Continuing with our AUS previews, here's Kevin Garbuio on St. F-X.
Last year: 1-7 (ignoring forfeitures), -27.2 SRS
Extra AUS opponent: Mount Allison
Interlock opponent: Concordia
I have been the biggest supporter of X over the past few years, writing about their athleticism and how they are a team on the rise, and year after year they make me look like a liar.
A big reason, or the biggest reason, has been their coaching which has been horrible. Defensively, they didn't align properly and were put into positions to fail. People can’t blame the players when the scheme is flawed. The linebackers lined up too close to the line of scrimmage which made them unable to defend the toss; also, they never adjusted to the fullback which left them outmanned at the point of attack on most run plays.
The X-Men hope to rectify this problem by bringing in Bob Mullen, the former Golden Gael coach. If Mullen can stabilize the defence and align his players correctly, X should see significant improvement.
On offence, they promoted former Acadia offensive coordinator Josh Lambert. Lambert has a few players to work with, one of which is receiver Devon Bailey. The fourth year wideout is poised to have a big year and is seen as a top prospect entering this year's CFL draft and is probably Lambert’s best prospect since Matt Carter and Ivan Birungi during his Air Acadia days. Beside Bailey are Jordan Catterall and Randy Roseway, two of the most explosive players in the AUS. At tailback they have Ashton Dickson who had six rushing touchdowns last year, one off the conference lead.
The big question mark for X is at quarterback. Last year Clay Masikewich struggled at times and was not the player they anticipated him being. Masikewich is now in his fifth year and with former prospect Tivon Cook entering his second year on the team it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cook getting the bulk of the snaps if the veteran fails early. (Also of note: Cook took over the OC job from Lambert this summer for the Huronia Stallions of the OFC.)
I have been almost a fanboy over the past few years when it comes to X. They have produced elite level talent like the Muamba brothers and Akeem Foster but when it comes to wins and losses there has been less success. Head coach Gary Waterman is now entering his fifth year and hasn't delivered. In his first year he lost in the Loney Bowl on a missed field goal in the closing moments. Since then the team has struggled immensely, being outscored 37-15 on average. This could be Waterman’s final year if the team fails to make the finals.
If X can put it together they have a shot of making it to the Loney Bowl, but then again, I did have them as Loney-bound last year so who knows with this squad.