Is McMaster Done? (OUA Preview)

oua

The OUA will see plenty of changes in 2013 as a new team enters the fold and the dominant team has been gutted. The Carlton Ravens will be the new team on the block as they return to the football field for the first time in 15 years. They will have a high hill to climb as they enter the biggest conference in the CIS and will have to compete with some very well established programs. They will start from the bottom while other teams will be starting from the top and not looking to fall down. Like the rest of the conferences the OUA has one team that has been the dominant team in the past two years. The McMaster Marauders have been the team to beat for two years as nobody could beat them. They would easily get through the OUA conference and win the Yates Cup both years on their way to two Vanier Cup appearances. Their period of dominance could be over though as a number of their top players are no longer with the team. They will have to try to move on with a new crop of players if they hope to three-peat while the other teams near the top are looking at 2013 as their chance to take the Yates Cup. It will be the ultimate test for McMaster as the program can take a step towards becoming one of the best of the era if they can move on but teams like Queen’s and Guelph are looking to end that chance. Then as in every year there are the surprises with any of the now 11 teams in the OUA able to come out of nowhere and win the Yates Cup. Who can it be this year? Will it be the basement dwelling York Lions or Waterloo Warriors? Will it be the Varsity Blues who cab finally put together a good season? Or could it be any of the other teams that can capture the imagination of the fans and find their way to the Yates Cup? With a potential opening at the top of the conference the OUA may finally see a new champion for the first time in three years. Then again the Marauders are not going to lay down and let the other teams take them out as they will fight with everything they have to win the third Yates Cup in a row. It will be a year where change could turn things around in the biggest conference but a dynasty is slowing rising although only one of these things can happen this year.

 

Carleton Ravens

carlton After 15 years the Ravens have restarted their football program after poor performance and a lack of commitment from the athletic department ended the football program in 1998. The program would come alive again though when The Lansdowne group, owners of the new Ottawa Redblacks CFL franchise, would provide a commitment to bring the program back in 2013. As exciting as a new program is there is a lot to get right for Carleton as they have yet to step on the field as a team. The university would go out and give the Ravens the best shot they could, putting together the best team available. They would hire 2009 Coach of the Year Steve Sumarah and would add former Ottawa Gee Gees coach JP Asselin as the Offensive Coordinator. With these two experienced coaches heading up the team the prospects began to roll in. The Ravens will be pure recruiting class or transfers as they will rely on new players to try to get off to the right foot. The top recruit and the player who many will look at to lead the team will be wide receiver Nate Behar. Behar will be the leader on this team along with Saint Mary’s Transfer and promising QB Jesse Mills who will look to hook up to make this offence a potent one. It is exciting to see a new program develop but a playoff berth is a long shot, although the course they are on seems to be the right one for the future.

 

Guelph Gryphons

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The Gryphons are one of the teams looking to capitalize on the changes in Hamilton as they hope to pounce on the Marauders. The Gryphons had one of their best seasons last year finishing in second place in the OUA and making it to the Yates Cup. They wouldn’t win the championship but they would set the foundation for the 2013 season. With a total of 16 starters back for 2013 the Gryphons are hoping that their experience can carry them over the hump. They will be trying to get that Yates Cup win as the Marauders will be moving on from multiple departures while the Gryphons move on with plenty of veterans. On defence middle linebacker John Rush and defensive lineman Jeff Finley will be the leaders as both were invited to the East West Bowl last year. On offence the team will look to developing QB Jazz Lindsey who continues to get better every year and will start his second year under centre. He will look to Dillon Dimitroff as his main weapon in the passing game and Rob Farquharson in the running game. The Gryphons are on the cusp of becoming a great team after their best finish last year and if they can carry that momentum into 2013 they will be one of the early favorites. The playoffs are in the future for the Gryphons with another shot at the Yates Cup a strong possibility.

 

Laurier Golden Hawks

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The Laurier Golden Hawks have enjoyed a long time as one of the better teams in the OUA although the success would not reach the pinnacle. Now the team will move on without their head coach bringing a new CIS legend in to coach the team. Michael Faulds will take his 3 years of coaching experience and his record-breaking CIS playing career into his first season as a head coach. After his playing career at Western where he broke the record for most passing yards and earned two Yates Cup MVP Awards Faulds would move on to coach with the York Lions. As the offensive coordinator for the Lions Faulds would help the struggling team get back to winning and now will try to continue the winning at Laurier. Faulds will have a young offence to work with and will have to help Travis Eman to become more of a dominant QB in the league. Eman will be in his second year under centre for the Golden Hawks and has shown flashes of being a great QB if he can be more consistent this year. On defence the Golden Hawks will have to move on from some very big losses after many of their leaders have graduated. The Hawks have been a bottom half playoff team and with so much change a playoff appearance could be difficult as an adjustment to the new coaching staff may see them struggle but earning that last playoff spot is not out of the question.

