CIS Countdown 2011: Concordia Stingers

In 50 words or less: For the first time since a 2-6 record in 2000 the Stingers missed the playoffs. They are in year two in a rebuilding stage and have some newcomers who can make a difference as they fight to get back to the top of the conference.

Burning questions:

1) WILL Terrence Morsink (or someone else...) make the strides necessary after an up-and-down first starting experience to lead the Concordia offence like Scott Syvret, Rob Mackay and Liam Mahoney before him?

2) CAN second year linebackers Max Caron and Travis Bent keep the momentum going at what has turned out to be Canada's linebacker U?

3) HOW will Gerry McGrath utilize one of his strongest groups of running backs in recent memory?

2010 recap: 4-5, 5th regular season

The Stingers were probably the closest to any team in Canada to make the playoffs that didn't. They were one game behind Bishop's and Sherbrooke. They had a late lead against the Gaiters but lost at home 18-17 on a last second field goal. They also had a chance to beat Sherbrooke as they took that game to overtime but also ended up losing that game. If either of those games changed, they would be in. Things were made more difficult by the fact that second-year QB Morsink was thrust into the starting role after Mackay was injured.

Departures: QB Robert Mackay, WR Dan Rodrigues, WR Liam Mahoney, K/P Rene Parades, DL Maurice Forbes, DE/LB Kamil Hutchinson-Thompson, DT Alexandre Turp

Arrivals: K Keegan Treloar, QB Reid Quest, LB Chris O'Kill-McMullen, WR Renaud Labrecque

Keep an eye on: RB Michael Donnelly, Edem Nyamadi and Raul Thompson are battling for the RB1 spot and McGrath has said that he wants to focus on the running game. Morsink had the most attempts of any RSEQ quarterback and you can expect that to change. If it doesn't, it will be a long season for Concordia. These running backs will go a long way in determining that.

Coach & coordinators: Gerry McGrath is back once again and added another notch to his belt this season. The offensive coordinator and head coach is a former kicker and punter and now has three proteges in the CFL with Rene Parades joining Mike Renaud and Burke Dales.

Bryan Chiu is back for his second season as assistant head coach and offensive line coach. He has Anthony Barrette back after he left training camp with the Montreal Alouettes.

Defensively, Phil Roberts is back once again. His defence was very good last year considering how young it was. This year, they have a very solid linebacking crew coming back but their front four is a question mark with the graduation of Forbes and Turp.

An underrated addition to the coaching staff may be Spiro Feradouros who played at Concordia and coached at Vanier College and Universite de Montreal. He will have a role in Quebec recruiting as well, a spot that Concordia needs to be strong in.

Off-the-field factors: Concordia hired a new strength and conditioning coach who put the players through some grueling sessions that can be found on YouTube. The Stingers also have actual offices for the first time in a while as after a building expansion, their trailers may be a thing of the past.

From last season's preview: "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."

I was pretty much right on. Concordia had struggles, compounded when they had to force Morsink into key playing time.

2011 outlook: Concordia should play the middle again, and the swing games will play a key role in whether they are in or out like last year. I'd put my money on them being back in the playoffs, though.

Swing games: The biggest games will be the two games against Sherbrooke and at home against Montreal on Oct 22 may decide more than a playoff spot. The biggest game may be the game against Bishop's on Sept 10. On the road and probably coming off a loss to Laval. An 0-2 start will be demoralizing.

Stock up or stock down: Up. The biggest holes to fill already have youngsters that have had game experience and their offence has a lot of playmakers. The biggest question will be how much of a jump they can make this season, but overall with their recruiting classes from the last two years, they look ready to reload.
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