Recently I submitted a long list of questions about the 2012 recruiting class to Recruiting Coordinator Bill Brown. Coach Brown has been a part of the Gryphon coaching staff for a dozen years. Brown played at Niagara Falls’ Westlane Secondary before enrolling at Guelph. He was named 1994 Gryphon Rookie of the Year, 1996 OUAA All-Star, was a member of the 1996 Yates Cup Championship team and was named the 1998 Gryphon Defensive Player of the Year. I thank Bill for responding quickly with answers to each and every one of my questions.
1. What were the major needs of this recruiting class and how did we do at meeting them?
Our greatest need for this year’s recruiting class came at the Offensive Line position. In recent year’s we felt as the season went on and as the games headed into the fourth quarter, our Offensive Line seemed undersized and overpowered. Protecting our young QB and moving the ball on the ground became a priority.
We started by recruiting an Offensive Line Coach and recruiter a couple of years ago. We enlisted Mike MacDonald, from the Burlington Stampeder and Notre Dame football organizations. Mike jumped in with both feet and scoured our province for what he felt was the best talent and players that could succeed in our Offensive Scheme. Piece by piece, the offensive line commitments fell into place and we feel that this year’s linemen will contribute immediately to our program and will be the cornerstone of our future success. “It Starts With Us” is branded on their OLINE Academy shirts and our team stands behind this belief and philosophy.
2. It would seem that Guelph is generally thought to have one of the top 2012 recruiting classes in the OUA. How would you rank it?
On paper, I believe our recruit class looks very good. Every program should be proud of what they have assembled and we all know that you can never measure the impact of your recruit class until year three. Last year we were amazed that every recruited individual lasted through camp and the season. Normally during training camp, a certain number of recruits decide that the football commitment is too large and the demands of playing CIS football are too great for them to continue. Last year we had 100% retention. This is a credit to our recruiting and the types of individuals that we bring in to our family. Community football is getting better, coaching in Canada is getting better and athletes have the opportunities to be exposed to university coaching and systems through all-star games and provincial tournaments. One forth of our recruits this year played for their province. I look forward to coaching them for years to come.
3. In my opinion, the 2006 class – Nick FitzGibbon, Adam Dunk, Rob Maver, Ryan Bomben, Grant MacDonald, etc. – was the best in recent memory, in part, because it included outstanding players at so many different positions. The 2007 class included some outstanding skill players and the 2008 class some excellent DBs & LBs. But the 2007 & 2008 classes didn’t produce many linemen. Jumping ahead to 2010 it was once again a more balanced group and very deep in talent. How does this class stack up against Gryphon recruiting classes of the past decade?
This year’s class is very balanced in depth and talent. We feel that we have brought in one of the best Receivers in the country in A’dre Fraser from Nova Scotia. Team BC’s Mikey Carney at QB, the aforementioned group of Oline and a few talented running backs that will solidify our offense. Defensively, our already big and fast defensive line will be injected with a few provincial notables (Mallough, Osmow, Searle). At linebacker, Sault Ste Marie all-star Pat McGrath along with fellow provincial players Andrew Graham and Curtis Newton will join Team World and Team Canada member John Rush. In the secondary, we have added depth to join last year’s recruits to help replace the graduating all-stars that have been policing the deep ball for the last five years. We are excited about our recruit class as a whole. These committed players have already been introduced to the Gryphon culture and are currently getting ready for the first day of training camp.
4. With more than 40 recruits this class is larger than what Guelph has typically brought in. What are the reasons for that? Is this a trend that will continue?
The number of recruits this year fits our needs to become more competitive in the near future. Every year the number changes and really doesn’t mean anything. Graduating players, players that leave the program due to school demands or personal reasons always change the needs of the team. We do a great job of analyzing those needs constantly and report those needs to our recruit team. Our philosophy of not over recruiting still remains strong. Each player that joins the Gryphon Family will have an equal opportunity to succeed. Our total camp numbers are still the same as always. We will never cut a recruited player in his first year. We identify that often, most players need a year to develop into a contributing force on our team. However, in recent years it seems that 25% or more of our recruits find themselves playing or starting for our team in their first season. Once again, this speaks toward our success at recruiting high level and elite players. This trend should balance out going forward as we see the true talents of our young team in their junior year.
5. I know that some recruits would rather wait until they have received their Acceptance before announcing. Last year, I believe there were four recruits added to the class in June. Can we expect any further announcements? How many freshman do you expect to be coming to camp in August?
