In 50 words or less: Being touted as a young team with plenty of potential for years, after two consecutive 6-2 records and an impressive showing in the playoffs last season MAC must now step up and prove themselves as serious contenders.
1) CAN Kyle Quinlan assume the role as one of — if not the — premier passers in the OUA and the CIS as a whole?
2) WILL the loss of three fifth year starters on the Offensive Line have an impact on how far this veteran squad can go?
3) CAN MAC surpass Western as the top dog in the conference following a narrow loss to the Mustangs to end their playoff run last season?
2010 recap: 6-2, third in the OUA. Lost in the conference semi-finals, to the Western Mustangs, 34-28.
Entering the season the Marauders were expected to do well, but were also a dark horse to win the Yates Cup. They started off the season with a couple close, character-building wins over Queen’s and Laurier and only suffered losses on the season to the eventual Yates champions (Western) 50-19 in week 3, and Yates Cup finalists (Ottawa) 43-35 the following week. Both losses came on the road.
In the playoffs MAC looked strong with a dominant, 40-19 win over Queen’s before falling to Western 28-24 in an impressive bounce-back game against a Mustang team who dominated their earlier meeting. As a team MAC was strong on offence, finishing first in the conference for passing efficiency and third in the conference (fourth in the nation) in scoring with 36.1 points per game. Defensively the Marauders were strong in 2010, leading the conference in interceptions and coming in second in rush yards allowed per game.
Departures: OL Justin Glover, OL Michael Hoy, REC Kevin D’Hollander, RB Jordan Kozina, DB Byron Metcalfe.
Arrivals: REC Max Cameron, REC Andrin Mascotti, RB Chris Pezzetta, OL Sean Smith, OL Tom Sterling, DB Nick Shortill, LB Aram Eisho.
Keep an eye on: QB Kyle Quinlan, OUA Second-Team All Star last season. While focusing on Quinlan should be no surprise, he should compete for the title of best passer in the nation. He’s proven he can pass with 2018 yards last year, throwing 19 TDs to only 6 interceptions. This team’s success doesn’t rest solely on the arm of Quinlan, but to succeed at the highest level he will have to stay healthy and on his game.
Also watch RB Joey Nemet. He’s never had pull-away speed but he did average more than 5 yards per carry last season, moving the chains. With the departure of the explosive Kozina in the backfield and a retooled OL if Nemet can maintain success and keep the ground game moving on his own it will go far in determining MAC’s success
LB Ryan Chmielewski is one of the top linebackers in the conference, named an OUA First-Team All Star last season. He had 41 tackles last season (37 solo), 3.5 sacks and 3 interceptions. He anchors a veteran defence that was strong last season.
LB Ben D'Aguilar might not be one of the big names on the MAC D, but in 5 games last season he tallied 18 tackles (15 solo 6 asst) and had 3.5 sacks. Given a full season of play D’Anguilar has the chance to turn some heads.
Coach & coordinators: Stefan Ptaszek enters his sixth season as the Head Coach of the Marauders along with Offensive Coordinator Jon Behie and Defensive Coordinator Greg Knox.
Off-the-field factors: On the recent Cable 14 preview for the season (named after the team’s motto for this season, “Leave No Doubt”), it was mentioned how people in the community, including local businesses, are starting to get behind the Marauders program more and more thanks to their recent success. MAC once had a crowd of turn out to watch them play when they were based out of Ivor Wynne Stadium, and it appears the interest in the local community is starting to return.
From last season's preview:"As Queen’s proved last season, a core group of players that has a chance to grow together is always dangerous. Mac returns almost every key contributor from a very solid 2009 and is ready to make a run." - Brian Decker.
And they did, though not quite all the way to the Yates.
2011 outlook: MAC will certainly be playoff-bound and should fall near the top of the standings. They have even more veteran experience and will boast one of the best pivots in the nation. If the Marauders fail to make it to the Yates Cup game once after two solid regular seasons ended in the semi-finals, it will be considered a disappointment for the program. MAC will be one of the teams to beat in the OUA this season.
Swing games: Week 2 is their home opener, a rematch of last season's semi-finals versus the Western Mustangs. Both teams will battle for the top spot in the conference so this may determine home field advantage overall. Week 7 against Laurier at University Stadium in Waterloo should be a late season test, the Golden Hawks are sporting a veteran roster this season and playing at home will not be pushovers. And then Week 8 the season ends at home against Ottawa, and while the Gee-Gees will not be the same team following the departure of Hec Crighton-winning QB Brad Sinopoli, MAC cannot afford to look forward to the playoffs following the Laurier game.
Stock up or stock down: Up. Even following a 6-2 record, MAC has a lot of the tools in place to push for the regular-season conference crown and the Yates Cup. This team has the potential to be playing in at least one championship game this season. The environment at Ron Joyce has improved over the past few seasons which has created a true home field advantage, which could help foster success come playoff time.