The 2015 CIS football season is just around the corner and few teams are as excited to get training camp underway as the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Expectations for the 2015 Huskies are high, both inside the Graham Huskies’ Clubhouse and in the stands of Griffiths Stadium. At the conclusion of spring camp in May, it was clear that the Huskies had the talent and experience to contend for the 2015 Hardy Trophy, if not more.
Now, with the addition of two-time all-Canadian defensive tackle Donovan Dale to the defence, the Huskie’s area of greatest need has been solidified. This may have been enough to vault them to the top of the Canada West and the CIS, putting them even with their greatest rivals, the Calgary Dinos.
With quarterback Drew Burko entering his fourth season as the starter and with arguably the best and deepest receiving unit and offensive line in the conference at his disposal, the offense is as strong and deep as it has been since the 2004 and 2005 teams that ventured to the Vanier Cup. Like those teams, the offensive backfield is talented and deep, with Tyler Chow, Kayden Johnson, Jarvis James, Andre Lalonde and Wayndel Lewis all ready to inflict damage on Canada West defences this year.
The defence clearly needed an upgrade after last season, specifically in the secondary. In spite of leading the league in interceptions last year, the defence finished fifth in passing yards, giving up 320 yards per game. With all-Canadian Mark Ingram graduating, it was going to be tough to improve the pass defence, but with veterans Taylor Rehn, Chris Friesen and Dylan Kemp returning and with the addition of junior all-Canadians Vince Greco and Brooks Falloon and Team Saskatchewan stars Ben Whiting and Payton Hall, the secondary should be improved.
The Huskies may have the best set of linebackers in the Canada West, with fifth-years Dane Bishop and Geoff Hughes returning to the MAC and WIL positions, respectively. They will be pushed by Saskatoon Hilltops veteran and 2014 CJFL all-Canadian Justin Filteau and 2013 PFC rookie of the year and 2014 U-19 Team Canada starter Chris Brown-Fillion, a two-year starter with the Winnipeg Rifles.
The position of greatest need coming out of spring camp was the defensive line. With nose tackle Clayton Sarich graduating and fellow interior lineman Timi Agbaje likely to turn pro (which he did, as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders), the Huskies were looking thin on the interior. Veteran Brayden Twarynski moved inside, joining second-year tackle Evan Machibroda, while veterans Tristian Kronokiewicz, Brennen Thorpe and Preston McIntyre would cycle through the edge positions.
Now with the addition of Dale, the Canada West Metras Trophy nominee as top lineman in Canada, the Huskies have solidified their area of greatest need. Dale will immediately solidify what was the second best run defence in the conference in 2014, and more importantly, revitalize the anemic pass rush, which tied for last with only eight sacks last season. His three sacks and 22 tackles in 2014 were better than all Huskie defensive lineman and a similar performance in 2015 will enable his teammates to elevate their performances.
The Huskies are loaded with talent at each position and should be among the favourites to take the conference this season. It won’t be easy, as every team in the Canada West will be tough, with Calgary still the team to beat. However, those who overlook the Huskies will be in for a big surprise this year and next. This team is a good one.
We will start our coverage of the 2015 season next week with the annual Canada West previews before jumping into our coverage of training camp. Keep reading the Outsider for your Huskie Football information and get ready for an exciting season.