Thorn seeing lots of CFL action

Thorns

Cam Thorn with his parents Brian and Melinda

I tuned into the Stampeders @ Alouettes game this past week and immediately noticed that #58 Cam Thorn was playing every series. I meant to check the Stamps depth chart to see if he was the starter.  The following story explains the situation.

From Stampeders.com – Cam Handles Thorny Situation

When dressing for a game, you have to be ready to step up when your number is called.

During Friday night’s contest against the Montreal Alouettes, offensive lineman Cam Thorn found himself pressed into action when Brad Erdos was sidelined.

Going from being the sixth man to playing every snap was an adjustment but the 27-year-old quickly found his form and felt more comfortable as the game progressed.

“Sometimes it’s hard,” Thorn said. “Realistically, the coach makes sure that everyone that dresses is prepared to get into the game and when you go in, you have to be ready at any moment. It was an adjustment, not a big one, but it’s something that you have to adjust to at first but then you settle in.”

Answering the bell isn’t anything new for the Midhurst, Ont., product – a similar situation occurred against the Ottawa RedBlacks earlier in the season. It can be a difficult situation but Thorn hopes his performance has left a favourable impression on the Stamps coaching crew. And he vows to again be ready the next time he’s called upon.

“I always knew that it doesn’t matter where you are in the position chart,” Thorn said. “You can play at any time because of injuries. They are unfortunate, but they do happen during the game and they’re a part of football.

“Doesn’t matter which position you play, it always takes a couple snaps to get into it, but I think I did a good job and held my own.”

The lineman is all too familiar with adjustments, even back before when he was playing college football with the Guelph Gryphons. Thorn spent the majority of his college career playing on the defensive side of the ball before making the switch over to the offensive line during his final season. He was named to the first-team Ontario all-star and second-team all-Canadian during his lone season at guard in 2013 and ever since he has been protecting his own quarterback rather than attacking the opponent’s.

Last season with the Stamps, Thorn started three games at centre and one at left guard. He vows to keep working on his craft at practice.

“Overall, I’m trying to get better each and every week,” Thorn said. “You pick a couple things a day to get better at and work on them. I’ve been in these situations before and I’m ready to step up if needed.”

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First FoGF CFL Tailgate Party

I’m really looking forward to this game today …

Ticats at Argos

And it’s not just because there will be 5 Gryphons playing in it – Bomben, Walker, Reinhart, Newton and Finley. Nor is it because it is the oldest rivalry in professional football.

I think it has more to do with the fact it will be the first tailgate party of the season for Friends of Gryphon Football and the Parents of Players Group.

Here is evidence that I’m not the only one who feels that way …

It is the people who make Gryphon Football special and who make the tailgating aspect of it so much fun!

I’m really happy that many of the people who have been organizing the POP Group tailgates for the past 8-9 years will be there. I’m even happier that they will be able to enjoy today’s tailgate without having to do much, if any, of the work. They deserve it.

The above photos are from various tailgate parties over the past 3-4 years and were all taken by Lou Toppan.

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Two more Gryphons crack CFL rosters

Congratulations to John Rush and Jacob Scarfone on making CFL rosters for the first time!

Linebacker-turned-fullback Rush made the active roster of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in his second training camp with the team. The Bombers have a Week 1 bye, thus Rush won’t play in his first CFL regular season game until July 1 in Regina.

Receiver Scarfone was added to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats practice roster. I haven’t heard much about his recent “health” status but Scarfone hurt his ankle early in training camp. He may in fact be placed on the Injured List in the coming days.

scarfone draft image

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The addition of Rush and Scarfone, minus Jake Piotrowski who retired after a 3-year career with the Montreal Alouettes, means there are now 10 Gryphons on CFL rosters. Ryan Bomben, Rob Maver, Cam Thorn, Alex Charette, Jake Reinhart, Jeff Finley, Cam Walker and Curtis Newton are the others.

That may or may not be an all-time high. It is definitely the most we’ve seen in the last 20 years.

Unfortunately, the news was not as positive for Johnny Augustine, Ian Marouf and Ryan Nieuwesteeg.  The trio did not make the final rosters of the Eskimos, Blue Bombers and Argonauts respectively.

Augustine did make a positive impression during training camp in Edmonton according to this Global News report.

The Eskimos reached out to him and signed him as a free agent on May 15 and the 5’8″ 202 pounder, who has been moved from tail back to full back, is in Eskimos camp and making an impression.

