On my Facebook page I recently shared a link to an article from a new Canadian sports website – SportsEh.ca. [If you didn’t see it, maybe you should “friend” Peter Gryphon on Facebook.] As the title suggests – Guelph Gryphons bringing the Oregon Ducks model to the OUA – the article looks, if only superficially, at Coach Stu Lang‘s introduction of multiple new helmets and uniform colours. The Oregon Ducks lead all NCAA football programs in this regard.
If you’ve ever heard Coach Lang speak on the subject you will know he draws parallels between Oregon and Guelph. Both are smaller market schools in conferences traditionally dominated by “richer” schools in larger markets. The Univ of Oregon is located in the city of Eugene while two thirds of its major rivals [USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Arizona State and Washington] are located in or near major cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and Seattle. There was a clear need in both situations to differentiate themselves in order to catch the attention of recruits.
The article doesn’t explore some other connections between the two programs. For example, both use a similar Spread offense. When I spoke with Guelph’s OC Todd Galloway back in Nov 2011 I almost expected him to attribute some of his ideas to NCAA sources like Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Clemson/WVU/Mich/Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez or Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. He didn’t. His direct sources were entirely Canadian.
Coaches Lang, Galloway and OL Coach Mike MacDonald travelled to Eugene, OR back in the spring of 2012 to learn more about the Ducks’ offense from Chip Kelly and his assistants. Their professional development wasn’t limited to offensive ideas as the coaches also discussed recruiting methods and the use of social media. Coach MacDonald did tell me that from an o-line perspective most of what he learned at Oregon was transferrable to the Canadian game. The blocking upfront was very similar – tackle-to-tackle the positions are the same – as the primary difference with the NCAA is the lack of twelfth man, but that player is an extra receiver in the Canadian game.
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From the above mentioned SportsEh article:
When Stu Lang took over as Head Coach for the Guelph Football Program in 2010, he inherited a program that had been no better than average during most of the past decade. When then current Head Coach Kyle Walters was hired away to Winnipeg to coach Special Teams for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Lang stepped into the role and a transformation began. Through stronger recruiting classes, a complete stadium renovation and a change in perception about the program, Guelph has dramatically improved, and concluded this season with a 7-1 record good enough for a 2nd place finish in the OUA.
No problem there but the article goes on to say, Lang’s greatest advantage is his ability to recruit to Guelph, and which lacked strong recruiting classes during the Walters years, I can’t agree with that. Guelph has recruited exceptionally well in 2012 and 2013 and the 2012 class in particular may be the most “complete” class in recent decades with outstanding prospects at every position. But, in my opinion, until we see how that group matures, Kyle Walters’ 2006 recruiting class is still the “gold standard”. It included three future CFL players – Ryan Bomben, Rob Maver and Nick FitzGibbon and a host of other all stars and contributors. That draft year  six Gryphons [the 3 above plus Justin Dunk, Adam Dunk and Grant MacDonald] were invited to the CFL E-camp. That is a number that I don’t know if any other CIS school has matched.
And another thought on the matter, it was a solid group of upperclassmen [Walters’ recruits] that were the core of the 2012 team that reached the Yates Cup. Just think about it … Millar, Reinhart, Baines, Dunjko, Durigon, Androschuk, Palmer, Thorn, Seilis, Dimitroff, Richardson, Lindsey, O’Neil, Meschino, Trivieri and several more. Kyle Walters left behind some excellent talent. Both coaching staffs deserve credit for doing an excellent job of developing them.
In reality, many of the key recruiters and assistant coaches have been part of both staffs. What Coach Lang has done is build on that so that Guelph football now has one of the strongest coaching staffs, and one of the largest, most dedicated teams of recruiters, in the CIS. Add to that his “Oregon” approach and more top prospects are considering Guelph than ever before. One specific example of the impact of Coach Lang’s efforts is that the father of one of the CIS transfer players in the 2013 class told me that the “football culture” at Guelph was a prime reason that his son chose the Gryphons. He wanted to play somewhere that football matters.
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Getting back to the subject at hand, SportsEh and their writers may not be perfect but it is great to have a new media outlet that takes CIS sport, and other Canadian amateur sport, seriously. If you have read this blog very often you will know that one of my reasons for creating it was to fill the void left by Canadian media when it comes to CIS football. SportsEh appears to be filling at least part of that void and I applaud their effort.
If you haven’t checked it out yet I recommend you do. To date, in addition to the story Guelph Gryphons bringing the Oregon Ducks model to the OUA , SportsEh has published several others on Guelph or Gryphon football, including … Guelph 2012 football season summary. And a story about how Guelph is helping student-athletes succeed off the field of play. Plus the Jazz Lindsey interview I shared yesterday. There are several articles on almost every program in the OUA.