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Canada West Preview: UBC Thunderbirds

The 2010 Canada West previews are presented by Pizza Hut.

University of British Columbia Thunderbirds

Head Coach: Shawn Olson (1st Year)

2009 Record: 3-5, 110 points for, 263 points against (-153), fifth in Canada West. UBC was awarded two victories by default after it was discovered that Manitoba and Simon Fraser had each used an ineligible player in early season games against UBC.

Key Losses: Receiver Nate D’Arcy, RB Cheng Wei, OL Mike Morris

Key Additions: WR Victor Marshall, RB Justin Andrusko, LB Mark Bailey, DL Josh Williams, DL Jas Dillion, S Levar Hayden, OL Curtis Vizza, OL Jordy Kyle

Returning Offensive Starters: QB Billy Greene, RB Dave Boyd, WR Spencer Betts, SB Jordan Grieve, SB Brent Borthistle, LT Cody Husband, RG Zack Kotilla, RT Kelly Kurisu, C Oamo Culbreath, FB Kevin Kraft

UBC quarterback Billy Greene (11)

Offensive Outlook: The additions of former SFU Clan receiver Victor Marshall and Waterloo Warrior running back Justin Andrusko will complement the existing skill of players like quarterback Billy Greene and wide receiver Spencer Betts, each of whom are entering their third year of eligibility. This offence is poised to make great strides after finishing last in the Canada West in scoring in 2009, in which they averaged only 13.8 points per game.

The additions of 2009 BCFC all-star and outstanding offensive lineman Curtis Vizza and 2009 PFC all-star Jordy Kyle, formerly of the Regina Thunder, will likely have the greatest impact on the UBC offence in 2010. The Thunderbirds finished fifth in rushing in the conference with an average of 137 yards per game and finished sixth with 21 sacks against, showing an obvious need for improved play along the line of scrimmage.

Returning Defensive Starters: LE Connor Flynn, RE Brent Knull, NT Charlie Webster, DT Serge Kaminsky, LB Andy Algar, LB Nathan Kanya, LB Devin Kavanagh, CB Chris Mark, CB Sam Carino, HB Lance Milton, S Alex Babalos

UBC linebacker Andy Algar (54)

Defensive Outlook: Just like their offensive counterparts, the UBC defence finished last scoring, giving up an average of 32.9 points per game. The front seven of the Thunderbirds faced challenges from start of the season, trying to replace all-star defensive linemen like Scott McCuaig and Tommy Buchman, challenges which were compounded when linebacker Nathan Kanya was injured early in the season.

New faces such as Josh Williams, a 2009 BCFC all-star at defensive tackle, and Mark Bailey a starter in 2009 with the SFU Clan, will improve the front seven. The secondary returns all but one starter from 2009, a year where they finished second in the conference with 182.9 yards surrendered per game. Canada West All-Star Sam Carino and 2009 conference tackles leader Alex Babalos will be joined by 2009 BCFC all-star Lavar Hayden, which should give UBC one of the top defensive backfields in the conference.

Overall Outlook: First year head coach Shawn Olson, the former Thunderbird quarterback who was the offensive coordinator with the SFU Clan last season, has recruited very well, bringing in 40 plus new players, including many of the top high school seniors in BC. Although he will have his work cut out for him in terms of getting many new faces to gel and work as a team, his familiarity with many of the players, especially the SFU transfers, should pay off immediately.

The Thunderbirds haven’t finished at .500 or played in the playoffs since the 2006 season. That streak should stop in 2010, as a maturing core will be joined by experienced junior recruits and CIS transfers. This team is not the sure-win on the schedule it has been for the past four years, and will likely finish third and be a dangerous team in the playoffs.

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