“Johnny came in as a raw, raw full back” said running backs coach Tim Prinsen

“He came in with the right attitude wanting to do everything in his power to become the player we asked him to be. It was probably overwhelming at first but he stuck his nose to the grindstone and worked and worked and worked and has continued to work and ask all the right questions.

“It’s been really neat to see his progression from the start of camp to now. He is a totally different guy”

Augustine has previously said he was 100% committed to returning to Guelph if he didn’t stick in the CFL. The Gryphons don’t have many 5th year players coming back in 2017. Augustine’s presence could have a large impact on the team. I would love to see him have a John Rush-type final season before getting another shot in the CFL.

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You can watch five of those former Gryphon players in action next Sunday, June 25 by joining the Friends of Gryphon Football at Toronto’s BMO Field. The Friends of Gryphon Football, in conjunction with the Parents of Players, are hosting their first CFL Game & Tailgate Party. The game is the season opener for the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

CFL Tailgate poster

Buy your tickets here.

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Latest from Winnipeg

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MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Blue Bombers at training camp at Investors Group Field last week. Winnipeg Blue Bombers Quinshad Davis (87), John Rush (32) and Mike Miller (24) during practice.

From the Winnipeg Free Press – Eager Canadian driving offensively in Rush-hour gridlock at Bomber camp

Canadian linebacker gets offensive

‘Tough and crafty’ Rush taking reps at fullback as team gears up for season

By Jeff Hamilton

John Rush doesn’t remember much about the first time he was asked to play fullback. He’s not sure he was even asked, given he was only nine at the time and in his first year of organized football. The details of that season are faint, but he does recall the team being named after — or at least sponsored by — the local Dairy Queen.

“Our mascot was a Blizzard,” Rush said, chuckling, while standing in the end zone at Investors Group Field, one of nearly 90 players at Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp.

Rush lasted just one season at fullback, preferring instead to play on the defensive side of the ball. There, the game came naturally, with Rush establishing himself as one of the best high school players in Niagara Falls, Ont., and then across the entire country. In his final season at the University of Guelph in 2015, Rush, a feisty middle linebacker, was named the Presidents’ Trophy winner as the nation’s top defensive player, leading the country with 60 tackles.

Rush, who amassed 150 solo tackles and assisted on 129 more in his five seasons with the Gryphons, said his passion to play on defence was in his blood, with his dad a middle linebacker in high school and his older brother a safety. Part of him, though, has always loved the offensive side of the game. Whenever the Gryphons opened training camp, Rush would lobby offensive co-ordinator Kevin MacNeill to include him on a play or two. MacNeill, now the head coach of the Gryphons, was quick to laugh off the request and Rush never pushed, knowing any chance to attract attention from CFL teams would be on defence.

Or so he thought.

The Bombers, after combing through game film, were impressed by Rush’s high football IQ, particularly his instincts around the ball. So they signed him prior to the 2016 season. A lower-body injury to start camp — just the latest in a string of injuries over his career, including a torn ACL in 2013 that derailed his season and ultimately caused him to go undrafted the following year — hindered his chances and Rush, unable to impress in pre-season, was released shortly after.

Despite a rough start, O’Shea, who also played middle linebacker at Guelph, still believed Rush had something to give to the game, perhaps possessing a soft spot given their university connection. Either way, O’Shea believed Rush warranted another shot.

“There’s something there, he understands the game,” O’Shea said. “From however he looks at it, he just gets the game.”

For Rush’s part, he returned home in 2016 with a list of instructions of what to work on, primarily his foot speed and endurance. So he committed to getting better on not just that, but everything about his game. He split workouts between the Hamilton Hurricanes of the Canadian Junior Football League and in his backyard back home, where he worked on drills with his brother.

“I was doing everything in my power to showcase what I could do for this team,” he said.

Rush remained on the team’s negotiation list throughout the 2016 season and was signed in December. O’Shea, having assessed the roster, decided to approach Rush early in April’s mini-camp with a potentially life-altering question: would he be interested in playing fullback?

“He was just like, ‘You don’t have to do it, it’s just an option,’ ” Rush recalled. ” ‘Do you want to?’ ”

Rush, having first dreamed of playing professionally since the age of six (he was hooked after watching a commercial that included a football player doing a front flip over an oncoming defender) wasn’t about to be picky. He accepted and the transformation began.

Some of the differences between offence and defence are subtle. Instead of a blue jersey, a white one now hangs in his locker.

Instead of running into bodies and tackling them to the ground, Rush is now asked to run over his opponent and then continue down field or protect the quarterback he used to hunt.

“There are a lot of similarities,” Rush said, “because, after all, football is still football.”

But some of the changes are more complex and have taken more time to fully digest. The biggest adjustment, he said, is learning the lingo of a new playbook. He recalled the sudden surge he felt in his chest the first time he heard starting quarterback Matt Nichols call a play in the huddle. Where Rush was used to digesting three or four words to describe a play or formation on defence, on offence it was more like a short story.

“It’s like a play that’s 30 words long and each word means something different for each player. That’s the trickiest part, for sure,” said Rush.

“It’s a different code that I grew up in. On defence, I’d hear the word and it would be instinctual, it would be super easy for me. On offence, I have to remember which side of the ball to line up on and in what exact position. It’s very precise and exact but it’s been good.”

The Bombers need to trim the roster down to 56 by June 17, and if Rush is going to earn one of those spots, he knows he’ll need to show he can be versatile. With Mike Miller and Christophe Normand both ahead of him on the depth chart at fullback, they provide both a constant resource to learn from and an obstacle for how much playing time he’ll be afforded. Rush understands if he is to make his dream a reality, it won’t be about how quick he can adjust to a new position but how well he can perform when called upon.

Like most young Canadians who are new to the CFL, Rush is aware it will take time for his role on the team to evolve, if he sticks around at all. He won’t be called up soon, if ever, to run in for a touchdown. More likely, he’ll be leaned on to contribute first through special teams.

O’Shea hasn’t ruled out Rush as a linebacker in the future — “If he was on a game-day roster and you were playing short yardage and you needed a linebacker, he’d fill right in now, no problem” — nor is he married to making him a permanent fullback. At this point in camp, he’s looking for good football players. And he thinks he’s found one.

“He’s not a linebacker or a fullback or a special-teamer, this guy plays football — he gets it from both sides of the ball. He’s tough and he’s crafty,” O’Shea said. “We’ll see how he fares through the exhibition season, through the two games, but the reason you move a guy like that is because you want to give him the best opportunity and you want him to be able to compete and try and win a spot because if he does win that spot, he’ll be an asset in three phases.”

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Gryphons add a key piece to defense

When the Gryphon Football program introduced their 2017 recruiting class on May 27th it was reasonable to assume that the class was complete but today they added another piece.

Defensive end Alain Cimankinda, an Ottawa native, who is a Champlain-Lennoxville CEGEP grad and played at New Mexico Military Institute in 2016, signed on with the Gryphons today.

Cimankinda is the type of player who is worth waiting for. Just two weeks ago I heard Guelph was locked in a battle with Western and UBC for Cimankinda’s services. No doubt new Offensive Coordinator J-F Joncas, who coached Cimankinda in CEGEP played a key role in getting Guelph into the race for his commitment.

Then, a late May recruiting visit to campus allowed the program to sell itself. Meeting the coaches, getting to know his future teammates, seeing the facilities and realizing the opportunity he would have at Guelph took care of the rest.

Cimankinda becomes the third Champlain-Lennoxville graduate to join the Gryphons incoming recruiting class. The other are a pair of receivers – AJ Chase and Zeph Fraser. He played his high school football at Franco Cite High School in Ottawa for Coach Jean Guillaume.

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One CFL Gryphon announces his retirement

Pietrowski2-Als

Jake Piotrowski  Photo: 

Early this evening former Gryphon offensive lineman Jake Piotrowski announced his retirement from the Montreal Alouettes.

Piotrowski shared that news via his Facebook page.

Today with my family and friends support entering what would have been my fifth training camp as a CFL Player I am announcing my retirement.

With my responsibilities at home growing I feel it necessary that I return to my family and my farm. It’s truly where my heart is.

Football has introduced me to my best friends. Football has allowed me to travel my country and play with spectacular athletes. Living in the city of Montreal has been a great contrast to my upbringing. I am very grateful for the opportunity the Alouettes have given me! They believed in a farm boy from Shanty Bay! Now it’s time I return home to my roots!

Thank you to all of you have supported me! It means the world to me!

A 2009 recruit, Piotrowski redshirted his freshman season at Guelph. He moved into a starting role in 2010 and 2011, then missed the 2012 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Piotrowski was an OUA All Star in 2013. He was the Gryphons’ Lineman of the Year in 2011.

Chosen in the 5th Round of the 2013 CFL Draft, 41st overall, by Montreal. Piotrowski made the Alouettes roster in 2014 and dressed in 49 games over three seasons.

Piotrowski vs York

#58 Jake Piotrowski pancakes a York lineman Photo: Lou Toppan

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16 Gryphons in CFL camps this week

CFL training camps got underway across the league today.

By my count there will be 19 Gryphons in CFL training camps. That includes three in coaching and management – Kyle Walters, Mike O’Shea and Jarryd Baines – in addition to 16 players. It would have been 20 but for Curtis Rukavina’s move from the CFL Argonauts to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills just announced yesterday.

Of the 16 players, nine are veterans of one or more CFL seasons and seven are rookies.

The most seasoned of the veterans are Calgary punter Rob Maver and Hamilton o-lineman Ryan Bomben. The pair finished their Gryphon careers in the 2009 season and were 2010 CFL draft picks.

The other “vets” all broke into the league between 2014 and 2016. They would include Cam  Thorn, Jake Piotrowski and Jake Reinhart in the 2014 season, Jeff Finley, Cam Walker and Alex Charette in 2015 and Curtis Newton in 2016.

There were some lean years for Gryphon talent in the CFL prior to 2014.  I’m not sure if there was a CFL regular season with more than two Gryphons in the league in the decade prior to that. Several seasons after the retirement of Mike O’Shea and David McKoy there were no active Gryphons. Things have come a long way.

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The schedule has been a little different for the rookies. They started training camp mid-week with 3-day Rookie Camps. They had the day off Saturday before joining the veterans in the main camp today.

Trying to make a CFL roster for the first time are …

A’dre Fraser – WR – Montreal Alouettes – a 2016 draft pick of the Als, brought back for a second crack at making their roster

Ryan Nieuwesteeg – WR – Toronto Argonauts – another 2016 draft pick who was deemed worthy of a second look

Jacob Scarfone – WR – Hamilton Tiger-Cats – 2017 6th Round draft pick

scarfone draft image

Gryphons.ca

Tristan Doughin – DB – Hamilton Tiger-Cats – signed as a free agent

John Rush – LB/FB – Winnipeg Blue Bombers – this will be Rush’s second training camp with the Bombers. They put him on their neg list immediately after the 2015 Yates Cup, signed him for 2016 and re-signed him for 2017. In the off-season Rush was asked to transition to the Fullback position and he embraced that change.

Ian Marouf – DL – Winnipeg Blue Bombers – 2017 6th Round draft pick

marouf draft image

Gryphons.ca

 

Johnny Augustine – RB – Edmonton Eskimos – signed as a free agent

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Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea discusses his expectations for the rookies over the three days before the veterans report for the main camp.

https://www.cfl.ca/2017/05/25/oshea-this-is-about-them-learning-enough-to-compete/

 

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Another Gryphon to the NFL

Curtis Rukavina

Curtis Rukavina

Congratulations to former Gryphon linebacker Curtis Rukavina on being hired by the Buffalo Bills!

Rukavina is the third Gryphon to land an NFL job, joining Thomas Dimitroff Jr. [General Manager, Atlanta Falcons] and Chris Rossetti [Pro Scout,  Miami Dolphins].

From BuffaloBills.com

Buffalo’s front office was busy again on Friday filling out their pro and college scouting departments. The club announced the hirings of five scouts.

… hired as a Pro Scout was Curtis Rukavina, who most recently worked for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League as their Director of Player Personnel.

Rukavina’s rise from assistant linebacker coach for the Gryphons to NFL Scout has been a fast one. It has been less than 3 years since the Toronto Argonauts plucked him off the Guelph sidelines in the middle of the 2014 season and gave him his first full-time football job.

John Rush chatting with Assistant LB Coach Curtis Rukavina

John Rush chatting with Asst LB Coach Curtis Rukavina

Justin Dunk has the most thorough story on Rukavina and his rise through the football ranks on the 3Down Nation blog – On the rise: Canadian scout Curtis Rukavina jumps from Argos to Bills.

Just a couple of the highlights …

After graduating, Rukavina was coaching at Guelph in 2014 when an opportunity came about with the Toronto Argonauts. As Rukavina was helping prepare the defensive game plan in the bowels of Alumni Stadium the week of Guelph’s homecoming game against Queen’s that season, his phone started ringing with an old teammate turned scout on the other line. Chris Rossetti, who was the Argos director of player personnel at the time, said there was an opening in the scouting department and Rukavina would have to start now.

