♦ After weeks of hot temperatures and nasty humidity today’s weather was perfect. It was warm, mostly sunny, with lower humidity after Saturday’s thunderstorms. There was a nice breeze blowing in Alumni Stadium to make the weather almost perfect for the opening day of camp. Certainly, there was nothing to complain about in comparison to the previous 3 or 4 weeks.
♦ It was definitely strange not to see Stu Lang out on the field. Or anywhere around the stadium this morning. The first practice under interim Head Coach Kevin MacNeill didn’t deviate a lot from what we have become use to over the past 5 or 6 years.
♦ I did take a few minutes to check out Head Coach Emeritus Stu Lang’s current project, the Football Pavillion, which will be the teams new home with best-in-Canada dressing room, meeting rooms, coaches offices and training facilities.
It seems to have taken a long time to get to this point but the building itself is about to take shape. I saw a section of wall that appeared to be ready for concrete to be poured tomorrow. It was braced and had bulkheads at each end of the section. I would expect that all the ground floor walls could be in place by the time of the home opener vs. UofT on Aug 28. It will be interesting to follow the progress this season.
♦ As I said, it felt strange not seeing Coach Lang out there. It also felt perfectly normal watching Coach MacNeill run his first training camp practice as the head man. It was nice to get the reassuring feeling that all the talk about a smooth transition wasn’t just talk. I watched almost 3 of the 4 hours of practice and didn’t see one thing to make me think that MacNeill wasn’t as thorough in his planning and his attention to detail as his predecessor.
♦ I also have a “Thank You” for Coach MacNeill. My “whining” in this blog post last Spring did not fall on deaf ears. The condition of the practice jerseys and the numbers on those jerseys was much improved. Clearly, some jerseys had been replaced with new ones and there weren’t more than 4 or 5 out of 100+ that didn’t have numbers on them. That makes my job a lot easier. Thank you!
♦ There is already a story up on the Gryphon Football Team App – One kick at a time. [You know, the same Team App I was suggesting the other day that every Gryphon fan should following.] Rob Massey’s first story from training camp focuses on P/K Gabriel Ferraro. It is great to have an All Canadian kicker returning, and focusing on improving, but … as the story says, Ferraro is the only punter/kicker specialist at camp after recruit Owen Charnock changed his mind at the last minute about playing football.
That situation is a little dicier because the backup P/K for the past 3 seasons has been Receiver Jacob Scarfone. But Scarfone is out for the season after having knee surgery two months ago. During one Special Teams session I saw DB Mikey Carney, freshman TE Nicholas Mirijello and a third player whose name I’ve forgotten, punting the ball. This will be something to keep an eye on.
♦ Thankfully, all 4 quarterbacks were on hand.
♦ It’s a little early to talk about who is playing well or “stepping up”. But one player who received a “shout out” from the Head Coach was DB Riley Baines. The praise came after Baines stripped the ball from a veteran receiver in a manner very reminiscent of the way his brother Jarryd was doing back in 2012.
♦ I saw former Gryphon All Canadian linebacker, and current Argonaut, Curtis Newton in the stands watching the practice. Chris Decker, another great former Gryphon LB and OUA All Star, was out to watch with his wife and daughter.
Certainly one of the real challenges this season is going to be replacing two former All Canadian linebackers in Newton and his teammate John Rush. From what I saw it looked like Andrew Graham has moved into Rush’s spot in the middle, i.e. the MAC LB, from the SAM LB spot. Luke Korol was playing the WILL LB position that Newton had owned for 3 years, and Royce Metchie was the SAM.
On the 2nd unit it was Job Reinhart at MAC and John Birnie at WILL while I’ve forgotten who was at SAM. Sorry! I should really make notes – lol.
♦ I briefly watched Brian Cluff run his D-linemen through some drills. Some of these drills were obviously new to some of the recruits but for the most part they looked like they “belonged”. As I watched I thought in a few days they will know what they are doing. I did like the look of some of the “big bodies” – Donnie Egerter, transfer Cory Flude and 2nd year players Greg Corfield and Lucas Brennan. They look the part. So to does freshman Dewan Soyer.
In spite of significant losses I think we’ll be very solid upfront. I wasn’t really able to evaluate the DEs in action but I like the potential of Justis Croasdale as a pass rushing end. Up to this point he action has primarily been on specials and as a backup DB & SAM LB. One DE that I expected to see but who will not back in 2016 was Reza Shayani. The local JF Ross CI product had a back problem that wasn’t going to be helped by continuing to play.
♦ The following photos are from Doug Pflug. They are just a few of over 300 he took at today’s practice. You can find them all on the University of Guelph – Gryphon Football Facebook page.