After two years of enviable recruiting classes, the Huskies are once again looking for Western Canada’s top football talent. With all but four starters returning from last year’s roster, it will be tough for new recruits to make an immediate impact, although recent events have shown us anything is possible.
For the Dogs, this will be a year of recruiting young talent to develop and replace some lost depth. Of course, the Huskies are a competitive team and there are no safe positions, with opportunity always there for the best players to flourish. This is part of what makes the Huskies one of the top programs in the country: they judge players based on performance and award playing time based on merit. Jade Etienne’s ascent last season from little used depth-player in 2009 to displacing a fifth-year, former leading receiver and becoming a CIS First-Team All-Canadian is proof that all positions are open for the right person at the right time.
The Huskies are anticipating big things from their 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes, with those who aren’t already playing on a regular basis expected to step up and challenge for vacated positions or challenge veterans for playing time. These recruits along with the recruits of the next two years will be critical in keeping the program at the top of the CIS rankings, as there are 24 players entering their fourth and fifth years of eligibility. The Huskies are looking for the next Bryce McCall, Peter Thiel, Ben Hennan and Rory Kohlert, and thanks to many advantages, from the unique game-day experience and history of getting players to the professional level to the many degree options at the university and the financial awards available, there is a good chance these players will choose the Huskies.
I sat down with Huskies’ Head Coach Brian Towriss last week to see where the team stands this offseason and what they’re doing to address needs, both immediate and future. Today, we’ll take a look at the defence, saving the offence and special teams for tomorrow.
For extra comments from Coach Towriss, please watch the video below.
Roster Players Leaving: Gregg Woytowich, Cody Halseth
Roster Players Returning: Mitch Friesen, Keenan MacDougall, Bryce McCall, Luke Thiel, Andrew Abbs, Mike King, Harley Irwin
Emerging Players: Zach Horsman, Adam Schwinghamer, Derek Oleksyn, Kent Walters, Jeremy Sroka
Synopsis: This is an area of strength for the Huskies, with four players who started last season returning, including Canada West All-Star and CIS First Team All-Canadian safety Bryce McCall. Andrew Abbs and Mike King impressed the coaches last year and will be among the contenders for the cornerback positions.
The Huskies return good depth at all but the corners, and expect them to recruit a few speedsters to compete with the incumbents. A shutdown corner in the mould of Paul Woldu would be nice, although larger, physical players like Jon Krahenbil and Grant Shaw would also be welcome additions.
Coach Towriss’ Comment: “We’re looking for seven or eight kids in the secondary. We ended up at the end of the year with 12 guys and two of them graduated. We like to carry 15 or 16 DBs, so we’ll need somewhere between 6 and 8 new faces next fall. It’s one of two areas we have to concentrate on.”
Roster Players Leaving: None
Roster Players Returning: Peter Thiel, Tony Michalchuk, Nico Higgs, Seamus Neary, Brodie Rothe, Charlie Power, Dane Bishop, Ron Mwamba, Rylund Hunter
Emerging Players: Jason Briggs, John Malcolm, Kody Kipp, Thomas Hilderman
Synopsis: With all the players from last year returning (at least to my knowledge), this doesn’t seem to be an area of need. However, two of last year’s starters are heading into their fifth years, and the other, MLB Peter Thiel, is entering his fourth year. This is a veteran unit, which means turnover is just around the corner and the time is right for a few recruits to come in and make an impression.
Players from the past two recruiting classes such as Seamus Neary, Dane Bishop and Charlie Power have come in and made immediate impacts in practice and during their limited game time. These players could make a serious case for more playing time and will certainly push the veteran starters in the spring and fall camps. Their hard-nosed, physical play combined with a nose for the football should serve as an example for new recruits.
Coach Towriss’ Comment: “This is a tough one, because we have 12 kids that are pretty good. But we also recognize that three of them will be gone next year. That’s a spot where there are some really good kids right in the province.
Team Sask (the under 19 team that won the Football Canada Cup last summer) had a group of linebackers that were good and they also had a group of two or three kids who played on the edge as down linemen or stand-up ends who are also true linebackers. So there are five or six kids in the province who we like a lot.”
Roster Players Leaving: Vaughn Rice
Roster Players Returning: David Rybinski, Zach Hart, Steve Kovach, Joel Seutter, Levi Steinhauer, Ben Rush, Carter Kolybaba, Alex Burko
Emerging Players: Justin Demontarnal, Tololima Auva’a, Joey Deason, Bryce Gorman, Taylor Garrett
Synopsis: As with the linebackers, the Huskies return a veteran unit along the defensive line. Ends Zach Hart and Joel Seutter are each entering their third year of eligibility, while tackles Steve Kovach and David Rybinski are returning for their fourth year. Levi Steinhauer, who recently starred with fellow defensive end Seutter in the USA vs. The World game, will demand more playing time with his speed, strength and solid technique.
Tackle seems to be an area of concern, as the team is an injury or two away from being very thin and undersized in the middle. Carter Kolybaba will play a bigger role this season if he can stay healthy, and his presence gives the Huskies more options on second-and-short situations. With Kovach and Rybinski heading into their fourth years, recruiting some size for the middle of the line may be a priority for the Huskies on defence.
Coach Towriss’ Comment: “We’d like to find another big tackle, for sure. There are a couple of pretty good high school kids, and we can’t expect them to step in, but fortunately we don’t have to have them play right away. If we could find one kid with experience at the d-tackle spot, that would be a benefit for us.
We’ve got five experienced edge guys right now who are all pretty good, and we had two of them who played on Team World last week. Levi Steinhauer has made huge strides and he’s a kid who will play someplace for us.”