 

McMaster Marauders

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The McMaster Marauders have been the team to beat over the last two years in the OUA but a lot has changed this year. The best players on the team from the last two years are now gone with quarterback Kyle Quinlan, wide receiver Michael DiCroce, and defensive lineman Ben D’Auguilar all gone the Marauders are looking to move on. McMaster had one of the best offences over the last few years with Kyle Quinlan leading the way. Now the burden of following Quinlan falls to Marshall Ferguson who showed signs of being a good QB when coming in relief last year. Without Michael DiCroce the receiving corps will likely be more team based as Max Cameron, Dahlin Brooks, and Tyler Loveday will all look to become that top receiver. The rushing offence will likely be a bigger part of the offence this year led by Kasean Davis-Reynolds who would be second to Quinlan in rushing last year. The defence will miss their coordinator Greg Knox, who moved on to the Varsity Blues, and their best defensive lineman in Ben D’Auguilar. They are not lost on defence though with Aram Eisho, Nick Shortill, and Steven Ventresca all returning. The Marauders defence is still a solid one and that will be good news for the Marauders in the midst of so many changes. McMaster has lost a lot of their best playmakers but the solid defence and coaching staff will not let them fall too far with another playoff berth on the horizon.

 

Ottawa Gee Gees

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The Gee Gees once knew greatness as they were one of the most dominant teams in the OUA for years. That was a while ago though with tier last Yates Cup Championship coming in 2006 and their last Vanier Cup coming in 2000. Now they will look to a new coaching staff to try to bring that glory back to Ottawa. With Dr. James Barresi on the sidelines the Gee Gees will have a very experienced coach who has worked in the CIS, CFL, and NCAA to help guide them. After a 2-6 season in 2012 the Gee Gees will need Barresi’s old school approach to get back to winning. Ottawa has a lot of talent on the team but it seemed like everyone underperformed last year and Barresi will be looking to end that. One of the more disappointing performances from last year was that of starting QB Aaron Colbon who had 6 TDs and 4 INTs all of last year. He will be a key to this team as the Gee Gees will follow their QB on offence as he uses Simon Le Marquand who caught 4 of Colbon’s 6 TD passes in 2012. The defence will be led by a rising star in defensive lineman Ettore Lattanzio who had 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles last year. A turnaround is in the making with this new attitude in the locker room but the playoffs may be more of a battle than a certainty.

 

Queen’s Golden Gaels

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The Queen’s Golden Gaels are on a role after missing the playoffs two years in a row in 2004 and 2005. Since then they have been in the top three of the OUA in all but two years, 2006 and 2010. They are becoming a consistent contender in the division with a third place finish in 2012 and a second round loss to the Guelph Gryphons. The Gaels will be returning most to their team from last year as they hope that 2013 can be another chance at the Yates Cup. The Gaels will be led by Billy McPhee who was good in 2012 and looks to be better with another year under his belt for 2013. He will look to his favorite target Giovanni Aprile and running back Ryan Granberg to help him led this offence out of the middle of the pack and into the top of the OUA. The biggest question will be their defence as the Gaels were not the powerhouse they were when they won the Vanier Cup in 2009. They are far from a bad defence though as defensive lineman and first team All-Stars John Miniaci and Derek Wiggan will return along with defensive leader Sam Sabourin. The Gaels defence has the potential to be great and if they can put everything together they may be able to bring Queen’s back to the top. The Gaels are headed to a battle for the top spot in the OUA with a Yates Cup run seemingly in the midst if everything goes right.

 

Toronto Varsity Blues

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The Varsity Blues used to be the butt of the joke in the OUA with a long losing streak that stretched far beyond a few seasons. In the last few years though, this program has begun to turn things around coming close to the playoffs in both of the last two years. Even though the team is better they have still found themselves out of the playoffs for years with their last Yates Cup coming in 1993. There are a lot of issues with this team though as the Blues have a few big decisions to make before the season starts. The biggest decision will be under centre where Simon Nassar and Richard Quittenton fight for the starting job this year. A QB controversy is trouble for any team and the Blues need to find out who they want to go with to best suit their offence this year. There will also be questions on the offensive line with the loss of their offensive lineman coach and the loss of two of their starting interior lineman. The Blues will have to look to their defence and former McMaster Marauders defensive coordinator Greg Knox who has joined a relatively intact UofT defence to try to provide some stability. The Blues are a team with some major questions on offence and although their defence might be good enough to stop the bleeding at points it does not look great for the struggling team as they will likely be out of the playoffs again this year.