Rossetti: “Are you in?”

Rukavina: “Absolutely.”

Rukavina told then-Guelph defensive coordinator Kevin MacNeill about the position he had been offered and it was off to Toronto for the coming Monday where Rukavina began his pro football scouting ascent.

And,

Rukavina was clearly fast tracking, he had been in the CFL for a year and a half and already earned lots of responsibility from a four-time Grey Cup champion football man in Barker. As Rukavina was moving up quickly in Toronto’s front office, he was doing the same in the minds of scouting connections he had developed in the NFL. After the 2017 NFL draft, Buffalo let go pretty much their entire scouting staff, which created openings.

“It sparked with Rossetti planting the seed for me,” Rukavina says.

New Bills general manager Brandon Beane called Argos counterpart Jim Popp in May asking for permission to interview Rukavina. Afterward, he went down to Buffalo for an interview for a pro scout position.

“I talked to people about what to expect so I would be prepared. I met with Beane, Joe Schoen [Bills assistant GM] and Brian Gaine [Bills vice president of player personnel] individually,” Rukavina explains.

The same day Rukavina interviewed, he was outside watching the team go through organized training activities at the Bills practice facility when Beane walked up beside him and asked: “Are you in?”

Rukavina responded: “Heck ya! Let’s do it.”

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Augustine signs with Esks as a free agent

The failure of any CFL team to select Johnny Augustine was one of the bigger surprises of this past Sunday’s draft.

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It seemed like a no-brainer that some team was going to sign him as a free agent …

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Now we hear from Justin Dunk at the 3-Down Nation blog that the Edmonton Eskimos are the lucky team …

University of Guelph running back Johnny Augustine has been added as a non-counter by the Edmonton Eskimos and will attend training camp with the club.

Augustine, who was ranked at No. 17 in the final version of the CFL Scouting Bureau, went unselected in last Sunday’s draft but was added by the Esks as one of two Canadian players each team can bring to training camp as long as they have not played a down in the CFL. They, like CFL Draft picks, do not count as part of the team’s 75-man roster.

The 5-foot-10, 210 pound ball carrier has played four seasons for the Gryphons playing in 27 games while registering 361 carries for 2,052 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had a strong performance at the CFL Combine in March in which he performed well in the pass protection and one-on-one receiving sessions.

Most CFL teams employ an American at running back and scouts sayAugustine doesn’t have much by way of special teams film – a key component for young Canadians trying to make a CFL roster – and that may have ultimately caused teams to shy away from selecting the Welland, Ontario native.

Eskimos logo

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Some insightful words on Augustine’s situation from Duane Forde in this CFL Draft Recap podcast. [26-33 minute mark]

One irony of the situation is that three of the linebackers that Augustine manhandled, even pancaked, at the CFL Combine [Nakas Onyeka, Jordan Herdman and Justin Herdman] were selected in the draft.

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Random Tidbits on CFL & NFL drafts

♦ The name of Johnny Augustine appeared on everyone’s list to players who most impressed at the CFL’s National Combine. The two mock drafts I’ve seen recently have him going in the 2nd Round of Sunday’s draft.  John Hodge of 3-Down Nation blog has the Saskatchewan Roughriders drafting him with the 11th pick.

Augustine was one of the biggest risers at the combine, testing well in the drills and dominating in the pass protection one-on-ones. His versatility as a ball carrier and receiver make him a prime target for a Rider team that is expected to start a Canadian running back in 2017.

Meanwhile, Marshall Ferguson thinks he could be going to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as the 15th selection.

If Andrew Harris goes down in a game where you have to protect your new starting quarterback Matt Nichols, why not employ the services of a running back who looks as chiseled as a roman statue and owns a black belt in karate? Johnny Augustine can do it all, including an increased ability to run routes which would fit Harris’ usage patterns in Paul Lapolice’s Winnipeg offence.

Ferguson didn’t have Augustine’s name in the first three rounds of version 1.0 of his 2017 Mock CFL Draft. Give Justin Dunk some credit, he had Augustine as one of the next best players outside the Top 20 CFL prospects even before the combine process began.

