The Gryphons were back at work at Varsity Field on Sunday afternoon. There was a very upbeat but workman-like atmosphere. I didn’t hear any talk about the preseason victory except when I asked questions about it. The “celebrating” was done and the team seemed focused on correcting their mistakes and getting better. While the trip to Saskatchewan was beneficial it did cost the team three days of practices. The Gryphons face the toughest opponent they will face all year in just seven days. While I want the Gryphons to do well on Labour Day it has always been my belief that it is the least important game of the year. And actually I didn’t hear one mention of the upcoming game. I expect the team won’t start working on the game preparations for McMaster for another day or two.
So the Sunday afternoon practice looked a lot like the Monday afternoon practice a week earlier. A lot of work on teaching and fundamentals but with a little more work for the complete offensive and defensive units. Plus some special teams. Coaches were getting after players who made mistakes, making sure they knew what they had done wrong and how to correct it. I continue to spend more time watching the OL and DL units since I think they will be key to success this season. [One player who got a significant amount of praise yesterday was DT Pat Gerrie.] I believe the progress there has been significant compared to this time last year.
OC Galloway made a similiar comment about the running backs, “every one of them is better than last year.” We may not have a FitzGibbon-calibre back but I think we have some excellent talent and depth. Speaking of depth, the guys behind Rob Farquarson all played well in Saskatoon. Cory Davidson had 9 carries for 59 yards. Mark Rutledge was 6 for 52 and Ryan Nieuwesteeg 4 for 31. Those are very impressive averages of 5.5, 8.7 and 7.8 yards per carry. If one player opened eyes to his potential it was the freshman Nieuwesteeg. The 160 lb. speedster awed people with his power, that is his ability to push the pile. Several times he ran into a wall after picking up 2 yds and drove defenders back to gain 6 or 7 yds. QB Nangle also picked up 39 yards on 3 carries.
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No visit to Gryphon training camp these days is complete without stopping by to look at the new turf in Alumni Stadium. The field is rounding into shape very nicely. The south endzone is now complete as are almost all the yardage numbers and hash marks. The entire field is now framed by a wide, white boundary that sets the colours off. Taking a look at it Sunday afternoon I enjoyed seeing that this is a football-only field. No soccer creases, boxes or centre circles. No field hockey markings or lines for rugby or lacrosse. This is a football-only field. The hill is completely sodded and looks like it will be ready for a huge Homecoming crowd.