 

Waterloo Warriors

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The Warriors have a very sordid past with a steroid scandal ending their 2010 campaign before it even started. With essentially the Death Penalty handed out the Warriors were more like an expansion program in 2011. That year they would go 0-8 on the season with the Warrior name put in the bad books for future recruits. In 2012 they would get better but would remain in the basement with a 2-6 record and finishing in 8th place. The Warriors are not using the scandal as an excuse though as they are expecting to make the playoffs this year. With Joe Paopao officially taking over the program after spending 2012 as the interim head coach the Warriors are looking to finally turn the team around. With the suspended season the Warriors had to start their program over and although they will be the youngest team in the CIS they will still have some experience.  Brian Chris will lead the team under centre after a promising end to the year last year where he averaged over 100 yards per game in the 7 games he played. He will look to First Team All-Canadian receiver Nick Anapolsky and Paul Cecile. On defence the team will look to their leader defensive lineman Djordje Gavrilovic and CIS interception leader Christian Mahler. The Warriors are looking at the playoffs this year and they are better but a battle for 6th place is likely in the future as a playoff spot this year will not be a for sure thing for them.

 

Western Mustangs

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The Mustangs are one of the most consistent teams in the CIS as they are always a factor in the OUA. They continue to move through amazing talent and put together teams that can challenge the best of the best in the division and the country. Last year they would make the playoffs again and would fall to the eventual OUA champions the McMaster Marauders in the second round. Usually the loss of a starting QB like Donnie Marshall would make the team fairly scared of what is next. For the Mustangs though there is not much worry as Will Finch will take over with plenty of hope that he could easily take over from Marshall. Finch led the comeback in the playoffs last year that came up just short and has shown that he is the player that many had as the best QB prospect in the country. Although Finch will be a key part to the new spread offence the Mustangs will as always look to their running game led by Garret Sanvido. The defence will also need to pick things up and will be led by their defensive line that will welcome a new recruit in Eddie Meredith who will return to Canada after spending one year at Boston College. Meredith will join Daryl Waud, Dylan Ainsworth, and Brent Wheeler to make up what could be the best defensive line in the OUA. The Mustangs are moving on to another era at Western but the playoffs are in sight once again.

 

Windsor Lancers

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The Windsor Lancers seemed to be on the upswing after a 2011 season that saw them finish with a 5-3 record. Then they would have a bad year with a 3-5 record taking a step back from the previous year. Although the Lancers finished with a 3-5 record that would still make the playoffs but would lose badly to the Western Mustangs. They were one of the rising teams in the OUA and a team that could have been a power in the very near future. They fell short in 2012 and now are looking to return to that promising team in 2013. It will not be easy though as the Lancers will have to move on from some of the best players they have seen in years to try to gain back that winning attitude. On defence the team will have to move on without Matt McGarva who was drafted 33rd overall by the BC Lions. On offence the Lancers lost their best overall player in Wide Receiver Jordan Brescacin along with their leading rusher Jamal Darius. They will still have one of their biggest playmakers in QB Austin Kennedy back to help to lead the offence. The Lancers need to recover from a less than perfect season last year but the loss of some of their best players may hurt them more than people think. Without their top players on offence and defence the playoffs could be a struggle again as they will fight for a spot but may come up short.

 

York Lions

york

The Lions are a part of a tradition that not a lot of teams want to be a part of with the Lions representing Toronto Football. Toronto Football used to be the be all and end all of Canadian football but it has since fallen off in the College Ranks. The Varsity Blues and the Lions have been two of the most dismal teams in the CIS with long losing streaks that would only come to an end in the Red & Blue Bowl between the two teams. The last few years both teams have started a comeback though breaking their losing streaks and beginning to win. York is a big part of this as they have improved regularly through the last two years. Still the Lions have a lot of issues they need to work out if they hope to make the next step and make the playoffs. On offence the Lions will lean on QB Myles Gibbon who may need to lead the team by himself with not much of a supporting cast around him. On defence the Lions need improvement in almost every aspect as they ranked in the bottom half of the OUA in every major defensive category. Add that to the fact that they lost key contributors like Patrick Russell and Ryan Edwards and the Lions could be in trouble. The Lions are not the walk over that they were before but making the playoffs is far off for this program as the basement dwellers will stay in the basement.

 

Prediction:
1. Guelph Gryphons
2. Queen’s Golden Gaels
3. McMaster Marauders
4. Western Mustangs
5. Ottawa Gee Gees
6. Laurier Golden Hawks
7. Windsor Lancers
8. Toronto Varsity Blues
9. Waterloo Warriors
10. Carleton Ravens
11. York Lions

 

Yates Cup Champion:

guelph

Guelph Gryphons
– The Gryphons are in the perfect spot to win this year as they came so close last year and have a very experienced team with the Marauders no longer in their way the Gryphons will likely fight with Queen’s all year but will come out on top.

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