CIS Countdown 2011: Saint Mary's Huskies

In 50 words or less: A new/old QB, 40 recruits, and the league MVP returns. Why, it's enough to make the coach "cautiously optimistic."

Burning questions:

1) WHO will actually be QB1 on a team noted for some recent turnover at that position?

2) WILL Jahmeek Taylor repeat his outstanding season?

3) IS this the year the Huskies are once again competitive in a postal code not starting with B, E, or C?

2010 recap: 5-3, first place, won Loney Bowl 37-8 over Acadia, lost Uteck Bowl 35-8 in Calgary. 7th in RPI, but 16th in SRS.

Ultimately, the sound and fury from their first three games (17-7 loss to Acadia, 45-7 to Laval, 23-21 to Mount Allison, a QB quitting in disgust) did not signify a thing, as they won the conference for the fourth year in a row and 10th time in 12 years, only to lose the national semifinal for the third year in a row.

It's technically from 2011, not 2010, but since last season ended, Jahmeek Taylor, a star receiver/returner, appeared in the East-West Bowl and played on the Canadian team that received a silver medal at the 2011 IFAF World Championship.

It bears repeating that the AUS is the weakest conference in the country. The RPI and SRS results from 2010 suggest the average AUS team would go 2-6 or 3-5 against average competition. In recent bowl games against other conferences, aside from the 2007 Uteck Bowl (SMU 24, Laval 2), not only did AUS teams lose them all, they lost each time by at least 15 points. The last Vanier Cup champion from the Maritimes were the 2002 Huskies; the last non-SMU team to qualify for a Vanier were the 1996 X-Men.

Oh, by the way, that 35-8 loss to Calgary? Our predictions averaged out to 34-14. Just sayin'.

Departures: OT Adam Baboulas (B.C. Lions), WR Ahmed Borhot, LB Leroy Fontaine, OT Tommy Gibbons, LB Jeff Hecht (Montreal Alouettes), LB Ryan King

Arrivals: RB Melvin Abankwah, LB Marvin Golding (Vanier College), DB Kayin Marchand-Wright (Vanier College), DL Pat McLennan (Champlain College), QB Jesse Mills, OL Jamie Wandell, WR Kevin Wuthrich (Edmonton Wildcats). (Both lists of players are from the SMU preview)

Keep an eye on: QBs Jack Creighton and Jesse Mills. Thought to be Guelph-bound, Creighton instead went back to Halifax after talking the coach into letting him try out again. Mills, shown in his highlight video here, comes in from Halifax Citadel. If Mills takes over the QB1 role, it will be the fifth starting quarterback in seven years for SMU.

I'm also intrigued by Marvin Golding (link opens with sound) for some reason.

Coach & coordinators: Steve Sumarah (29-10 regular season, 5-5 playoffs and bowl games) enters year number six as the SMU head coach. He's also the offensive coordinator. Coordinating those defensive players is Devin Murphy, new to the role this year. Profiles on the other coaches can be found here.

Off-the-field factors: Well, there was that women's hockey kerfuffle ... the cost of football vs. the cost of women's hockey is well-known, I would think, especially among those who fought to keep the latter.

Also, SMU will again play in Moncton the day before Touchdown Atlantic.

From last season's preview: Andrew Bucholtz asked "will the Huskies be able to overcome a tough trip west across several time zones to likely face either Calgary or Saskatchewan in the Mitchell Bowl?" The Huskies answered no.

Also from last year's preview: "Thus, as Yogi Berra would put it, this year could be déjà vu all over again for the Huskies with an AUS championship and a stumble in the [semifinal]."

That's about right. No word on how much the Huskies learned by watching the Dinos put up 444 yards on them, but it sounds like they made too many wrong mistakes.

2011 outlook: Even with more questions this year than last, the Huskies remain the top team on paper in the AUS. It remains to be seen how their lineup fares against the top teams from outside the conference.

Okay, I mostly stole that from Andrew's 2010 preview. Sorry. Let me retry that:

How fast Creighton loses the training wheels should be a major variable for the eastern Huskies.

There I go again! That's from 2009's preview, by Neate Sager.

To be fair, it's likely that these things are mostly true again this year...

Swing games: If they win Sep. 17 at Montreal — bear with me here — it will do a lot to convince people who don't work on Robie Street that this team can win in November. Not to get all determinist on you, but they don't really have any other important games until the playoffs start.

Stock up or stock down: Neutral. Thankfully for the eventual AUS champ Saint Mary's, they'll take the fork in the road to Moncton, welcoming the OUA champion for this year's Uteck Bowl. It might not make a difference but they'll probably need as much of a travel advantage as they can get.
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