OUA Gameday: 2011 Season Preview

The 2011 OUA football season kicks off with a full slate of games on Monday. This season, ten teams battle for the 104th Yates Cup thanks to the return of the Waterloo Warriors after a season-long program suspension. The Western Mustangs took home their 29th Yates Cup last season but the loss of key players means that it’s wide-open at the top of the OUA.

Guelph Gryphons

2010 Record: 4-4, 5th place, Lost in OUA Quarter-Final

Key Players: Chris Rossetti (QB), Jedd Gardner (R)
Key Arrivals: Saxon Lindsay (R), Vladimir Vesovic (OL)
Key Losses: Nick FitzGibbon (RB), Adam Dunk (LB), Matt Rossetti (LB)

2011 Outlook: Coach Stu Lang is entering his second year at the helm of the Gryphons and quarterback Chris Rossetti is back for his second year at starting QB. He won’t be hurting for threats in the passing game with Gardner and Lindsay as capable targets. However, the ground game is going to take a major step back this year. Nick FitzGibbon was one of the best rushers in the OUA and the Gryphons are going to have to find someone to step up to fill the void. The new tailback doesn’t have to be a world-beater. Just enough of a threat to take heat off Rossetti. The other side of the ball is in rougher shape. A lot of big names left due to graduation after last season. Overall, the Gryphons are poised to perform better this season than last. It’s just a matter of the pieces coming together. A top four finish is easily within reach.

Laurier Golden Hawks

2010 Record: 4-4, 4th place, Lost in OUA Semi-Final

Key Players: Shane Kelly (QB), Shamawd Chambers (R), Shane Herbert (DB)
Key Arrivals: Kelvin Muamba (R), Josh Perry (DL), Chris Ackie (LB)
Key Losses: Evan Pawliuk (QB), Giancarlo Rapanaro (K/LB)

2011 Outlook: If you want a darkhorse team for this season, take the Hawks. While Mac, Guelph and Western are deservedly garnering a lot of attention, Laurier is returning 17 starters from last season. That experience and general competitiveness (Laurier won four of their last five regular season games after starting 0-3) can carry them far this season. As if the Hawks needed more inspiration to compete this season, it’s WLU’s 100th anniversary of being founded this year. Expect Laurier to be in the final four this season. Anything more definitely wouldn’t be a stretch.

McMaster Marauders

2010 Record: 6-2, 3rd place, Lost in OUA Semi-Final

Key Players: Kyle Quinlan (QB), Joey Nemet (RB), Ryan Chmielewski (LB)
Key Arrivals: Max Cameron (R), Sean Smith (OL), Aram Eisho (LB)
Key Losses: Jordan Kozina (RB), Kevin d’Hollander (R), Justin Glover (OL)

2011 Outlook: The Marauders were very close to making it to the Yates Cup last season. They were only one score away from toppling Western in the semi-final. I should note that their two losses came on the road to Western and Ottawa. This was a very good team last season and is a great team this season. They’ve made the semi-finals the last two seasons and if they can’t past the semi-final in 2011, this season will be a disappointment. They’re going to contend for the Yates Cup this year. It’s just a matter of if they can pull it off.

Ottawa Gee-Gees

2010 Record: 7-1, 1st place, Lost in Yates Cup final

Key Players: Steven Hughes (R), Nick Lecour (LB) Matt Falvo (K)
Key Arrivals: Derek Wendel (QB), Keven Carmichael (DT), Alexandre Labonté (LB)
Key Losses: Brad Sinopoli (QB), Cyril Adjeity (R), Matthew Bolduc (R),  Chayce Elliott (DB)

2011 Outlook: When you have to replace your Hec Crighton Award winning quarterback, you’re probably not in as good shape as you were last season. The biggest task for the Gee-Gees this season is finding offense without Brad Sinopoli under center. They’re also have to replace about nine other fifth-year starters who graduated after last season. Basically, this year’s Gee-Gees squad can be found in the dictionary as the picture next to “rebuilding.” Making the playoffs will be probably the best they can manage this season.

Queen’s Gaels

2010 Record: 3-5, 6th place, Lost in OUA Quarter-Final

Key Players: Billy McPhee (QB), Osie Ukwuoma (DL), Dan Village (K)
Key Arrivals: Jesse Andrews (RB), Curtis Carmichael (R), Christophe Smith (DB)
Key Losses: Matt O’Donnell (OL), Chris Ioannides (R), Devan Sheahan (R)

2011 Outlook: With three starting receivers and two starting offensive linemen graduating, to say that the Queen’s offense is in a rebuilding phase would be an understatement. Billy McPhee, in his second year as the starter, will have to carry the load for the offense and may spend most non-gamedays soaking in an ice bath thanks to the young offensive line. However, the defense is in good shape and will be the ones that will have to salvage victory this season for Queen’s. Despite the young offense, they’ve got a favourable schedule that avoids Guelph so a two or three loss season is well within reach.

Toronto Varsity Blues

2010 Record: 3-5, 7th place

Key Players: Andrew Gillis (QB), Aaron Milton (RB)
Key Arrivals: Richard Quittenton (QB), Dorian Monroe (S)
Key Losses: Hugo Lopez (S), Kyle Kennedy (S), Derek Batchelor (DB)

2011 Outlook: Greg Gary takes over as head coach of the Blues. He takes over a team that might be on the cusp of the playoffs (depending on how optimistic you are). The big question for the Blues is whether last season’s win over Ottawa was a fluke or a sign of things to come. After all, this team managed to beat York and Ottawa but lose to Windsor all at home. Their third win was a forfeit win over Laurier. The 2010 team was more or less an enigma. This season’s team has to decide whether it’s a contender or a pretender because it can easily fit either.

Waterloo Warriors

2010 Record: Program suspended for 2010 season

Key Players: Luke Balch (QB), Evan Martin (QB), Jordan Verdone (LB)
Key Arrivals: Ryan DiRisio (RB), Jesse House (OL), Brendan Conway (LB), Kyle Wasson (LB)
Key Losses: Most of the team before the 2010 season

2011 Outlook: I’m not really sure what to say about the Warriors heading into this season. After the administration suspended the football program for the 2010 season, most folks would have said that the program was completely dead. Yet here they are for another kick at the can. This is basically a brand new team compared to the squad that took to the field in 2009. Most of the star players left for other schools/teams in 2010. It’s going to be a rough season for the Warriors this year. A one-win season would be an accomplishment considering what they’ve been through.

Western Mustangs

2010 Record: 7-1, 2nd place, Yates Cup champion, Lost in Uteck Bowl

Key Players: Donnie Marshall (QB), Jerimy Hipperson (RB), Matt Norman (OL), Mike Van Praet (DL)
Key Arrivals: Peter Gray (LB), Byron Perez-Archambault (LB)
Key Losses: Adrian Kaiser (LB), John Surla (LB), Craig Butler (DB)

2011 Outlook: The losses on the defensive side of the ball have to scare the Mustangs faithful. The d-line is relatively unchanged from last season’s yates Cup winning squad. It’s everything behind the front four that needs an overhaul heading into this season. The offense remains relatively unchanged from the prior year with the same core of skill players expected pound the ball up the middle and chase down Donnie Marshall airballs. That seems to the lot in life for Western football squads since I started covering the team. One side of the ball gets sorted out while the other has to rebuild. Even that Vanier Cup final squad in 2008 had a rebuilding offence to start the season. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. The final four is almost a given for the Stangs this year. There’s a lot of good teams between them and a Yates Cup repeat, though.

Windsor Lancers

2010 Record: 2-6, 8th place

Key Players: Sam Malian (QB), Austin Kennedy (QB), Jordan Brescacin (R), Akeem Whonder (LB)
Key Arrivals: Sebastien Rimbert (K), Gilbert Stewart (RB), Marcus St. Aubin (DB)
Key Losses: Robert Eeuwes (K), Matt Bucknor (DB)

2011 Outlook: The Lancers aren’t poised to be an OUA powerhouse this season but they’ve definitely been in worse shape. Mike Morencie is out as head coach which can only be seen as an improvement considering the Lancers only racked up 33 wins in 101 games with him at the helm. Joe D’Amore takes over at head coach for a team that returns nine offensive starters and 10 on defense. Normally, bringing back that many starters would mark good things for the season. However, those 19 starters played for a two-win squad in 2010. I don’t think they’re playoff bound but I don’t think they’ll drop below last season’s finish. After all, they have games against Waterloo and York this season and managed to avoid Western.

York Lions

2010 Record: 0-8, 9th place

Key Players: Nick Coutu (QB), Coach Warren Craney’s expected 18 new starters
Key Arrivals: Dylan Belair (WR), Michael Livingston (DE), Robinson Akintade (DB)
Key Losses: Boris Radulovic (OL), Micheal Boyd (WR), Jason Marshall (DB)

2011 Outlook: I’d like to say that I have a positive outlook for the Lions this year but I really don’t. After being absolute rock bottom in the CIS last season, there’s nowhere but up for them this year. Their only hope to get off their nearly four-year losing streak is to beat a returning Waterloo Warriors team in Week 3. For the record, York’s last win was on September 29, 2007, in the annual Red and Blue Bowl.

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