Once again we welcome Chris Lund of Always OUA.
In 50 words or less: A team that isn’t really rebuilding or aiming to win now. This perennial basement dweller has only lost five starters from last season’s 2-6 squad, yet is still in the midst of uncertainty under an interim coaching staff.
1) CAN Sam Malian play in something resembling a full season for the first time since his rookie year?
2) WHAT does nine returning starters on offence and 10 returning starters on defence mean for a team that only won two games last season?
3) WILL Joe D’Amore do enough as head coach to remove the interim tag and guide this program into the future? If not, who is the right person to take a historically mediocre team to the Promised Land?
4) CAN the Lancers find a way to replace the boot of Robert Eeuwes?
2010 recap: 2-6, 8th regular season, out of playoffs
As far as "predictable teams that played unpredictably last season" go the Windsor Lancers may be the crowning jewel. Going into 2010 it was widely speculated and well known that the Lancers would not be very good. What was NOT speculated or well known was that Windsor would keep the gaps against Yates Cup finalists Ottawa and Western to 15 points or less and get blown out by also-rans Queen’s, McMaster, Guelph and Laurier. Similarly, we knew it was a good chance they’d beat Toronto and York though I’d really like to meet the fellow who had them pencilled in to put up 61 points on York.
In sum, Windsor finished well out of playoff contention for the fifth consecutive season and witnessed the end of the borderline comical Mike Morencie regime. To put how bad it was into perspective, press releases detailing Morencie’s reign over the Lancers highlight the fact that he coached six players that graduated to the CFL in 13 seasons. Wins and playoff appearances need not apply.
Departures: DB Matt Bucknor, OL Nick Cicchini, K Robert Eeuwes, DB Daryl Townsend, OL Brandon Yohnicki
Arrivals: DL David Flewelling, DL Eric Kinnenen, DL John Moynahan, K Sebastien Rimbert, DB Marcus St. Aubin, RB Gilbert Stewart, OL Jeremy Veres
(Cap tip to Windsor’s Sports Info department for putting together a great list of arrivals and departures which made the composition of the above list much easier)
Keep an eye on: Receiver Jordan Brescacin was Windsor’s offensive MVP last season and with another year of experience under his belt and a more experienced pivot throwing him the ball – whether it is Malian or 2010 revelation Austin Kennedy – he will have an opportunity to be Windsor’s star on offence.
Linebacker Akeem Whonder has quietly become one of the most reliable defensive players in the OUA which means he is my odds-on bet for top defensive player who puts up huge numbers on a substandard team. I’d be looking 50+ tackles and five sacks from him in 2011.
Coach & coordinators: D’Amore fits the mold of Lancer coach in that he paid his dues coming up through the regional high school system like his predecessors have before him. The fact he has moved to the role of head coach from recruiting coordinator means there hasn’t been as drastic a drop-off in incoming talent which is typical of spring coaching moves. He has been incredibly optimistic since taking over and a can-do attitude will only help a program desperately searching for an identity and hope.
Former Lancers quarterback Jon Dent assumes the role of Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach in his fourth season as a coach with the Lancers. Dent will have two quarterbacks and some intriguing weapons at his disposal. His experience at the OUA level should only help their growth.
Jim MacDougall returns to the Lancers staff after 13 years away from the team. He was most recently the head coach of Amherst High School. Ten returning starters on defence will bode well for his learning curve as he readjusts to the OUA level. With the right game plans in place, the Lancers D could be a headache for some of the more potent offences in Ontario.
Off-the-field factors: The obvious one here is the departure of Mike Morencie from the Lancers' head coaching position. While many players credit Morencie as a personal mentor and good coach, it was evident that the on-field product was not matching the off-field expectations. Whether you’re coaching in the NFL or your child’s Timbits hockey team it’s evident that one winning season in 13 tries will not bode well for your job security. Once administration had to start dealing with loud complaints from a vocal base of football alumni and a steep drop in fundraising dollars, the writing was on the wall. Morencie may have been a great influence on individual players, but it was time for him to go. Windsor football can finally move on.
From last season's preview: “Citing the need to find someone who wasn't going to "come in and change the world" Morencie stayed close to the program and selected D'Amore, a former Lancer Captain and standout receiver. However, one has to wonder, with the recent woes of the program, maybe a world changer is what the Lancers need.” – Luke Dotto
Hard to argue with that today, Morencie may be gone but a caretaker coach with the same mindset may be a hindrance to the development of this program. Provided they follow through on the hiring process, it would be prudent for Lancers’ brass to branch out of the Windsor area and bring in a fresh perspective.
2011 outlook: If they were to pick a season to clean house, this would be the one to do it. A fairly veteran team means that the program should avoid embarrassment well enough to attract future recruits in the region while a new staff lays down their Vanier Cup vision. While D’Amore and his crew will certainly give this season everything they have, you can be sure there is a group of Windsor faithful who are rooting for them to fail in hopes that winds of change come through town. A bottom of the table finish is to be expected once again, it’s just a matter of where they fit among teams from Toronto and the no-longer-on-hiatus Waterloo.
Swing games: Week one against Toronto will be an interesting test for Windsor. You could certainly make the case that had they played the Varsity Blues later in the season last year, the Lancers would have been a one win team. A victory against Toronto would go a long way for morale during the Lancers' transition year. Week four vs. Waterloo will also be an interesting test.
Stock up or stock down: Up. While there isn’t necessarily a whole lot to get excited about yet, the Lancers have a golden opportunity in front of them. They have rid themselves of a horrible coaching contract and will soon be free to pick the vision which will guide this program into the future. With the majority of the veteran talent on this roster in its third and fourth years of eligibility they should have two more years free from the growing pains of a total rebuild. If all goes to plan this season could be a turning point in the Lancers’ prospective ascent from the basement to the elite of the OUA.