A few quick observations from Thursday night’s Yates Cup Victory Tour finale in Oakville:
♦ People might wonder when they hear the reception’s location is a business – Peak Powersports. But once they see the beautiful showroom they realize why it has been a great location for the past two years. The fact that alumnus Nathan Body is the owner is what makes it work. And, perhaps, we’ll have future events in Barrie, Ontario as Body and his partner will be opening another location in that fast growing city on the shore of Lake Simcoe.
By the way, Nathan Body has been selected the Quarterback on the 1990s Team of the Decade. The full team will be announced at next month’s 6th Annual Gryphon Football Gala Dinner. You can still get tickets for the Dinner. The link is here.
♦ We had a crowd of just over 40, about the same size as at last year’s event. The difference was the makeup of the crowd – about 2/3 of them were new to the venue. There also weren’t many coaches in attendance as most were in Tuscaloosa for the University of Alabama’s Coaching Clinic. Only Head Coach Kevin MacNeil, Head Coach Emeritus Stu Lang, Defensive Assistant Mike Aloisio and Strength & Conditioning Coach Jordan Foley were there.
♦ No question about it. The oldest alumnus in attendance was former running back Wayne Gerrie. A Hamilton native who now lives in Burlington, the retired Veterinarian starred for the OA-VC Aggies from 1951 to 1955. Gerrie played for Bill Mitchell in his first three seasons and Jay Fry in his 4th year.
♦ Among the youngest guests in attendance were two members of the 2016 recruiting class – Aksum Polk and Dewan Soyer. The pair attend Hamilton’s Westdale Secondary School and won an OFSAA Bowl game with the Warriors this past season. Polk is a running back and Soyer a defensive tackle.
♦ Another OFSAA Bowl winner, Burlington Assumption linebacker Domenic Ciraco, was also present. Coach MacNeill said Ciraco is one of the final two prospects on the Gryphons 2016 recruiting board.
♦ No question about it, Kevin MacNeill is starting to look much more comfortable in his role as Head Coach. This was the fourth time in the past two months that MacNeill has spoken to alumni and supporters at a Friends of Gryphon Football reception. Not that he ever looked nervous but now he just looks comfortable and poised. Like he has been doing it for years.
♦ There was an extended Q&A period with most of the questions coming from alumni. Probably half of the questions were from FoGF President Randy Dimitroff, with Bill Vastis, Nathan Body, Shane Dougherty and others also asking some questions. Those questions covered recruiting, strength & conditioning, nutrition, the new Athletic Director, the new Football Pavillion, exhibition games, the Toronto Argonauts training camp, the outlook for 2016 and the top teams in the OUA.
♦ The quick version … MacNeill had very complimentary things to say about what he has seen from new A.D. Scott McRoberts. He brings a much different style than Tom Kendall. He has been seen around the stadium more frequently. He is more engaged with football players on a personal level than his predecessor ever was … MacNeill acknowledged there would not be an exhibition game this year. It was important to him that in his first training camp as head coach, that any non-conference exhibition game be in Guelph, thereby not losing one of only 14 days of training camp to travel. There was not a suitable out-of-conference opponent that was willing to come to Guelph this August without involving a two-year, home-and-home deal that MacNeill did not want to make … MacNeill declined to comment on whether the University had made a deal with the Argonauts to host their CFL training camp, however the huge smile that came over his face I think gave away the answer … MacNeill’s expectations for the 2016 season = 8-0. No more of this 7-1 stuff lol … Western will remain a top OUA team, Ottawa and McMaster will be improved. Carleton isn’t on Guelph’s schedule but he thinks they go 6-2 … Jordan Foley handled the S&C and nutrition questions in too much detail for me to relay. Suffice it to say, the Gryphons are lucky to have the only full-time S&C coach in the CIS focused soley on football. It sounds like Foley is also getting some support from the Athletic Department to develop courses that cover training, nutrition and lifestyle for high performance athletes.
♦ Turning to recruiting … MacNeill answered several questions on the topic. Overall, this recruiting class was slower coming together than in previous years. Recruits seemed to wait to commit until some of the uncertainty of a head coaching change, and an A.D.’s office that was vacant for 3 months, were resolved. Once those things were cleared up, the pieces have really been falling into place over the past month. While the final number will depend on recruits being accepted academically, a class of 30+ is expected.
♦ Asked about the signing of the NCAA-transfer quarterback that OC Galloway had spoken about almost two months earlier, Coach MacNeill said that the Georgia product – QB Zach Buchan of Dawsonville, GA – will be signing his LOI on Sunday in a ceremony near Atlanta. Stu Lang will be flying down there to represent the program. Thomas Dimitroff Jr also wanted to be part of the ceremony but Atlanta Falcons business has him tied up. He will be expressing his congratulations via phone.
Buchan played his high school football for Dawson County HS. He spent this past season as a redshirt freshmen with the Kennesaw State Owls, an FCS level program. Buchan, who is a Canadian citizen, will be eligible to play immediately and have 5 years of CIS eligibility.
♦ MacNeill also shared some positive news about returning starter James Roberts but asked this blogger not to share it at this time. Hearing news like that first hand, and not having to wait until these things are announced through official channels is one of the benefits of attending these receptions.
♦ With respect to the new $8.5 million Football Pavillion that is currently under construction, MacNeill explained the most important features using the large architectural drawings and floor plan ‘boards’ that were on display. That is tough for me to duplicate here. Some of the features had their genesis in the Gryphons visit to the University of Saskatchewan in 2012. Other features are more on par with NCAA facilities. When the building is complete in December it will give Guelph the best dressing room, training room and meeting room facilities in the CIS. Plus, some great facilities for Friends of Gryphon Football members to use.
You can see some of the features of the Pavillion in the second half of this video: