There was not a lot of surprise when the announcement was finally made that former Waterloo headman, and longtime CFL assistant, Dennis McPhee would be Gryphon Football’s new defensive coordinator.
McPhee had been rumoured to be the leading candidate for more than a month. When I first heard McPhee’s name attached to the position, I wondered what his connection with Ryan Sheahan was. You expect a coach to hire someone he knows or has previously worked. But Sheahan’s season with the Ticats did not overlap with McPhee’s many years there. They may have crossed paths but they don’t appear to have coached together.
It’s pure speculation on my part, but I have to wonder if Pat Tracey didn’t have a role in this.
Consider, McPhee’s first 4 years at Guelph were as linebackers coach while Tracey was defensive coordinator. The season Tracey spent on Ron Lancaster’s Tiger-Cat coaching staff was during McPhee’s first stint with the Ticats. Given the Queen’s-Sheahan-Tracey connection, I’m certain that Sheahan would have talked to Tracey about the position. While he may not have been able to lure Tracey away from UBC, he likely came away with the next best thing – a recommendation from a trusted friend.
A few highlights from the Department of Athletics announcement:
McPhee, a Hamilton native, boasts 35 years of coaching experience, including 16 years in the professional ranks as a Defensive Line Coach with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. McPhee also has 19 years of coaching experience at the Canadian university level, having held head coaching roles on two separate occasions, leading the University of Waterloo’s football program for five seasons (2007-2011) after having served as head coach of the St. Francis Xavier X-Men for two seasons (2002-2003).
For McPhee, this marks his second stint as a defensive coach at the University of Guelph. From 1990-1993, McPhee served as the Gryphons linebackers coach, helping mold one of the greatest defensive units in program history, led by star linebackers Steve McKee and Mike O’Shea. In 1992, McPhee was part of the Gryphon coaching staff that led the Gryphons to what was then the second Yates Cup title in school history.
Read the full Gryphons.ca story here.
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From what I know at this point in time, it’s hard to say what type of defense McPhee will run. In his 35 years of coaching, he has spent just two seasons as a defensive coordinator – 1994 at McMaster and 2012 at Western. But, he has worked with some noteworthy defensive coordinators, from Pat Tracey (the winningest DC in U Sport history) to Don Sutherin to Jerry Glanville.
McPhee will have some time this Winter to see what he has to work with talent-wise. He also has what is probably the most experienced group of position coaches in U Sports to lean on for information and advice. Fortunately, he already knows them all.
McPhee has worked with DBs Coach Mark Forsyth at McMaster, D-Line Coach Brian Cluff during his previous 4-year stint at Guelph and with LBs Coach Joe Sardo for two years with the Tiger-Cats. Forsyth, Cluff and Sardo have all been OUA DCs at some point in their careers.