In 50 words or less: This is the start of a new era for Sherbrooke. They made a great step to make it all the way to the Dunsmore Cup and almost beating Laval. Now, there is nothing but high expectations. Can they meet them?
1) CAN top recruit Jeremi Doyon Roch step in for JP Shoiry and lead what is otherwise a veteran-laden group as soon as this season?
2) HOW will Sherbrooke deal with the heightened expectations?
3) HOW GOOD will this Sherbrooke defence - which brings back nine starters - be?
2010 recap: 5-4, 3rd regular season, W 33-26 vs Montreal in RSEQ Semifinal, L 22-17 @ Laval in Dunsmore Cup
Sherbrooke last year was Shoiry and a bunch of newcomers. Receiver Simon Charbonneau-Campeau made a long name for himself last season and they beat Montreal for a huge playoff win and almost beat the Rouge et Or on the road in the Dunsmore Cup. They used that success to reel in a top recruiting class and build on that momentum.
Departures: WR Alex Poirier, QB JP Shoiry, DL Steve Paquette, DT Yan Genest, DT Dave Lovius
Arrivals: QB Jeremi Doyon Roch, WR Alexandre Piche, WR Ismael Bamba, DL Jean Christophe Gagnon, LB Dempsey Jutras
Keep an eye on: Doyon Roch. He is touted as the messiah. After re-writing the CEGEP record book at Vanier College, Doyon Roch steps in for an underappreciated quarterback in Shoiry. How quickly he adjusts to the university game will dictate how successful the Vert et Or will be this season.
Coach & coordinators: Andre Bolduc has turned around this Sherbrooke program. He won their first playoff game last year and he has a young team but with a lot of returning starters.
The offensive coordinator is David Lessard. His offence last year was a great success and he has a talented group returning. He has been with Sherbrooke since 2007.
Marc Loranger returns as defensive coordinator, the position he has held since 2007 and held with Bishop's from 2000-2006. He also led recruiting at Bishop's during that time and surely knows the area and helps the Vert et Or in that regard.
Off-the-field factors: The Vert et Or share Sherbrooke/Lennoxville with Bishop's and battle for recruits on their own scale. After Leroy Blugh left Bishop's at least two to three defensive players left the Gaiters to come straight to the Vert et Or. If the Vert et Or continue their upswing, it will help their recruiting in their backyard.
From last season's preview: "They might have relied on Fils too much in the past: he accounted for nearly half of their yards from scrimmage in 2009-10. So losing him may not be as damaging to their offence as it seems, especially with an excellent (fifth-year) quarterback. Ultimately, it might be their D that keeps them at fifth or sixth, rather than third or fourth." - Rob Pettapiece
Rob was right. They had a great year with Shoiry and his receiving corps. Their defence was probably better than people thought and led them to a short playoff run.
2011 outlook: The Vert et Or do have some question marks as they still are a young team with a lot of second or third year players in key roles. They are talented and got a lot of experience playing last year. They should have controlled optimism this year as their new quarterback gets acclimated.
Swing games: If they want to fight for home field advantage in the opening round, they have to at least split their games against Montreal. Their two games against Concordia and Laval will also be interesting to see whether they are closer to the top or the bottom of the conference.
Stock up or stock down: Up. Two years ago, I thought they were on the way up. Last year, Rob thought they were on the way up. They are still headed in that direction. I look for them to fight for home field in the first round. Anything else would be a disappointment.