Some late commitments will always be the case. We are at a point that we are happy with our recruit class going forward and are not desperately trying to add anymore. That being said, we are in constant contact with a couple individuals who may be trying to transfer universities or may need to upgrade in the summer to qualify. Our total number for freshmen should be 40-45.
6. We have a couple of young coaches in Defensive Coordinator Kevin MacNeill and Offensive Coordinator Todd Galloway. Is it easy to sell recruits on coming in and playing for these guys? MacNeill, for the second consecutive year, has recruited some serious talent out of London. Does that surprise you?
These guys sell themselves. Both Coaches are committed to helping the football program succeed. My job as the Recruiting Coordinator is to coordinate the efforts of our recruit team and make sure that the best prospects in the province and now in the country get in front of Kevin and Todd. They both do a great job of connecting with recruits and their families and introducing the Gryphon Way to these athletes. Academics is our first goal and Kevin and Todd play an active roll of meeting with our players and assisting them with their academics needs.
Kevin and Todd have helped expand our recruiting boundaries and it doesn’t surprise me that we have landed some great athletes in London in recent years. The additions of Mallough and Newton to already contributors Nangle and Walker means that some great talent from London are interested in Guelph. Kevin has done a great job of attracting that talent and hopefully the pipeline will continue.
6b. I’ve previously described OL Coach Mike MacDonald as “a relentless recruiter”, in part because it seemed like I saw him at half the 70+ high school and OVFL games I went to last year. How big is it for the program that he batted 1.000, landing every one of the top prospects he identified?
Mike is a fantastic recruiter and coach. When asked how do we make our Oline better a couple years ago, my answer was to recruit the best Oline Coach available. We did just that. Mike’s attention to detail, his care for the kids and his desire to constantly professionally develop himself are all reasons the top Offensive Line players want to play for him. Mike’s personal goal is to make offensive line players better in our province. He still works with the Burlington Stampeders and runs the OLINE Academy assisting other high school programs develop their linemen. We are lucky to have Mike and are greatful for all his efforts.
7. Of any region in Ontario, Niagara has been a consistent source of quality talent for the Gryphons. What are the reasons for that?
Two words, John Casasanta. John and I played together and have formed a great relationship. He assists me on Gameday with the Special Forces. He is our regional recruiter for the Niagara region and is responsible for landing almost one forth of our recruit class each year. We have had some great success in the Niagara region and will continue to do so for years to come. John’s passion and relentless efforts make him a great recruiter. Niagara has always had excellent players and coaches. The city of Guelph is a perfect fit for those from the region. It was for me.
8. Guelph has also signed five recruits from outside Ontario and could bring in close to ten players from the GTA. Are these trends that you see continuing?
Attracting the best players in the country to fit our team need is the goal. Luckily we have some excellent talent in a one hour radius from our campus. London, Kitchener/Waterloo, Hamilton, Burlington, Niagara, and Peel are all major football cities that produce excellent talent. That is our backyard. But there are excellent players all over this country and if the need is there and there is desire to travel some distance to go to school, then we will recruit there. We have had success in recent years recruiting in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Kingston thanks to my Provincial Recruiter Mark Antonelli. We will recruit the best in the country.
9. Which freshmen do you think are most likely to contribute in 2012? Is there a “sleeper” in this class – i.e. someone that may need a year or two to develop but has the potential to be a future OUA all star?
This is always hard to predict. So many factors contribute to players breaking out. Cam Walker was a pleasant surprise for us last year. He came into camp and just destroyed everything in his path. John Rush and Iain Hutchison stepped into the roles we thought they would. Jordan Thompson gave us more than we expected in his first year and is now bigger and faster.
For 2012, I think A’Dre Fraser will be an impact player. He is exactly what I am looking for in a returner. Steve Mburanumwe should have an immediate presence. I also think Zach Mallough will compete immediately. Hard to pick a sleeper since I expect all of our recruits to come in and compete.
10. While much about recruiting is hotly debated, no one seems to dispute that Guelph landed the best group of D-line prospects. Is it a coincidence that it happened in the months following DL Coach Brian Cluff being named winner of the Gino Fracas Award as the CIS’s Most Outstanding Assistant Coach?
I would agree that this DLine class is outstanding. Brian is an excellent coach and is well deserving of the award. All our DLine recruits have met Brian and I am sure that his reputation had something to do with their commitment. I am excited along with Brian to see what this unit will do in the OUA. It might be hard to run against Guelph for years to come. And passers beware, speed is what we breed.