In college football there is a significant turnover on the roster every season. Each year a team needs new players to step up and fill the voids left by graduating players. If Guelph is going to improve on last season’s 4-4 record they’ll need some key players to have breakout seasons. The following are five players I suggest you watch for signs of big things:
Cam Thorn DT – We lose two members of the five man rotation that got 90+% of the snaps on the D-line last season – Grant MacDonald & Scott Eggleton. Thats obviously worrisome to many Gryphon fans but not to MacDonald. The graduated OUA Allstar DE told me back in May that the Gryphon D-line will be stronger in 2011 than 2010. When I asked him why, the first two words out of his mouth … Cam Thorn. The 6’5″ 295lb Thorn has played a substantial amount in his first two seasons. He was the team’s Rookie-of-the-Year in 2009. I wrote less than two years ago that Thorn was not only a likely future OUA Allstar but a potential All Canadian. If the maturing Thorn begins to reach that potential this season he will have a huge impact on this defense. Combine Thorn with DEs Mike Millar & Kalvin Seilis, the team’s 2008 & 2010 Rookies-of-the-Year and our starting D-line could be a team strength this season. I hope Grant MacDonald is right.
Jake Reinhart LB – With openings at both our linebacker positions – MIKE (middle) & WILL (weakside) – we need some new starters to have big seasons. Currently we have three solid candidates on the roster battling for those two positions – Reinhart, Curtis Rukavina & Colin MacDonald. If we’re to have a big season we need Jake Reinhart, or one of his counterparts, to have a breakout year. Reinhart was one of the most lauded recruits in our 2008 class. He has been on the dress roster from Day 1. He saw limited snaps at LB backing up Adam Dunk but he has seen plenty of game action on special teams. He was the 2010 Special Teams Player-of-the-Year. An excellent athlete, Reinhart was a two-time District 10 Football MVP with Guelph CVI. He played QB for several seasons with the OVFL Guelph Bears. If the Gryphons are to improve this season we’ll need Jake and our other LBs to make a lot of plays. And a lot of tackles.
Chris Rossetti QB – In his first season as a starter Rossetti had a solid year. Statistically you could argue he was the 3rd best QB in the OUA after all-stars Sinopoli & Quinlan, especially when you consider that Guelph didn’t amass huge stats versus York & UofT the way that Western, Queen’s & Laurier did. The CISblog ranked him #2 in the CIS in “adjusted net yards per attempt”. So how can 2011 really be a breakout year for Rossetti? I believe Rossetti can take it to another level. His successful 2010 campaign was the floor, his potential ceiling in 2011 is much higher. It is not hard to imagine that he will increase his passing yards by 30%+. While new OC Todd Galloway will have a new offense with new terminology it won’t be radically different. Besides, Rossetti is an extremely smart QB who will handle the changes as well as anyone could.
Steve Lagace RB – I didn’t see Lagace play high school ball at Burlington
Notre Dame Assumption. I know nothing about his time playing at a NCAA Div II school in Michigan and little about his season at Waterloo. But I did see enough flashes of his potential in a back-up role last season [17 carries for 113 yds] to feel that we will still have a solid running game this season. Nick FitzGibbon’s departure leaves a huge hole at RB but throughout the offseason I heard coaches express confidence in Fitz’s understudies – Lagace, Rob Farquarson & Cory Davidson. So much so that recruiting a blue chip RB wasn’t even a priority in 2011. Having several average or adequate RBs won’t be enough. If Guelph is truly going to compete with the OUA elite this year I believe we need one of the RBs to step up and be “the Man”. A 600 yard season [Fitz had 804] would be great and likely rank him among the leagues top 3 or 4 rushers. I believe Steve Lagace can do just that.
Scott McDooling OT – Needing to replace a second starter at OT wasn’t something that was anticipated a year ago. That Jake Piotrowski would move to OT after a season as a starter at OG was widely anticipated. The surprise of having to fill a second tackle slot demands that a less seasoned OT will have to step up bigtime. Based on what I saw in the spring game the 6’6″ 285lb Scott McDooling could be that guy. Mind you if its Avery Parle (6’4″ 305lbs) I’m just as happy. Either way, we’ll need a big season from a young player at a very tough position. McDooling had the size to play the OT position from the day he set foot on campus. What he lacked was some requisite skills and footwork. McDooling who didn’t even dress this past season, has not just been a quick learner but a very hard worker. Coaches credit a lot of his improved footwork to the extra work he has done on his own time with a skipping rope. I think the best compliment for McDooling came when I asked DC MacNeill about his play and he responded – “he stoned us all week”.