I don’t think anyone connected to the Guelph program is really surprised with Augustine’s rise up the draft board. He was always a stud athlete with an incredible work ethic and is a genuinely friendly person. It is a shame that his senior season started with an injury in the 1st Quarter of the first game. Johnny didn’t have a chance to rack up the numbers that would have attracted more attention earlier. In spite of missing most of three games and then playing on an ankle that was less than 100% Augustine still rushed for 637 yards and caught 8 passes for 57 yards.

♦ Which other Gryphons may be drafted?

I think there is a very good chance we’ll hear the name of Jacob Scarfone called. A back-up receiver and special forces stud his first two seasons in Guelph, Scarfone exploded in 2015. First, he went viral with his one-handed back-flip catch after a summer workout session. Then, he earned 1st Team OUA and 2nd Team All-Canadian honours with 57 catches for 940 and 10 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. Scarfone missed the entire 2016 season after injuring his knee last May.

Scarfone was invited to the CFL’s Toronto Combine but he did not participate in any drills other than the Bench Press where he put up a very respectable 19 reps. When I talked to Scarfone back on April 12 at FoGF’s London Reception he had just received a full medical clearance to participate in all football activities.

At that time, Scarfone told me he was relying on his agent to stir up interest among CFL teams. That seems to have worked. As I understand it, his agent lined up some workouts with CFL teams in recent weeks and they went very well. I think his breakout 2015 season and his recently demonstrated recovery will be enough for some team to select him. Here are his 2015 highlights …

♦ I haven’t seen 2013 Rookie of the Year Ian Marouf in several years but unless he is out of shape, which I doubt, and if I’m a CFL general manager, there is no way he goes undrafted. He had the physical size, athleticism and skills to deserve a CFL opportunity. I never understood why his CFL draft clock did not start when he entered a U.S. junior college back in 2011. He was in his third year of college eligibility when he arrived at Guelph but that was Year 1 for the CFL. It makes no sense.

♦ A couple other Guelph D-linemen, or potentially linebackers – Derek Drouillard and Matt Delmas – are considered long-shots prospects for the draft. Drouillard has already been selected a captain for the 2017 edition of the Gryphons. Delmas has done everything necessary to be eligible to return to the Gryphons if he wants to, based on what DC Adam Grandy said at one of the FoGF receptions.

♦ Check out the Souncloud link in this tweet …

♦  When Duane Forde (TSN) and Marshall Ferguson (CFL.ca) talk about the burning questions of this draft the answers begin in Winnipeg …

With the first and sixth picks, Kyle Walters holds the keys to the first round of the CFL Draft. He’ll have a plethora of options including trading the pick, selecting the best player available or picking someone who is guaranteed to be present in camp next month.

Should Walters keep the pick, which is the expected outcome at this point in time, two major candidates to go first overall are Iowa defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie and Manitoba offensive lineman Geoff Gray.

♦ The latest from Arash Madani at Sportsnet.ca – Blue Bombers negotiating with Ekakitie; plan to take him No. 1 in draft

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have started contract negotiations with University of Iowa defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie and, barring a trade, will take the 24-year-old with the No. 1 overall pick in Sunday’s CFL draft.

Sources told Sportsnet that Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters has already begun talks with Ray Haija, Ekakitie’s agent, on an entry-level deal to avoid any issues after the draft.

nfl-logo

Down south, Sports Illustrated gave Thomas Dimitroff’s Atlanta Falcons a B grade in the recent NFL Draft.

The Falcons traded up in Round 1 to nab edge defender Takk McKinley, shipping picks 31, 95 and 249 to Seattle for the 26th spot. They then traded down later to recoup some capital, sending No. 63 to Buffalo for Nos. 75, 149 and 156. McKinley, obviously, is the headliner—he’s working back from shoulder surgery, but his upside opposite Vic Beasley in that front seven intrigued the Falcons enough to make that move for him.

Atlanta then added three quality prospects with the picks from Buffalo: LB Duke Riley, CB Damontae Kazee and RB Brian Hill. Both Riley and Kazee are athletic playmakers; none of those guys has a clear path to playing time in 2017. Round 4 guard Sean Harlow should compete to take over the starting job left vacant by Chris Chester’s retirement.

Falcons logoFalcons fans gave it a B+ grade. SB Nation and USA Today gave it a B- grade and NFL.com rated it an A-.

I don’t believe Atlanta was working with a full complement of draft picks because they had traded away picks in previous years. Under those circumstances a B average seems pretty good to me.

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