2017 U Sports Football Preview

2016 USports Vanier Cup game action between Calgary Dinos and Laval Rouge et Or.  Laval would go on to win 31-26 and win thier 9th Vanier Cup in their history.What was formerly known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport is now U Sports as Canadian University Sports are continuing to evolve and grow.

They are not the powerhouse that the NCAA is south of the border but they are growing and becoming a bigger part of the Canadian sports scene.

The rebrand for the league is a big part of that as the new CEO of U Sports, Graham Brown, came in to make a real difference in the league.

This was his first major act as he began in the summer of 2016 and immediately started looking into a new brand for the organization.

U Sports was the result and the brand appeals to a younger demographic that every league is trying to get to right now.

The video released along with their announcement last year was clear evidence that they were going for that younger group and trying to express that the league is full of amazing and exciting talent.

They continue to attempt to develop the organization into a massive sports organization that provides student athletes with everything they need but also provides plenty of entertainment.

U Sports will look to do that and as they continue their way through this new brand they will look to one of the biggest sports to lead the way.

That is U Sports Football that continues to be one of the most popular sports among all of the U Sports leagues.

Football has always been one of the more popular university sports and in the USA college football is a multi-billion dollar business.

Although U Sports Football will likely never get to be that size they do realize that the sport is a massive selling factor.

It continues to grow too with more people talking about the sport in Canada and along with that, has come a recognition from throughout the professional football world.

The CIS was always a place for the CFL to get their talent as there are only two places that Canadians could play.

They either went from high school to the CJFL or the university to play and eventually get drafted into the CFL.

For a long time though the university route was a tough one as players would be drafted into the CFL and then sit for years until getting a shot.

They would then find their way to a starting role as a good player or run out of time and simply leave the league.

Lately, though things have begun to shift as the university route is becoming a route where some of the best players are coming from.football-sidebar

They don’t only just come into the league to play a solid role they are beginning to star in the league.

Players like Antoine Pruneau and Kwaku Boateng didn’t have to wait long to become key members of their team.

The biggest improvement might just be in the most important position as quarterbacks are making a bigger impact in the CFL too.

Andrew Buckley may not be a starter right now but he has made an impression with the Stampeders after taking two Hec Crighton Trophies as a member of the Calgary Dinos.

Buckley’s rise is the first in a long time for a Canadian University quarterback who might actually have a chance at starting in the near future.

The CFL isn’t the only league taking notice of the talent in U Sports Football though as NFL teams are taking notice as well.

More players are beginning to find their way to the NFL through U Sports even if it is still mostly after the draft as long shot signings.

Some are making teams though and getting their shot in the NFL like Laurent Duvernay-Tardif who came straight from McGill to a starting role in Kansas City.

It is happening more often every year as the talent gets better and the recognition of that talent gets bigger.

That is where U sports Football sits today as they get ready for another season where players hope to break out and teams hope to put on some exciting games.

The talent will be on display for another year as U Sports continues to grow and football leads the way.

aus

It’s the little conference that could as the AUS is quite often forgotten in the mix of the bigger conferences that have done better nationally. They hope to change that this year but the smaller schools always have some trouble in building their teams to compete with the dominant programs. Things might only get tougher this year too as the conference will add a fifth school as the Bishop’s Gaiters leave the RSEQ where Montreal and Laval have dominated to join the AUS. They will look to take advantage of not having to compete with two of the best programs in the country but they still have plenty of good teams to compete against. The StFX X-Men are the two-time defending champions but like a lot of dominant teams in university football their time eventually comes up. The X-Men lose a lot of top talent including 2016 AUS Lineman of the Year Vernon Sainvil, top defensive lineman Kay Okafor and their top DB Hayden Peters. No loss will be bigger than AUS MVP Tivon Cook who finished his fifth year last year and has left the school with inexperienced pivots. The Mount Allison Mounties will look to take advantage as the runners up the last two years. With 2016 national rookie of the year Jacob Loucks under centre they are in a good spot to compete again despite a few losses this year. At Acadia, the Axemen are hoping to take another step after coming close but falling short of the finals in the last two years. They will look to their defence led by Brandon Jennings and the middle of their defensive line Adam Melanson and Brady Switzer. In Saint Mary’s the attitude is all about continuing to develop under second-year head coach James Colzie but will have to do it without Brock Berglund under centre. The Huskies hope that they can rely on their experienced defence to help them develop. For the new team the biggest challenge just might be the travel as the team from Lennoxville, Quebec will have the worst travel schedule in the division. New head coach Cherif Nicolas looks to a fairly experienced offence to help them including their pair of receivers in Michael Nelson and Trey Mullings-Wilson. The AUS will get that new team and end their agreement with the RSEQ meaning all of their games will be in their conference this year. It will make them stronger but to think that the Gaiters are going to come in and dominate would be a mistake. The Gaiters could win a Jewett Trophy but probably not this year as there is still power at the top and the old guard will fight it out again.

