Our previews continue with the Guelph Gryphons, brought to you by Always OUA's Chris Lund.
In 50 words or less: The Gryphons, who are theoretically rebuilding, are a dark horse contender for the Yates Cup in a wide open OUA.
1) CAN Stu Lang lead the Gryphons against the OUA’s most talented rosters and coaching staffs in his second season?
2) WHAT will the defence be like without long time stalwarts Adam Dunk and Matt Rossetti anchoring the linebacking corps?
3) WILL Chris Rossetti join the ranks of elite OUA Quarterbacks this season after flying under the radar in his debut as a starter?
2010 recap: 4-4, 5th regular season, L 42-10 @ Laurier in OUA quarterfinal
The Gryphons came into the 2010 season as one of the unknown entities in the OUA. They were considered a lock to beat the lesser teams of the league but where they would finish among the upper half of the league was a mystery. After the departures of up-and-coming head coach Kyle Walters (CFL) and long time star quarterback Justin Dunk (Graduation) the Gryphons were led by rookie coach Stu Lang and second year quarterback Chris Rossetti. The Gryphons were tied for first in the OUA four weeks into the season after victories over bottom feeders Toronto and York, and they also topped a middling Queen’s team on national television. That would be the closest they got to contention as they went on to drop four of their next five games, only defeating the hapless Windsor Lancers.
A playoff date with the Hawks capped off a miserable finish to the season as both Rossetti and backup quarterback Luke Nangle were injured and did not return. Receiver Jedd Gardner was enlisted to play quarterback for the remainder of the game and handed the ball off to top rusher Nick FitzGibbon until the clock expired on a 2010 season that left many in Guelph wondering what could have been.
Departures: RT Andrew Crosby, LT Doug Dougherty, LB Adam Dunk, DL Scott Eggleton, RB Nick FitzGibbon, DL Grant MacDonald, LB Matt Rossetti
Arrivals: Offensive Coordinator Todd Galloway, R Saxon Lindsey (DNP in 2010 due to transfer regulations), OL Vladimir Vesovic (late recruit)
Full list of recruits can be found here.
Keep an eye on: Receiver Jedd Gardner will be coming back from CFL Training Camp and is now the most elite weapon at Chris Rossetti’s disposal. Defensive end Kalvin Seilis was Guelph’s rookie of the year in 2010 and will be counted on to make an even greater impact in 2011.
Coach & coordinators: Lang is back for his second year as the head coach of the Gryphons. While he did a solid job in his rookie season there were obvious growing pains as Guelph had difficulty with consistency throughout the season, prompting Lang to juggle players when the going got tough. Look for Lang to have a better grasp on how to coach at this level in his second season.
Todd Galloway is the new offensive coordinator in Guelph and is a coordinator at the CIS level for the first time in his young coaching career. He has held coaching posts at the collegiate level twice since graduating from Laurier in 2004. He was an assistant offensive and receivers coach in three seasons at Laurier (2004-06) and has been at St. Mary’s University since 2007 where he most recently held the same post he had at Laurier. He has been part of Vanier Cup winning staffs in 2005 and 2007.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kevin MacNeill returns for his second season as the defensive coordinator. The Gryphons finished fifth in the OUA in defensive yards per game last season and will need MacNeill to groom his defensive front quickly if they are to overcome the loss of veteran players.
Bill Brown retains his position as ‘special forces’ coordinator and director of recruiting. All seems to be well in his neck of the woods as Gardner returns and will keep his returning duties while the kicking game surely cannot get any worse. Another solid recruiting class this summer means Brown’s job will be safe.
Off-the-field factors: The Gryphons were embroiled in a bizarre series of events with now (and then) Saint Mary’s Huskies QB Jack Creighton who transferred to Guelph and has since transferred back to SMU. The push to get Creighton seemed odd given that he wasn’t a clear upgrade over Rossetti and, since Creighton’s falling out with SMU was over playing time, it didn’t make sense as to why he would jump ship for Guelph. Circumstances aside, Creighton has since re-committed to the Huskies and will not be suiting up for Guelph any time soon.
From last season's preview: "The pieces are falling into place, but 2010 could bring some trying times for this group. The Gryphons should match last year's underwhelming 3-5 record, but will struggle against the league's top teams." – Mike Treadgold. This was about right. They didn't beat any OUA team with a winning record, and they beat every OUA team with a losing record.
2011 outlook: After a year of near misses and disappointment, the 2011 Gryphons should come back more experienced and hardened by the failures of last season. With many of 2010’s top teams taking a bigger hit in the departures column, the opportunity is there for Guelph to place themselves among the province’s elite for the foreseeable future.
Swing games: The Gryphons’ matchups against the 2010 Yates Cup finalists will give us some insight as to what we can expect from this team. By starting the season on September 5th against the Brad Sinopoli-less Ottawa Gee-Gees the Gryphons have a chance to show what they are capable of in their first game. When they take on the Western Mustangs on October 8th they will have the opportunity to take down a team they have had heartbreaking losses to in consecutive season. Both of those games are potential playoff match-ups for this Gryphons team.
Stock up or stock down: Up. The Gryphons are a rising commodity in the OUA. While many of last year’s failures can be chalked up to inexperience and some bad luck they should have the wherewithal to overcome those stumbling blocks in 2011. They are losing some key players in FitzGibbon, MacDonald, and the linebackers Dunk and Rossetti, but for the first time in a long time, the Gryphons appear to have enough depth to offset those losses. I fully expect this team to make an appearance in the OUA semi-finals and with a good bounce here or there we could be looking at a Yates Cup finalist.