Our preview series continues with Saskatchewan, and we once again turn to Dallas Carpenter from Huskie Outsider for his insight.
In 50 words or less: After three straight first-place finishes with no Canada West titles to show for it, the Huskies’ quest for their first Hardy Cup since 2006 won’t get any easier after losing three All-Canadians on offence. However, if there is one team that routinely delivers surprises, it’s Saskatchewan.
1) WHO will step up to be the go-to player(s) after the loss of Canada West’s leading receiver Jade Etienne to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?
2) CAN the Huskies defence be the dominant unit that many fans expect?
3) WILL the Huskies finally put it together in the playoffs and make it to a bowl game?
2010 recap: 6-2, first in Canada West. 0-1 in the playoffs.
After stumbling out of the gate at 1-2, the Huskies won their final five games of the regular season, outscoring their opposition 215-67 during that span. The Huskies hosted a Canada West semi-final against the Alberta Golden Bears, a game in which they had a 30-3 lead with 3:50 left in the third quarter. They would go on to lose that game, after Alberta went on a 28-0 run, 31-30.
Departures: Second-team All-Canadian quarterback Laurence Nixon, first-team All-Canadian wide receiver Jade Etienne, first-team All-Canadian left tackle Patrick Neufeld, running back Dathan Thomas, wide receiver Travis Gorski, cornerback Cody Halseth, cornerback Gregg Woytowich, defensive end Vaughn Rice.
Arrivals: Offence: Receiver Jerit Lambert, 2009 Canadian Junior Football League Rookie of the Year and 2009 and 2010 Prairie Football Conference All-Star with the Edmonton Wildcats; Offensive lineman Jordan Arkko, a 6’ 3”, 290 lb. starter for both Team Alberta at the 2010 Football Canada Cup and Team North in the 2011 Alberta Senior Bowl; Receiver Kit Hillis, the sixth leading receiver in the Prairie Football Conference and a Canadian Bowl Champion with the Saskatoon Hilltops in 2010.
Defence: Defensive back Tyler Robson, who had 19 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one touchdown with the Okanagan Sun of the British Columbia Football Conference in 2010; Linebacker Tommy Lynch, the 2009 AUS Defensive MVP, President’s Trophy Nominee and second-team All-Canadian with the St. Francis Xavier X-Men; Linebacker Geoff Hughes, a starter on the 2010 Football Canada Cup champion Team Saskatchewan and a Schwann Conference All-Star with the Regina and Saskatchewan 4-A champion Campbell Tartans.
Keep an eye on: Third year receiver Jeff Moore. He missed all but the first game last season after breaking his collar bone, but came out flying at spring camp, scoring two deep touchdowns in the final scrimmage. He is ready to be an impact player from the slot, having the speed and size to be a tremendous possession receiver.
Defensively, keep an eye on another third-year player, Seamus Neary. As a back-up linebacker last year, he was brought in on second-and-long situations and was involved in the play more often than not, finishing the year with 14.5 tackles, including two sacks. This year, with all the starting linebackers returning, we may see the Huskies move Neary to halfback, allowing this playmaker to be on the field for all the defensive plays.
Coach & coordinators: Head coach Brian Towriss returns for his 28th season and will have a veteran coaching staff at his disposal. Most of Towriss’ assistants have been with the team for the better part of two decades or more, including defensive coordinator Ed Carleton, who is entering his 19th season on the staff, and offensive coordinator Brent Schneider, who is entering his 15th season.
Off-the-field factors: Finishing touches are being made on the addition to the Graham Huskies Clubhouse. The original clubhouse, which was unveiled in 2006, included a large dressing room, a trainers’ room, coaches offices, and a meeting room. The $3 million-plus, two-story addition, which overlooks the field at Griffiths Stadium, will include a football players only gym, complete with customized weights and a 25 metre speed-training track. It will also have a large meeting room on the second floor that can be separated into three separate meeting rooms, plus 11 video stations that can access the new video scouting system (along with a few surprises to be revealed later).
This, along with the gameday fireworks, third and retro jerseys, and impressive corporate and community support through events such as the annual Dogs’ Breakfast, is expected to add to the Huskies’ recruiting pull in Western Canada.
From last season’s preview: “It will take everything they have to get by Calgary, but as they proved last season, they are one of the few squads in Canada capable of doing just that.”
As it turned out, getting by Calgary wasn’t much of a problem, as the Huskies beat the Dinos 34-13 and 36-17 during the regular season. The 3-5 Alberta Golden Bears, on the other hand...
2011 outlook: With 11 of 12 starters returning to a defence that has finished as the top defence each of the past three years, and with a number of talented veterans surrounding anticipated starting quarterback Trent Peterson, the Huskies should finish near, if not at, the top of the Canada West once again. The goal this season, however, is to exorcise the playoff ghosts of previous seasons and move beyond the Hardy Cup. With the Canada West champion hosting the Mitchell Bowl, as well as the Vanier Cup being played in Vancouver, there is extra motivation to win this year.
Swing games: The Huskies host the Regina Rams on September 9, and pay a visit to Regina on October 22. With the Rams favoured by many to take the Canada West this year, these games could be crucial in locking up home field advantage in the playoffs.
The Rams are a squad that returns a veteran offence, but has lost a few key veterans on defence, while the Huskies return a veteran defence, while losing a few key veterans on offence. These games should be close and may be only two of three these teams play this year.
Stock up or stock down: Down, but only slightly. It will likely take some time to work in a new starting quarterback and new personnel on the offensive line, and this could mean a fall in the standings. Nonetheless, the Huskies should make the playoffs for their 11th straight season, and should the defence live up to expectations and be a dominant unit, they may be able to carry this team.