Oct 16 1:00pm at McGill
Fri Oct 22 7:00pm vs. Concordia
Sat Oct 30 1:00pm vs. Bishop's

* Televised or webcasted on Radio-Canada; audio for all games available at CKAC.
In 50 words or less: Will quarterback Jean-Philippe Shoiry, in his fifth year, make up for the offence's loss of Pascal Fils and lead Sherbrooke to a better-than-last-place finish in the toughest CIS football conference?

Burning questions:

WILL Sherbrooke, who received only one vote out of 103 in our who-will-win-the-Q poll, overcome at least two other Q teams to make the playoffs?

HOW high will Shoiry place in our end-of-year quarterback rankings, having made the top 10 in three of the last four years?

CAN Sherbrooke replace the rushing production of Pascal Fils, who led CIS with 1331 yards on the ground in eight games but has now adopted a different green-and-gold uniform with Edmonton?

2009 recap: 3-5 record, sixth place in the QUFL. "Last place" is a misleading phrase for Sherby: they weren't that bad, and would have been higher than sixth in any other conference (especially the AUS!). The Vert et Or were third or fourth in a lot of offensive and defensive categories--number one in turnover margin, actually--and they were able to win any game...that wasn't on the road...and wasn't against Laval.

Departures:: FB Benoît Boulanger, OL Francis Daneau, DB Ludovic Kashindi, and the Son of Gold, RB Pascal Fils.

Arrivals:: WR Francis Lapointe, RB Jean-Christophe Beaulieu, DB Dave Boucher, DB Alexandre Branco, DL Mathieu St-Pierre Castonguay.

Keep an eye on: Third-year linebackers Kevin Régimbald-Gagné and Filipe Fonseca: both had strong seasons last year and are expected to be a crucial part of the defence this season. And of course, Shoiry. Experience is often crucial in CIS, particularly at the quarterback position, and there aren't too many teams starting fifth-year players there this season. If he can have a good season, things could fall into place for the Vert et Or.

Coach & coordinators: Head coach André Bolduc (4th year, 12-13), offensive coordinator David Lessard, defensive coordinator Marc Loranger.

Off-the-field factors: The scheduling quirks might benefit the Vert et Or this year: their last four games are all in town, and even if they make the playoffs, they still won't have to travel out of province. Bolduc has also mentioned how losing Fils may hurt, but they'll gain in the long term from having a former player turn pro.

From last season's preview: "Sherbrooke is coming off of their best season yet, and the stock for the program is on the rise. However, they are still behind Laval and Concordia and will be in tough against Montreal this year. The Quebec conference is tight, but at least they are heading in the right direction." -Jared Book.

That sounds about right: they beat Montreal the first time, at home, but lost at CEPSUM in the season finale, and didn't make the playoffs as a result.

Stock up or stock down: Up. They might have relied on Fils too much in the past: he accounted for nearly half of their yards from scrimmage in 2009-10. So losing him may not be as damaging to their offence as it seems, especially with an excellent (fifth-year) quarterback. Ultimately, it might be their D that keeps them at fifth or sixth, rather than third or fourth. This is a very difficult conference.

Schedule: (all times Eastern)
Wed Aug 25 6:30pm vs. Ottawa (EXHIBITION)
Thu Sep 2 7:00pm at Montreal
Sat Sep 11 7:00pm vs. Laval
Fri Sep 18 7:00pm vs. Mount A
Sun Sep 26 1:00pm at Laval
Sat Oct 2 1:00pm at McGill
Fri Oct 8 7:00pm vs. Bishop's
Sat Oct 16 1:00pm vs. Concordia
Sat Oct 23 1:00pm at Bishop's
Sat Oct 30 1:00pm vs. McGill

Several hat-tips to the official preview are in order.
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