Matt Creelman – 5’11” 170 – Holy Trinity [Oakville ON]
Jack Gelbart – 6’3″ 210 – Blessed Trinity [Grimsby ON]
Devin Condlin – 5’9″ 165 – Lorne Park SS [Mississauga ON]
Michael Casciano – 6’5″ 190 – A.N.Myer SS [Niagara Falls ON]
Keysean Powell – 5’11” 165 – St Joan of Arc [Barrie ON]
Kian Schaffer-Baker – 6’3″ 185 – Mount Carmel CSS [Mississauga ON]
Nicholas Mirijello – 6’2″ 220 – St Michael’s College [Toronto ON]
Jordan Terrio – 6’1″ 180 – St Paul’s CSS [Niagara Falls ON]
Thomas Bresciani – 6′ 200 – Weyburn Comp HS/Regina Thunder [Weyburn SK]
Matthew Bills – 6′ 175 – St Edmund Campion CSS [Brampton ON]
In spite of CFL draft picks A’dre Fraser and Ryan Nieuwesteeg returning for 2016 there will be big losses in the receiving corps. Lost to graduation are veterans James Ingram, Lucas Spagnuolo, Patrick Gerrie and Academic All-Canadian Dylan Husty. All Canadian receiver Jacob Scarfone is likely out for the season with an injury. TE/Slotback Mark Horta was shifted to DE in Spring Camp.
The only players with any game experience returning to join Fraser and Nieuwesteeg are Colin Booth, Kade Belyk and Geoff Bezruchko. Of the three, only Booth [6 for 104 yds, 1 TD in 2015] has caught a regular season pass.
There were some talented receivers from previous recruiting classes on the scout team last year including Marcus Joseph, Colton Jones, Aidan Fraser, Mike Ciaverella, Ben Field, Sam Lewis and Meschach Green. Joseph, Jones & Fraser were receiving reps with the 1st team in the Spring scrimmage at York.
With only two established starters returning – Fraser and Nieuwesteeg – there will be some new faces at receiver this season. With potential openings for 5/6 new receivers on the dress roster there is a big opportunity for some incoming recruits. They will compete with last year’s scout team players for those spots. Not only will some new receivers play in 2016, they will be expected to play a big role. The Gryphons need to replace almost 60% of last year’s receiving yards.
I like that there is a nice combination of talent in this group. There are several smaller, exceptionally fast and elusive types, a couple of those potential “big bodies” in Gelbart [210 lbs] & Mirijello [220 lbs], some tall athletes in Casciano [6’5″] & Shaffer-Baker [6’3″] and a few “all-purpose” types. A little bit of everything you look for in a receiving corps and not too much of anything.
I love how much speed there is throughout this group but two speedsters in particular standout. Keysean Powell and Matt Creelman have elite speed and will also compete with Guelph’s outstanding Track & Field team. Powell is also a national calibre performer in the long jump and triple jump.
Several of these recruits have already excelled at advanced levels. Casciano won a medal with Team Ontario. Bresciani played for Team Saskatchewan before a 5-year career with the PFC’s Regina Thunder. Three members of the class have been OVFL All Stars – Shaffer-Baker [2015 & 2016], Terrio  and Gelbart . Terrio led all OVFL receivers in multiple receiving categories in 2016. Shaffer-Baker was a top 3 receiver statistically in 2015.
The ability to contribute on Special Teams plays a major factor in a recruit being able to play as a freshman. Other factors that are key to playing as a freshman – the ability to block and the ability to learn a CIS playbook very quickly.
Let me add one more thing – a freshman can immeasurably help himself to playing time by earning the confidence of his teammates. Some of that comes simply from working hard. It’s really everything. Catch the ball. Learn your plays. Block for your teammates. QBs are going to love receivers who make them look good. Catch the ball every time, even when it isn’t a perfect pass and you’ll get more balls thrown to you.
There may be a particularly clear avenue to playing time for a capable, “big-bodied” receiver – i.e. someone who can handle the blocking requirements of a tight end – but that is a tough task for a rising high school player. There is no receiver with any notable experience to play at the TE position or fill the role of James Ingram.
