CIS Countdown 2010: University of Toronto Varsity Blues

In 50 words or less: After ending their record losing streak U of T has started improving. Climbing over the bottom dwellers and chasing the playoffs is the next step. The 2010 season may be too soon for that leap but the Blues will try to take advantage of the suddenly smaller OUA conference.

Burning questions: Will a strong recruiting class make an immediate impact on the field?

Can Andrew Gillis improve a sputtering Offence from the Quarterback position?

Can U of T put together another multiple win campaign like the one seen in 2008? (or maybe even better than 2008?)

2009 recap: 1-7, missed playoffs.

Toronto lost crucial veteran contributors on Offence after 2008 and it was evident last season as it took a few weeks for the unit to pick up steam. Despite the departures the young Blues team still managed a commanding 45-27 win over the York Lions to keep from falling back to the winless ways of old. They were however shut out twice, starting and ending the season on a sour note by failing to score against Laurier and Western respectively.

Key Departures: OL Chris Kowalczuk (CFL), DB Matthew D’Souza (graduation)

Key Arrivals: REC Justin Babin, RB Keema Nnawuchi, DE James Bodanis, OL Curtis Panke, RB Chris Weiland, REC Muhamed Abdallah , REC Aaron Milton

What to watch out for: The battle in the backfield.
While not putting up the most impressive numbers last season Walter Cariazo (54 attempts for 227 yards, 0 TD’s) finished in the top 3 among running backs in the 40 yard and 10 yard sprints at the East West Bowl this spring. Adding some intrigue to the situation is Chris Weiland, an NCAA transfer from Div. 1 University of Toledo. While Weiland was not part of the active roster in Toledo the Blues are excited about the addition nonetheless, meaning that it may turn into a fight for the starting job with highly touted recruit Keema Nnawuchi thrown in the mix as well. The run game is mainly Gillis scrambling at the moment; looks like the Blues are looking to change that outcome.

And another player to watch this season is Michael Prempeh. The U of T receiver was sidelined for most of the 2009 season but reportedly turned heads at the East West Bowl with some highlight reel catches.

Coach & Coordinators: Head coach Greg DeLaval, with a 3-13 record leading Toronto, enters his third season at the helm. Assistant head coach John Engel returns, as well as defensive coordinator Donovan Carter.

That’s interesting!: According to, which ranks recruiting classes right across the CIS, U of T finished 14th in the nation and fourth in the OUA conference this offseason. The hard work that DeLaval and his staff have put in since taking over this program, once locked into a state of constant futility, is really starting to show.

From last season's preview: The 2009 preview can be found here. The Blues took a while to heat up last season but despite the poor record the work done this offseason reveals that interest in the program has not dropped off just yet. However sager’s breakdown last season may still ring true in a way for the 2010 campaign as well (albeit slightly different, of course): “Three of the first four games are at home. This might help give U of T a better shot at banking a couple wins and sustaining interest in the team. Holding serve would at least show they have pulled themselves up by the bootstraps.”

Stock up or stock down: Up.

With a strong recruiting class and a light schedule to start the season Toronto has a chance at some wins early on to help build some much needed confidence. The Blues face three of the teams that annually fight for the final playoff spot, two of them at home, within the first four weeks. With a difficult stretch of games to finish out the year the success of 2010 may well be determined before the bye week arrives for this team.


Sat., Aug. 28: vs. McGill, Varsity Centre (EXHIBITION)
Wed., Sept. 1: at Guelph, Alumni Stadium, Guelph
Mon., Sept. 6: vs. Windsor, Varsity Centre
Sat., Sept. 11: at Wilfrid Laurier, University Stadium, Waterloo
Sat., Sept. 18: vs. York, Varsity Centre
Sat., Sept. 25: BYE WEEK
Sat., Oct. 2: vs. Ottawa, Varsity Centre
Sat., Oct. 9: at Queen’s, Richardson Stadium, Kingston
Sat., Oct. 16: vs. McMaster, Varsity Centre
Sat., Oct. 23: at Western, TD Waterhouse Stadium, London
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  1. I'll say it: U of T will make the playoffs, finishing sixth at 3-5.

    They upset Guelph in the opener, taking advantage of a team with a new coaching staff and uncertainty at QB. Beat a bad Windsor team in the home opener. Then they knock off York, and there's their 3 wins.

    Already hearing rumblings people will soon find out how much departed head coach Kyle Walters meant to the U of Guelph.

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  3. I had UW pegged as taking the final playoff spot in the OUA this season but since they dropped out it has allowed a path for U of T to make the postseason. I agree with you sager, it would not surprise me to see the Blues make it there in 2010. And what a story that would be!