My number one takeaway from watching yesterday’s practice – it was freezing cold! It hardly seemed like Spring, let alone the end of April. A few snow flurries added to the late-November feel. As you’ll see below, my photography attempts are far from perfect and I blame that on frozen hands. And a strong wind blowing that made it impossible to hold my phone steady with just one hand.
In spite of the cold it was a lively, fast paced practice. A fair bit of time was spent on special teams. Kick-off work and punt team were being run back-to-back on the field with Gabriel Ferraro doing the kicking and Daniel Ferraro doing the punting on this day. The punt return duties were split between Ryan Nieuwesteeg and Colin Booth.
One of the benefits of Guelph’s practice schedule – weekly practices throughout the winter followed by a 1 week camp -is that everything new was installed before Spring Camp. That means camp can be all about giving players opportunities to get reps and familiarize themselves with things. Even some experimentation can be done because Offense, Defense and Special Teams units are not trying to implement new things. It also allows for more time to be spent working on fundamentals and teaching technique.
Speaking of technique, OL Coach MacDonald was thrilled with the work of some of his freshmen – Andrew Pickett, Eric Starczala & Arran MacRae in particular. Apparently they have done an excellent job of learning the techniques he wants them to use. MacDonald told me that Arran MacRae had really stood out this week, having the best week of practice he has had since he arrived last summer. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he was working at the right tackle spot where there were more reps available with Kyle Fraser not participating in practices.
Fraser, Tristan Doughlin, Donnie Egerter were held out as they will head to Montreal for East-West in early May. Linebacker Curtis Newton is also going to East-West and he seemed to be participating in most drills. As did LB John Rush. While CFL draft prospects Rush, Ferraro, Daniel MacDonald and Alex Charette were participating, Cam Walker was not.
The D-Line was generally under-manned with only six players participating. Besides Walker and Egerter being held out, Blake McNeely and Mike Halfday were injured before Camp began. Charlie Taggart, Joey Belanger, Dan Horta, Jordan Thompson, Reza Shayani and Zack Mallough had to play a lot of snaps yesterday. And all week I assume. Mallough, who did not play in 2014 and re-joined the team this winter, has picked up right where he left off and doesn’t look like he missed a beat according to DL Coach Brian Cluff.
Speaking of players who have returned after an absence, big Hunter Bowman was wearing a red jersey (Offense) rather than black (Defense). He was working with the O-linemen. He seemed to be getting reps at guard. I’m aware that one OL is unlikely to return next season but there seemed to be a couple missing yesterday. Even with that MacDonald told me this was the first time since he came to Guelph that he has had enough OLs for practices in the Spring.
As we heard early in the off-season Ryan Nieuwesteeg was a part of the offense. He was working as a receiver. He had lots of reps, including some running the jet sweep where he looked just as dangerous as on returns. Also, getting a lot of reps was tailback Rob Carnegie. He looked faster than in the past. And unlike in his first two seasons he didn’t show any hesitation finding and hitting a hole. One scout team guy who caught my eye was receiver Meschach Green, a freshman from Pickering.
I have more to share – QB, receivers, players participating, etc. – but I’m out of time this morning. I also have a couple more video clips but somehow I manage to include a shot of my feet in almost every one and they need to be edited. I also can’t get them from my phone to my computer unless they are trimmed down to under 12 seconds in length.