I made it back to Alumni Stadium yesterday, not long after saying I didn’t think I’d be back until Sunday. Things just “worked out”.
♦ The weather was beautiful. The temps did start to heat up mid-morning but you really can’t complain about the weather so far this week.
♦ I took another look at the new Football Pavillion and it is coming along much as I expected. A large section of wall poured earlier in the week was in the process of being stripped while rebar and forms for more concrete were going in.
♦ This team looks fast. Very fast. Guelph coaches have been talking about improving team speed for 5 years. They seem to have accomplished that. And not just at the skill positions. I don’t ever remember watching a Gryphon team with this much speed.
They are not just fast but they practice fast. It is enjoyable to watch. During some sessions the substitutions are happening with almost game-like speed and urgency.
♦ Lots of freshmen who looked a little lost on Day1 are now fitting in and seem to be learning and adapting to the drills and to the pace of practice. The difference is noticeable.
♦ The number of “injured” players has grown substantially since Day1. There were at least a half dozen players who came to camp with injuries, most of those were freshmen who sustained injuries during summer football.
There were many players who participated in the first half of the 4-hour power practice only. They came back out after the break without their pads and watched their teammates and assisted coaches with drills. These and most of the other “injured” players seem to have only strains or bruises. Only one injury looks to be potentially serious as he was walking around in a walking boot. He didn’t look to be in any pain so even that may not be serious. Overall, a lot of the players now sitting out would play if there was a game tomorrow IMO.
♦ With 20-some coaches on the field, lots of players are getting personal attention. Some examples … when a young O-Lineman makes a mistake assistant coach Zach Pollari immediately pulls him aside to help correct the mistake while the drill continues … the team’s Tight Ends – Geoff Buzrenko and Nick Mirijello – are being tutored by former QB-turned-TE-turned-coach Alec Reid specifically on tight end skills.
The O-linemen are often split into two groups to run the same drill simultaneously. Mike MacDonald may run one of the drills or step back and watch as his assistants handle them. In addition to Pollari who has been helping out with the O-Line for 5 years or so now, Adam Bestard is now working with the O-Line. Bestard is a Laurier grad and former CFL offensive lineman and long snapper.
♦ Talk about quality coaches, I watched Donnavan Carter and John Engel work with the DBs for a while. Between them, Carter and Engel must have twenty “seasons” of experience. They have 8 years experience at the CIS level as coordinators. On top of that, they have Mark Durigon and Mac Myers helping them out.
♦ When you see sophomore quarterback Theo Landers, you can’t help but notice how much more muscular he has become since he arrived at Guelph last summer. It looks like he did some serious work in the weight room. He looks much better prepared to handle the physical part of the game.
♦ The first thing I notice when watching freshman quarterback Zach Buchan is how sound his mechanics are. Maybe I’m missing something, but unlike your typical high school recruit he doesn’t seem to have any obvious flaws that need to be corrected. There is also no questioning the strength of his arm.
One observer told me that Buchan has already appeared to move up the depth chart based on the reps he was getting. I’m not sure if that is true. I think his ability to push Roberts and Landers will be tied to his ability to learn the playbook and deal with the differences of the Canadian game. It has to be a challenge to learn a new offense while also dealing with the motion, the extra defender, the size of the field, etc..
♦ In spite of a serious lack of CIS experience I think the Receivers look pretty decent as a group. A’dre Fraser and Ryan Nieuwesteeg look better than ever after their experience in CFL camps. Colin Booth looks like he may be ready to play a bigger role. Several of the new/young receivers look like they will be able to contribute including Thomas Bresciani and Kian Schaffer-Baker.
Veteran running back Rob Carnegie spends most of time working with the receivers. I did see him lineup in the backfield when the O was running the Diamond formation. The rest of the time he is playing as a slot receiver. This makes sense with depth in the backfield and the fact Carnegie is a good receiver and a good blocker.
It’s nice to see redshirt freshman Ben Field fully participating in Gryphon practices for the first time. He was coming off knee surgery when he arrived at Guelph last August. He may have participated on limited basis in the Spring but he appears to be 100%.
♦ Johnny Augustine, Daniel Palmer-Salmon, Mack Jones and Jamal Hooker are getting most of the reps at tailback. I’ve seen Patrick Pierre toting the rock a fair bit. No question in my mind this team is going to be good running the ball.
I didn’t see Brandon Gordon on Day1 but he was out there yesterday and ran some plays at tailback. I’m not sure if he is restricted for some reason or I was just looking in the wrong direction when he was getting reps. I actually wondered if he was working some at a slot position. He is a versatile player who actually shifted to the slot two years ago before depth issues required him in the backfield again. I’ll be watching for #28 in the scrimmage.
♦ There were a half dozen or so notable recruits observing the practice yesterday. These would be unofficial visits. The were all players or names I recognized, mostly Team Ontario and OVFL/OFC All Star-calibre players.