Not just a ‘track guy’, Creelman has football skills and his speed shows on the football field. I watched his Grade 11 highlights before I knew anything about his track accomplishments. I knew immediately he had elite speed. He runs away from people and never gets caught from behind. Creelman has played 7-on-7 football with the IDFFL. His 60M time of 6.94 secs at a York U meet would have qualified him for the CIS Track & Field Championships.
I’ve watched Gelbart play the past two summers with the Niagara Spears. He is a reliable, sure handed receiver with good size. He lined up as the field-side wideout with the Spears – i.e. the Y receiver in the Guelph offense. I could see him playing a role in the slot very much like James Ingram did. Gelbart finished his Spears career with a 9 catch, 88 yard performance in the Conference Championship. Gelbart’s high school coaches last year were former Gryphons Chris Hladich and Mark Antonelli.
Fast and shifty, but a little under-sized at 165 pounds, Condlin reminds me a bit of Ryan Nieuwesteeg. His 2015 highlights show him to be a legit playmaker with both Lorne Park [ROPSSAA Tier 1] and the Mississauga Warriors [OVFL]. Condlin won a 2014 OFSSA Bowl with the LP Spartans
When was the last time Guelph had a legit 6’5″ receiver? Not counting TEs, I can’t think of one. With his size Casciano could be a real game changer. He’d be a mismatch problem for most of the teams we face. He’s not just tall, the former Team Ontario player is very athletic for size. Casciano won a 2015 OFSSA Bowl with the Myers Marauders.
Powell may be a SJA grad but he spent most of his HS career at Brampton’s Edmund Campion CSS. A National Youth Champion in the Triple Jump, Powell also excels as a sprinter and long jumper. He will compete in all 3 events with the Gryphon T&F team. Powell runs 100M in under 11 secs and a 4.45 sec 40. A big play maker on special teams Powell was his teams Offensive MVP & the Overall MVP at the 2014 OVFL Top Prospects game.
Schaffer-Baker had a highly productive OVFL career with the Mississauga Warriors. In 2015 he had 953 on 52 receptions and 9 TDs. He was also among the receiving leaders in several categories again in 2016 including 2nd in receiving touchdowns. No surprise that he was a two-time OVFL All Star. Schaffer-Baker, who had interest from several NCAA schools, was a top 2016 recruiting target and important signing for Guelph. Shaffer-Baker also played basketball for Mount Carmel.
A two-way player at St Mike’s Mirijello appears to be the only true Tight End prospect in the class. Mind you most of his senior highlights show him flexed out or lining up in the slot. He does catch the ball well in traffic. Here is a nice example from his play in the OVFL with the Toronto Thunder. He also appears to have the body type and mindset to play TE or a slotback in the heavy package.
There is no question in my mind that Terrio is a CIS-level athlete. He has very good ball skills but has a little bit to learn about route running and blocking at the CIS level. If he picks up those things quickly he could be dressing as a freshman. His natural talent and physical abilities are outstanding. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start out as a returner the way that previous Niagara products Alex Charette and Jedd Gardner did.
As a 22-year old, UofRegina grad with 5 years experience in the CJFL Bresciani stands out from the rest of the recruits. But he didn’t waste any time fitting in. He attended the team’s first of 8 Summer skills sessions at the end of May. He moved to Guelph in mid-June and hasn’t missed a skills session, captains practice or workout since. Add his previous experience to his immediate commitment to the team and one coach told me you might as well consider him a veteran now. It’s easy to imagine that Bresciani plays an important role in 2016.
A 2015 recruit of the Mount Allison Mounties, Bills contacted the Guelph coaching staff when he decided he wanted to transfer from the New Brunswick school. Bills is happy to be closer to home and to have an opportunity to compete for a spot with the 2015 Yates Cup Champions. His experience going through a CIS training camp should give a little edge. Here are his 2014 Brampton Bulldogs highlights.