Spring practice time is upon us. Returning Gryphon football players will hit the practice field on Tuesday April 26. The spring schedule is on the Upcoming Events page.
1. Who is coming back and who is not?
A more important question in the CIS than you might think. One commentator on the OUA says that 40% is the average for year-to-year roster turnover in the league. Partly it is a question of which players may return for a 5th year. But there is typically a great deal of attrition of 1st and 2nd year players – some will elect to concentrate on academics, others realize they no longer have the desire (or ability) to compete at this level, a few will drop out of school and there may be some academic casualties.
2. Who will step up to fill the spots vacated by graduating players? Most notable would be the linebacker positons (Dunk, Rossetti) but also running back (FitzGibbon), offensive tackle (Crosby) and two defensive line spots (MacDonald, Eggleton). With an excellent class of recruits coming in, current roster players will want to use this time to establish themselves in some of these newly vacated positions. The LB spots seem to get the most attention, with Jake Reinhart (2010 Special Teams MVP) and Curtis Rukavina (Def. player-of-game vs Western) as the likely leaders at this point.
3. How much will our O-line improve?
I am very hopeful w.r.t. the offensive line. We have lost our only allstar in Andrew Crosby, but we have a heck of a lot more experience heading into 2011 than what we had last spring. Matt Richardson is a multi-year starter at one guard spot and entering his third season Doug Dougherty would seem to be established at OT. In a zone blocking scheme your centre ought to be the smartest football player on the team, Nick Woehl may fit that bill. Jake Piotrowoski started most games last season at guard but I expect he will be competing for the vacated RT position. In fact, there should be plenty of competition this spring as Cody O’Neil, John FitzGerald, Avery Parle and Lucas Meschino all saw at least a little game action last year. There are also several big, young linemen who will have benefited from a season of coaching and training who could potentially step up to compete for a dress roster spot.
4. How does Jack Creighton look in red & black?
I don’t think the QB situation is the most important issue facing this team but we all know that fans like to focus on the QB. I am of the opinion that we already have a solid starter in Chris Rossetti. And last season Luke Nangle gained valuable experience as his back-up. In 2011 we will be in an enviable position with respect to experience at quarterback. If Jack Creighton were to become our starter it is all good in my books, as he would have had to beat out a talented QB or he’d be bringing his significant experience in to replace an injured QB. Either way we are further ahead than 2010. Still, as much as I may want to see him throw the ball, I’m really interested in how he runs the zone read, something I doubt he was asked to do at SMU.
5. Who will be the biggest Spring surprises?
By that I mean, which of this year’s freshmen or practice roster players break through with a spring camp that doesn’t allow them to be ignored. I’ve always been very high on 2010 DE recruit Jeff Finlay so I continue to think he is a possiblility. And I hear 2009’s top recruit Cory Davidson’s positive attitude and hard work have him back in the mix at RB. But, if it weren’t for the fact that our East West Bowl participants will see limited action in contact drills and the Red & Black scrimmage, I think Laurier transfer WR Saxon Lindsay might have had an eye popping spring.
I am very busy over the next few weeks and may not be able to take in any of the spring practices. (I will definitely be at the Red & Black scrimmage.) I would be pleased to hear some feedback from anyone who attends.