It’s not often that a defence can turn over four starters, including both linebackers and the starting rover, and expect to be better than the previous season. I think improvement across the board is something the Huskies’ defence will deliver this year.
Just like on offence, the Huskies have a lot of room to improve. They gave up 300 points during the season, good for fourth in the conference, while surrendering an average of 547 yards per game, which placed them fifth out of the six-team Canada West conference.
While statistics are a good indicator of overall performance, they don’t show the complete picture. There were several bright spots on the defence that the team can build on, such as the performance of the front seven, who were the main reason behind the Huskies finishing third against the run (finishing only 0.6 yards per game behind the second-ranked run defence). The Huskies also led the conference in sacks, with second-team All-Canadian Donovan Dale leading the conference with eight sacks.
Thanks to another stellar recruiting class, the Huskies’ defence is poised to be one of the better defences in the conference.
Returning Veterans: Donovan Dale, Brayden Twarynski, Tristan Koronkiewicz, Evan Machibroda, Preston McIntyre, Liam Graham, Brett Schulz, Ajay Copp, Skylar Schellenberg, Mitchell Lyons
Fresh Faces: Matt Kozun, Nathan Cherry, Brandon McKimmon, Mulenga Chitanda
The Huskie defensive line will be the heart of the defence, led by second-team All-Canadian Donovan Dale, online gambling who attended the training camp of the Ottawa Red Blacks after posting eight sacks, 36 tackles and three forced fumbles. He will be joined on the interior of the line by third-year tackle Evan Machibroda, who complemented Dale’s eight sacks with two of his own. The 6’6”, 290 lb. Matt Kozun will make an already excellent defensive line better, bringing size as well as the experience of being a two-time All-Canadian with the Saskatoon Hilltops.
On the edge, fifth-year leader Brayden Twarynski, who I can’t believe is already in his fifth year, will provide veteran savvy on the pass rush. He will be joined by third-year player Tristan Koronkiewicz, who had a sack and a forced fumble to go with his 11 tackles last season. Preston McIntyre, who is also entering his third year, with press for playing time and give the Huskies great depth at defensive end.
Nathan Cherry and Brandon McKimmon are both highly touted recruits who played on Team Saskatchewan at the Football Canada Cup, but both are likely to red-shirt in this deep unit. However, keep an on Skylar Schellenberg, who has shown outstanding quickness off the edge in the last two spring camps. He may challenge the veterans for playing time this season, and gives the Huskies more excellent depth, if nothing else.
Returning Veterans: Justin Filteau, Ben Whiting, Brett Sellinger, Brad Kotania, Eric Thakurdeen, Logan Mainil
Fresh Faces: Quinn Pierce, Jonathan Leggett, Kyle Newton
Key Losses: Dane Bishop, Geoff Hughes
The loss of Dane Bishop and Geoff Hughes leaves a major hole for the Huskies to fill. Bishop led the team in tackles, with 50.5 to go along with a sack and a forced fumble, while Hughes added 27.5 tackles in five games before he was injured.
That injury allowed former Hilltop Justin Filteau to take the reigns late in the season, and he did not waste his time, finishing the year with 35.5 tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception. Another player who came off the bench to make a major impact was Ben Whiting, who added 15.5 tackles and a sack coming off of the bench. These two will be the frontrunners to start in the vacated linebacker spots.
These positions will be hotly contested in what should be the best battle for playing time in camp. Fifth-year veteran Brett Selinger and third-year veteran Brad Kotania are capable, proven contributors with junior experience. Another player with junior experience is Quinn Pierce, who is joining the team after a long career with the Saskatoon Hilltops.
The biggest challenge for playing time could come from Eric Thakurdeen and Logan Mainil, two second-year linebackers who both played for Team Canada’s U-19 team at the IFAF U-19 world championships in July in China, along with Huskie teammates Whiting and Mason Nyhus. Thakurdeen, in particular, had an excellent year on special teams, finishing his freshman year with 7.5 tackles, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
Returning Veterans: Spencer Krieger, Vince Greco, Brooks Falloon, Brett Boechler, Marco Scafidi, Lance Bashutsky, Brendan Ernst, Jacob Solie, Jesse Gordon, Zac Newman,
Fresh Faces: Tyler Seiffert, Josh Haggerty, Joel Seiferling, Colin Ferronato, Clovis Lumeka, Dustin Erbach, Matt Long, Daniel Mills, Chayse Wiggins
Key Losses: Chris Friesen, Dylan Kemp, Taylor Rehn
If the Huskies are to be successful this season, they will need to do some major work in the defensive backfield, improving both their personnel and their schemes.
The team finished dead last in the conference in passing yards surrendered, giving up 379.4 yards per game. Although they had 9 interceptions, which put them in a three-way tie for second in the conference, four were by Chris Friesen, who graduated in the offseason. He and rover Dylan Kemp, who also graduated, contributed 53.5 tackles in their final season, production which will need to be replaced.
Among the returning players is Brett Boechler, who enters his second season of eligibility. The former high school quarterback had a fine first season at safety, finishing fourth on the team with 28 tackles and supplementing that with three interceptions, good for second on the team. Two other key contributors from last year, junior stars Brooks Falloon and Vince Grecco will return, as will long-time Huskies Spencer Krieger and Lance Bashutsky, who are both capable of securing starting positions.
The battle for starting spots and roster positions will be intense with this group, as players like Marco Scafidi, Brendan Ernst and Jesse Gordon, who have all seen the field the last two years, enter their third years. The Huskies have also brought in a number of junior veterans, including Clovis Lumeka, a junior veteran from the Langley Rams who turned a few heads playing the rover position at spring camp.
Returning Veterans: Sean Stenger, Brayden Heck
The Huskies need to improve their placekicking in a major way, especially if the conference is as competitive and close as it is appearing right now.
Sean Stenger will likely do both jobs again, and needs to improve his accuracy, as he only made 52.2% of his field goal tries, the only kicker in the conference to not finish above 70 percent. His punting was better, finishing third in the Canada West with a 39.3 yard average, but even this could be improved.
The Huskies led the conference with a 21.6 yard average on kickoff returns. Lance Bashutsky led the team was tied for second in the conference with an average return of 25.4 yards. The Huskies will certainly look for more from the speedster this year, although I’m sure they would like to receive far fewer than the 43 kickoffs they did last season, which was second only to Alberta’s 47 kickoffs received.