Recruiting season hit its peak last week with the arrival of NCAA signing day. Teams both south and north of the border are now putting the final touches on their 2014 classes, with many anticipating a banner recruiting year thanks to an abundance of high school and junior talent on the market.
With 19 players committed and several others either practicing with the team or close to signing, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies have plugged several holes in their roster and, just as importantly, built a solid foundation for the future. All of these recruits will be announced at Dogs’ Breakfast 14, which will be held Thursday, May 1 at Prairieland.
The Huskies are looking to regain the top of the mountain in Canada West after losing their Canada West semi-final game each of the last four years, and judging by the talent they have on their roster, they should be among the favourites to take the Canada West over the next few years.
So far, receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Jason Sulz is happy with the recruits the team has brought in. “I think we’ve addressed some needs and we still have a couple offers out there,” said Sulz. “We have a lot of guys who we think can help us and there will be another three or four guys we add down the road, in the next month or so.”
The Huskies have several holes to fill, notably at receiver, at defensive line and in the secondary. With over 60 players returning from last year’s squad, many roster positions will be filled with veterans, but positions like the three above will need game-ready recruits to contribute immediately as well as a base of young players to add to the team’s depth.
“Right at the end of the season, we felt like we needed to improve in the secondary,” said Sulz about the team’s needs. “We weren’t sure about our depth. We had some younger guys playing there who didn’t have a lot of experience, but over the last couple months, those guys have worked really hard and done some good things, and we’re less concerned about this area than we were at the end of the season.
“The defensive end spot is a concern, as we lost three pretty good guys. We also wanted to bring in another quarterback who could challenge for the number two spot and keep pressure on number one, too.”
The Huskies always bring in a mixture of high school and junior talent, leaning heavier towards high school recruits in recent years. That trend continues in 2014, with a number of former junior players from the Saskatoon Hilltops and Regina Thunder joining a significant contingent of Saskatoon and Regina high school players, as well as recruits from Alberta and BC.
Regina high schools have been very good to the Huskies over the years, and this year will be no exception. Three of the top-ranked recruits in the country, defensive back Gabe Simons, receiver Yol Piok and offensive lineman David Singer, will all be moving north to Saskatoon this fall.
Sulz has been able to observe and build relationships with these players as a coach with Team Saskatchewan at the Football Canada Cup. When it came time to sign them up to play for the Huskies, the team knew the kind of players, students and teammates they were getting.
“There are a lot of guys from this year’s (high school) class, that if we had to play them, we could. Gabe (Simons) definitely could come in and play anywhere, at corner, half, safety or rover. He will definitely come in here and compete.
“We have good guys on this team and it’s not just about what they do on the field. We need guys who are good to have in the locker room, in the study hall and in the gym. Guys who do a lot off the field, those are guys I think we have to have on our team. All the kids we’re bringing in this year fit the mold.”
Simons, Piok and Singer were not only part of Team Saskatchewan last summer, but all three, along with 10 other current and future Huskies, were on the rosters of the under 19 and under 18 Team Canada squads for last weekend’s International Bowl in Texas. Sulz believes these tournaments provide the players with excellent exposure to recruiting coaches while, at the same time, giving these young men valuable playing experience against tough opponents.
“All the national team stuff has definitely helped (recruiting),” noted Sulz, “and you get to see a lot of good players at the Football Canada Cup. We got to go the Moose Jaw combine and Edmonton combine for the junior national, under 18 team. So that was good to see guys who were out there to compete and were hungry to play at the next level.
“I think, developmentally, it helps by just getting these guys the opportunity to play more football.”
In part two of this interview, which will be posted Friday morning, Sulz talks about how the recruiting landscape has changed over the years and how the Huskies are adapting.