AUS Champion:

mau-mounties.fw

rseq

Quebec has been a conference that has quite literally been about two teams and then the rest as Montreal and Laval have separated themselves from everyone else. This is better than the years before though as it was once a league where everyone was just battling for second place behind Laval. The Rouge et Or were the best team not only in Quebec but in the country and for years they were the only team to take home the RSEQ championship. Montreal has been able to unseat the Rouge et Or though and is finally giving Laval a run for their money. It is at least providing some great storylines and some competition in the league but that competition seems to only be at the top. The Bishop’s Gaiters left the conference for that reason as they left to be a part of a conference where they could compete. The rest of the teams are stuck in the RSEQ looking to find some way to compete with two of the best programs in the country. The competition will be very similar this time around as Laval and Montreal are still the teams to beat. As usual the Rouge et Or will be without some great players like Antony Auclair but as usual, they have simply reloaded. They will enjoy the stability that Hugo Richard brings to the offence as he looks to Alexandre Savard to replace his favourite target from a year ago while the always strong defence led by rookie of the year Adam Auclair is sure to help them out again. Montreal will look to RSEQ MVP Samuel Caron in his final year with a fairly intact offence while their defence may change but remains a strong group. This will be the battle for another year as Laval and Montreal fight to be the top team in the country but winning in Quebec is the first challenge. Behind them will be three teams all look to be able to throw their hat in the ring and compete with these massive programs. McGill has stood on top before and has had a number of great players but have struggled to be anywhere near the top. They will be led by second-year pivot Frederic Paquette-Perrault while they look to another second-year player and RSEQ Defensive Rookie of the Year defensive lineman Andrew Seinet-Spaulding to lead the defence. In Concordia, There is some promise with RSEQ Offensive Rookie of the Year Vince Alessandrini hoping to help the offence grow in his second year. Sherbrooke will hope that their 15th year goes well with new head coach Mathieu Lecompte looking to breathe new life into the program. The writing is still on the wall though and there will only be two teams fighting for the Dunsmore Cup with one coming out on top and entering the national playoffs as an early favourite.

RSEQ Champion:

montreal

OUA_colour_symbol_Large_-_light_background

They are the biggest conference in the country and are coming off of one of the more unexpected years in recent memory. Much like many of the other conferences, the OUA does have a dominant team in the Western Mustangs but unlike the other conferences, they aren’t dominant enough to keep hold of the Yates Cup forever. This past year they were back at the top competing at home for the top prize in Ontario but came up short against the surprise team of the year in the Laurier Golden Hawks. Now a new season is here and like every year in the OUA there, it isn’t very easy to predict. There are a few things that are pretty consistent though one of them being the Western Mustangs. They have been one of the best teams every year and they will be back with Chris Merchant, a CFL invitee, leading the way under centre and Alex Taylor, last year’s 3rd leading rushing in the country, leading from the backfield. The defending champions are back with a pretty good returning cast although they will need to overcome some big losses. Two of the best defensive lineman in the country from a year ago Kwaku Boateng and Nakas Onyeka are now in the CFL. They will look to some of their other returnees to help lead the defence while Michael Knevel returns from Tiger-Cats camp with some renewed focus to lead the team through the air. Both teams are sure to be good shots to make a run this year but they won’t be alone. Carlton remains a team that could push some of the top teams although starting a freshman QB like Michael Arruda might make it more difficult. The usual suspects like Guelph and Ottawa will have a tough go as well with a new coach in Guelph trying to keep their winning tradition alive and the Gee Gees having to move on from star Derek Wendel. McMaster can always be a factor while the York Lions are hoping that they have finally built something after competing for the playoffs last year. Queen’s could also have a say in how things go as the Gaels are often in the hunt for the playoffs and haven’t shown many signs of slowing down. Near the bottom of the conference Toronto, Windsor and Waterloo are all trying to build their programs back and any could surprise but won’t be expected to be much of a factor this year. The OUA is always an interesting conference where anything can happen thanks to the amount of teams. Still, there are always some teams that tend to move up faster than others as no massive changing of the guard will happen this year.

OUA Champion:

western

canwest

Things were beginning to change for the CanWest conference as a long period of dominance by the Calgary Dinos seemed to be over. 2015 saw the rise of what was a new power in the UBC Thunderbirds thanks in large part due to the commitment of Michael O’Connor to return to Canada after receiving a scholarship from Penn State. His return was the difference for a team that struggled to get back to relevance and he made good on his return. The Thunderbirds found their way to the Vanier Cup and took home the national title in his first year back. It looked like they were ready to take over but that wasn’t quite the case in 2016. That is the year when the Dinos took back their title and rose to the top of the conference for another year. This year, both will be back looking to find their way to the top of the conference while others look to throw themselves into the race and make things interesting. The Dinos return without their star quarterback but they got lucky last year when he was hurt and Adam Sinagra took over. Sinagra now has full control over the team and will have Jeshrun Antwi helps him out from the backfield to make them another strong Calgary team. Their biggest rivals right now are Thunderbirds who will once again look to O’Connor to lead them. He is clearly the future of Canadian quarterbacks and he looks to make an impact in his third full season back in Canada. He will get help with his favourite target from a year ago in Trivel Pinto. The biggest test for either of these two teams comes with Regina who finished first in the conference last year but couldn’t take home the title in the playoffs. The Rams are led by returning stars including last year’s leading passer and Hec Crighton Award Winner Noah Picton. He will also have his top two receivers back in Mitchell Picton and Ryan Schienbein meaning they will have a very good passing attack. The Saskatchewan Huskies were also a factor last year behind the arm of Kyle Siemens and the legs of Tyler Chow who will both return to help lead them back to the playoffs. Manitoba and Alberta will both look to find their way back into the fight. The Bisons look to their defence again that will be without the top defensive player in DJ Lalama but will still have Jayden McKoy to help lead the team. The Golden Bears will look to the ground game to try and get them out of the hole they built last year as Ed Ilnicki returns to try to help them get back to the playoffs. The West is an interesting conference and as everyone focuses on the battle between Calgary and UBC Regina is sure to make things more interesting.

CanWest Champion:

uofr-rams

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