In 50 words or less: The Gaiters shocked the football world when Leroy Blugh stepped down to be closer to home. It will be interesting to see how they reload in a always tight-in-the-middle Quebec conference.
1) HOW will the Gaiters overcome to losing six players to the CFL and three other key contributors to graduation?
2) WHO will step up to lead the Gaiters offensively?
3) CAN the Gaiters overcome the loss of their head coach to get back to the playoffs?
2010 recap: 5-4, 4th regular season, L 56-1 @ Laval in RSEQ Semifinal
A year of highs (a 39-21 win over then-No. 3 Montreal and 40-10 win against Sherbrooke during a five game winning streak) and subsequent lows (a season-ending four game losing streak while being outscored 204-19) for the Gaiters in a season that had high expectations. I had them No. 5 in my pre-season rankings and they looked to get over the hump but a late-season injury to QB Jesse Andrews gave their offence too many problems late.
Departures: QB Jesse Andrews, RB Kyle Exume, FB Tim Cronk, WR Olivier Mongeau, DL Junior Turner, DL Mathieu Boulay, LB Justin Conn, CB Nick Poloniato, K Josh Maveety
Arrivals: Interim head coach Tony Addona. The Gaiters have 41 newcomers in camp which starts tomorrow. There are no lists of who that will include just yet.
Keep an eye on: QB Jordan Heather has a lot on his shoulders. He has stuck out in the battle for QB1 and his experience last year will help him with that. He has both Andrews and Benoit Groulx to help mould him into a reliable signal caller.
Note: The player I had here, as noted in the comments, has transferred.
Coach & coordinators: Tony Addona is the interim head coach and has big shoes to fill. He was also interim coach in 2004. He is the athletic director at Bishop's since 2002 and has been the team's offensive line coach the last few years.
A lot of the responsibility will go to the coordinators which puts a lot on the plate of second year offensive coordinator Benoit Groulx. Nobody stayed in the film room as much as Groulx last season and you can expect that to continue this year as he will need to groom a new quarterback. There are a couple of returning players who did get playing time a year ago. Andrews is also staying on as an assistant.
Defensively, Ray Gagnon has big shoes to fill with the list of graduating players. He is entering his fifth year, and keeps his role as recruiting coordinator which has more importance with the uncertainty surrounding the head coach position.
Off-the-field factors: Not really off-the-field, per se but Bishop's made some strides in recruiting under Blugh and his leaving the program may hurt them. Not hiring a permanent replacement before the season may still affect the rebuilding process that the Gaiters have to through.
From last season's preview: "I thought Bishop’s would tread water last year, but they made a step forward. This year, they bring back a more experienced team and should repeat last year’s performance."
I was mostly right. Although the season didn't go as planned with the experience they were bringing back - especially on the defensive side of the ball, they did make the playoffs again in what was essentially a tie for third.
2011 outlook: Bishop's will be hard pressed to make the playoffs as they are under a transition period in key positions. Two games separated second from fifth and it may even be closer this season.
Swing games: The most important games of the season, because they have to play Laval twice, have to be the two games against Sherbrooke on Sept 2 and Oct 6 and the game against Concordia Sept 10. An 0-2 start against Sherbrooke and Concordia may end their season before it barely gets underway. A 2-0 start can give them momentum to march to the playoffs. With such turnover, it will be an uphill battle.
Stock up or stock down: I'll have to go down. The momentum they can create or lose in the season's first two games will go a long way towards the direction the program will go in. Also, who they name as head coach will also affect the direction of the program.