CIS Countdown 2010: UBC Thunderbirds

In 50 words or less: After a desultory 2009 that ended with the firing of Head Coach Ted Goveia, UBC has a new coach, a new turf field, a new attitude, and virtually every starter returning from last year's team—but will it be enough in the Canada West Conference?

Burning questions:

CAN Sean Olson turn around the trajectory of the UBC football program in his first year as coach?

WILL Billy Greene establish himself a bonafide starting quarterback in the CIS?

WHAT part of the schedule will be a greater factor—the two games against Alberta, or the lack of a bye week?

2009 Recap: Final Record: 3-5 (sort of...), T-4th in the Conference.

You look at the 3-5 record, and you think "not bad". Then you remember that two wins were awarded by default, and originally they were losses of 10-36 (to Manitoba) and 1-30 (to SFU). Then you remember that their only real win the entire season came in the second week of the season, a 25-24 win over Alberta. Then you notice that the Thunderbirds were last in defense by 39 points, and were last in offense by 54 points—a full touchdown per game. Yes, UBC was hampered by season-long injuries to Tyler Codron and Nathan Kanya on defense, and lost top receiver Blaine Kruger to the Calgary Stampeders just before the season began, but make no mistake, this was a bad team that needed to be overhauled. But you can't fire all the players/student-athletes, so the Head Coach would have to do—Ted Goveia was let go after a disappointing four-year run that only saw one playoff appearance.

Departures: Tyler Codron (DB), Mike Morris (OL), a boggy grass playing field at Thunderbird Stadium that made it difficult to practice year-round and was responsible for numerous injuries.

Arrivals: Victor Marshall (WR), Justin Andrusko (RB), a shiny new turf field that will allow UBC to practice on a consistent surface.

Keep an eye on: When Olson left his job as SFU offensive coordinator to take the UBC job, many speculated that he would take a few players along with him, and he got one of the Clan's top players in Victor Marshall, a 6-4 receiver who put up impressive stats (40 catches for 535 yards) as a sophomore.

Coach & coordinators: A completely new slate takes up offices in Thunderbird Stadium. Before Olson was offensive coordinator at an SFU program that went from a 25-game losing streak to the playoffs in 2009, before he was a star player/coach in an Austrian football league, he was the star quarterback of a UBC team that won the Vanier Cup in 1997—he readily admits this a "dream job" for him, and players have been impressed with his dedication and optimism all summer long. Jerome Erdman, who was the receivers coach for the Toronto Argonauts in 2008, is the new defensive coordinator at UBC, a position he had at UBC from 2000 to 2002. Paul Orazietti, who also played for UBC on that '97 team, is recruiting coordinator and running backs coach.

Off-the-field factors: UBC President Stephen Toope has delayed making a decision on whether to join the NCAA or not for 15 months now, and while the university claims they'll make a decision this fall or winter, they've breezed through two such promises before. The athletic department really wants to move, while enthusiasm among the rest of campus is muted. Olson was hired in part because he knows the NFL-style game, having played/coached in Austria, but this could be a program in major upheaval any month.

From last season's preview: "With young talent in all the right positions, this program is on the upswing — but Greene and company will need at least a year of seasoning together before making the leap to the playoffs."

Stock: Going up. Because really, where else is there to go? Joking aside, with very few departures, a new attitude, and a relatively easy schedule, this team has a chance for a top-4 position.

Schedule (all times local):

Sat., Sept. 4: vs. Alberta, 7pm
Fri., Sept. 10: at Saskatchewan, 2pm
Sat., Sept. 18: vs. Manitoba, 1pm
Fri., Sept. 24: vs. Regina, 7pm
Sat., Oct. 2: at Calgary, 1pm
Fri., Oct. 8: SHRUM BOWL vs. SFU (EXHIBITION), 7pm
Fri., Oct. 15: at Alberta, 1pm
Fri., Oct. 22: vs. Saskatchewan, 7pm
Sat., Oct. 30: vs. Manitoba, 1pm
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