In 50 words or less: Things are looking up for the Gee-Gees, with their quarterback and receiving corps returning with more experience. It's only natural to expect much from Ottawa this year.
Will new head coach Jean-Philippe Asselin be successful in his first stint as a CIS HC?
Can he fill the shoes of Denis Piché, who resigned this winter to spend more time with his family?
Will quarterback Brad Sinopoli live up to his potential and become one of the OUA's premier pivots, particularly now that Michael Faulds and Dan Brannagan have moved on?
How much of a factor will experience play? The Gee-Gees have a tremendous stockpile of fourth- and fifth-year players, which might give them an advantage.
2009 recap: Ottawa's 2009 campaign got off to a poor start with a 32-17 home loss to Western on the first day of the OUA season. They bounced back with a 45-11 thumping of Waterloo, but then fell to 1-2 with another home loss, this time 20-8 to Queen's. The Gee-Gees wouldn't lose another regular-season game, though, thumping York, Toronto, Windsor and Guelph and squeezing out a narrow 27-25 victory over Laurier. However, their 6-2 record was only good enough for fourth place, and they suffered another ignominious home loss in the playoffs, falling 27-15 to McMaster.
Departures: The only significant one on the offensive side is FB Craig Bearss, who isn't really leaving at all. The Kingston native finished his solid five-year career with the garnet and grey last season, but will be with them again on the sidelines this season as the new running backs coach. On the defensive side, LB Mike Cornell (who apparently enjoys long walks and birding in his free time) also finished his fifth year of eligibility last season and has signed with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.
Arrivals: One name to watch is DL Kevin Magee, a transfer from Queen's. Two other stellar recruits are receiver Kyle Mclean and quarterback David Berardi, who both represented Ontario East at the 2010 Football Canada Cup. Rookies Randy Williams, Ashton
Beaudry and Prenel Cave might also make their impacts felt.
Keep an eye on:
- QB Brad Sinopoli: As mentioned above, fourth-year quarterback Sinopoli has a chance to be one of the OUA's top pivots this season. He finished third in OUA passing yards last year with 2084 (behind only Faulds and Brannagan, and ahead of another graduated star, Guelph's Justin Dunk) and threw 11 touchdowns against six interceptions. He also spent a week in training camp with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season, which might have provided him with some valuable experience. With less competing star power under centre for OUA teams, this could be Sinopoli's year to shine.
- The receivers: One key factor in Sinopoli's success will be the performance of his receiving corps, and signs there are certainly optimistic. The key figure might just be fifth-year veteran and second-team All-Canadian Cyril Adjeitey, the biochemistry student from Ghana who finished third in OUA in receiving yards last season (672 yards on 37 catches in seven games) and added an OUA-high seven touchdown catches. He'll be joined by two other fifth-year vets, Steven Hughes (who led the Gee-Gees and was second in OUA with 685 receiving yards on 41 catches last season, behind only Queen's Scott Valberg) and Matt Bolduc (who's been very effective at times, but often limited thanks to injury). Third-year players Alex Fortier-Labonté and Ezra Millington also have plenty of talent.
- The secondary: The Gee-Gees' secondary is one of their youngest areas, but they do have experienced leaders in fifth-year DBs Chayce
Elliott and Lee Shaver. If Elliott and Shaver can lead the way, this might be an area of strength, but if inexperience somewhere is going to hurt Ottawa, it might just be here.
Off-the-field factors: Renovations of Frank Clair Stadium to prepare it for hosting the CFL again appear to be caught in a political mess, but that's not anything particularly new for Ottawa. What might be more concerning for the Gee-Gees is that Carleton's bringing back its football program, and they could potentially play at Frank Clair too. The Ravens are aiming to resume CIS competition in 2012, so success this year and next might be particularly crucial for Ottawa to keep their recruiting profile high with Carleton's return.
From last season's preview: "IS it possible they won't skip a beat offensively with Brad Sinopoli taking over at quarterback after apprenticing under Josh Sacobie for two seasons?" - Neate Sager. Pretty good call there by Neate; Sinopoli stepped in and looked very strong. Now he's the veteran instead of the untested starter, and things are looking bright for him again.
Stock up or stock down: Up. Ottawa's suffered less attrition than most of their competitors, and they had a very solid season last year. The experience under centre and in the receiving corps is particularly compelling.
August 31: @ Windsor
September 6: v. Western
September 11: @ York
September 18: v. McMaster
September 25: @ Queen's
October 2: @ Toronto
October 9: v. Laurier
October 23: v. Guelph