CIS Countdown 2011: Waterloo Warriors

In 50 words or less: After losing a season to a steroid scandal the Warriors return with hopes to put the past behind them and once again focus solely on the football field.

Burning questions:

1) CAN Denis McPhee remove the bad memories of the scandal-ridden past and keep the discussions on football?

2) CAN one of the larger recruiting classes in team history (45 players) help the Warriors stay competitive on the field after losing a good number of players?

3) WHAT will the students and fans think of their team? Will they return to watch their games?

2010 recap: N/A – The team was suspended by the university administration.

The case of the 2010 Waterloo Warriors is quite well-known, making international headlines. Many recruits left for other destinations, and a number of Waterloo players went to other teams to play instead of sitting out a season. Waterloo participated in six exhibition games with nearby teams when they had bye weeks, which allowed the coaches a chance to prepare for the return to action in 2011. However they did not see the field of play in any CIS sanctioned games last season.

Departures: There were many players and recruits who left before 2010, so this will be a much different team than the one that would have taken to the field last season. With that recruiting class of 45, it's better to look at who is arriving to help the team move forward.

Arrivals: HB Palmer Vaughn, WR/DB Joseph Skeete, RB Danny Silvestri, RB. RB Ryan DiRisio, OL Jesse House, LB Brendan Conway, LB Kyle Wasson, DL Angus MacLellan, among others. Full list of recruits can be found here.

Keep an eye on: Two fifth-year QBs, Evan Martin and Luke Balch, should help to stabilize the offence as much as possible from behind centre; they have experience and speed and play off each other well. The return of WR Dustin Zender after spending a season playing down the street for the Golden Hawks should also help to improve the aerial attack.

Coach & coordinators: Head Coach Denis McPhee, assistants Joe Paopao and Marshall Bingeman, and offensive coach and special teams advisor Kani Kauahi. This crew had the Warriors moving in the right direction in 2009, but will have a tougher road ahead of them this season. A new addition to this team is Dr. Tony Chris, the long-standing orthopedic surgeon for the team who is now enlisted as an assistant coach. Chris coached the Resurrection Phoenix before joining the Warriors.

Off-the-field factors: It’s pretty obvious and well documented what the off-field factors were for Waterloo. Again, at this point it’s important for this squad to focus on their eight scheduled games in the 2011 season.

2011 outlook: Renewal, rebirth, a fresh start. At Waterloo right now little matters beyond the fact the Warriors are playing football once again. Many were worried that they would never suit up again in the light of what happened so this is a welcome sight. The year will be a challenging one for a team that has a brought in a high number of recruits to fill the gaps left by departing players, whether by choice or because eligibility ran out. They also lost many talented recruits to other programs. Don't expect many wins, though they may win a couple. Just be glad that the black and gold are coming back to the OUA.

Swing games: The Toronto schools, UofT and York, will offer the possibility of staying competitive and potentially in the win column however a year’s worth of rust will take some time to shake off. Playing the Blues at the end of the season will either be a blessing or a curse for the Warriors as Waterloo will have improved by then, but Toronto has also been improving as of late. Opening the season on the road against the highly touted Western Mustangs will make for a sobering return to play for the Warriors so they may be looking forward to Week 3 against the Lions for a turnaround game.

Stock up or stock down: Up. It’s impossible for any other team in the CIS to be considered lower than the Warriors right now. Even though this team will take a step back from 2009, they are clearly far better off than the 2010 edition.
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  1. I work with several UW grads and current undergraduates; their level of apathy is pretty much what you would expect for a program that hasn't seen success in over a decade and was shutdown last season. While I'm thrilled and a little surprised that UW is back in the gridiron business, I don't hold out a whole lot of hope for the long term prospects of Warrior football.

    Anyone who has had the 'pleasure' of catching a UW home game, at their modest (I'm being really kind here) post-University Stadium facility, has a understanding of the lack of importance that UW places upon football these days. One of the most depressing examples of a Homecoming that no one cares about was exhibited last year at UW's less than inspiring 'field of dreams' (their term, not mine).

    The sporting event that was held to draw back alumni...women's soccer (I apologise to all that are affiliated with women's athletics or soccer in general, its not your fault...the optics just stunk). I was on campus that Saturday morning and afternoon; with the exception of a few tour groups and the odd lonely person passing out campus maps, you wouldn't have even known it was Homecoming.

    The lack of emphasis that UW places on athletics has had an effect on the scholastic-sports culture of the campus. Sadly, unless UW recruits a stud to breathe some life into the program (a lonely nation turns its eyes to Billy McPhee...sigh), to get people jazzed again, this sporting venture is going the way of the Dinos--insert any Canada-West/Vanier Cup slam as per your choice.

  2. I agree with most of that. But one thing: while the stadium--or field, rather--is certainly nothing to write home about, if you ask anyone associated with the team they will tell you it's infinitely better than playing on Laurier's field.

  3. Those Waterloo footballers obviously read Virginia Woolf, Rob.