And the Earth Shook……
At least it did in this Prairie town. You may not have felt it on Saturday but it did.
There are moments not often recognized when they occur but become obvious years later when fundamental changes occur. Saturday will go down as one of those moments. Saturday was the CFL E-Camp or evaluation combine as it is commonly known. Friday was the NIC or National Invitational Combine which allows the best non-CFL E Camp invitees to also be tested. Huskies DT David Rybinski participated in the NIC. On Saturday 3 Huskie Football players competed in the physical testing portion of the CFL E-Camp and posted numbers that may in fact change the program forever. Take a gander at what our Huskies did this past weekend:
Bench Press (225 lbs)
Ben Heenan – 32 reps (second most of all participants)
David Rybinski – 29 reps
Keenan MacDougall – 23 reps (most by any DB tested and would have been #1 at the NFL combine amongst DB’s)
Bryce McCall – 20 reps (2nd most by any DB)
Keenan MacDougall – 41.5” (2nd overall)
Ben Hennan – 27” (tied for 1st in OL)
Kennan MacDougall – 10’ 075” (1St Overall)
Ben Heenan – 8’ 03” (1st in OL)
40 Yard Dash
Kennan MacDougall – 4.52 sec (Tied for 3rd Overall)
Keenan MacDougall – 4.02 sec (3rd Overall)
Bryce McCall – 4.15 sec (5th in DB’s)
3 Cone Drill
Bryce McCall – 6.71 sec (3rd in DBs)
These results are against the elite draft eligible Canadians from the CIS and NCAA.
The likely response by many to these results might be “Wow, that’s pretty impressive, the program should be proud,” which would in fact be accurate. I would ask a question to you however, what does the program look like if we graduate all of these players to the CFL in one year? Will we be able to compete at a high level this year? What would we look like this season without Ben Heenan, David Rybinski, Keenan MacDougall , Bryce McCall and let’s not forget about Peter Thiel.
My suggestion is that with the coaching and improved year round training facilities the program has, this may well become the ‘New Normal’. Huskie fans need to recognize that we will, more often than not, be losing draft eligible players in larger numbers than in the past to professional football annually. The Huskies already have more players in the CFL than any other CIS school and that is likely to continue. In fact the pace looks like it will quicken.
Recruiting and player development will continue to be an increasingly critical focus for the program. Coach Towriss and his staff have continually put a winning club on the field for decades. They have nimbly adapted to the changing realities of CIS football navigating the complexities of new challenges like the introduction of scholarships and rules changes (e.g. 5 in 7). They have demonstrated considerable skill in dealing with player graduations. The potential of significant losses in both numbers and talent to the CFL annually has not been a regular occurrence and the emergence of this adds increased complexity and challenge to fielding a winning team year in and year out.
Challenges however are meant to be overcome and the coaching staff are talented enough to recognize that with this challenge comes an opportunity. Recruiting no longer has only a provincial focus, it hasn’t for a long time. Recruiting is now a national and international endeavor. The Huskies are no longer competing primarily with Canada West schools for talented athletes but also with Western, Laval, Queens and NCAA schools. Top recruits come from every corner of the country and the continent. If the team is to remain competitive at an elite level, recruiting and player development will require a major investment of time and resources. At a minimum this means still more full-time coaching positions and working relationships with the business community to access summer jobs for athletes to allow them to stay in Saskatoon year round to train and accelerate their development.
There is no substitute for success on the field when it comes to recruiting. The number of players graduated to the professional ranks is attractive to recruits who have such aspirations, but at the end of the day these athletes want to go somewhere where they win. In this sense, winning has never been more important.
Fielding a consistent winner in the CIS has never been more difficult than it is today. Seeing Huskie football players making the kind of an impact they did at the E-Camps against the very best in the country just made it that much more difficult.
Like I said, the Earth Shook…….. I felt it.