2014 RSEQ Football Team Preview (5/6): McGill Redmen
2013 regular season record: 3-5
2013 regular season standings: 5th in RSEQ
2013 playoff record: n/a
The McGill Redmen have embarked upon their 134th season of football and will officially open the campaign with a road game at Sherbrooke on Sept. 6 at 4 p.m.
The Redmen are coming off a 3-5 fifth-place finish in the six-team RSEQ conference. Head coach Clint Uttley has returned for his fourth season behind the Redmen bench. His opening-day roster will feature 43 returnees (nine seniors, 16 juniors, 18 sophomores) to go along with 33 freshmen.
After beginning their campaign with a 35-33 pre-season road victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues on Aug. 23, McGill is slated to play Laval (8-0), Concordia (0-8) and Sherbrooke (3-5) twice apiece, with single contests against Bishop's (6-2) and Montreal (5-3). The post-season begins on Nov. 8, culminated by the 50th presentation of the Vanier Cup national championship at McGill's Percival Molson Stadium, Nov. 29.
The Redmen have lost nine starters, two of them on offence, most notably all-Canadian offensive tackle and CIS lineman of the year Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who was a sixth-round draft choice of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. On defence, key losses among the seven starters were a pair of senior linebackers who were selected in the CFL Draft, namely Jesse Briggs (Winnipeg) and Alexandre Bernard (Ottawa).
"We have a young committed team, improved our strength and conditioning and had a solid recruiting year, so I am expecting the team to be very much in contention for a playoff berth," says Uttley.
The offensive side of McGill's game is expected to be solid under the guidance of offensive coordinator Patrick Boies, who will utilize a five-receiver package, buttressed by a veteran offensive line to protect quarterbacks Dallon Kuprowski and Joel Houle, in addition to all-conference running back Luis Guimont-Mota.
Kuprowski, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound pivot from Kanata, Ont., was invited to the CIS East-West Bowl last spring. With the Redmen, he became a starter in his freshman year but converted to receiver midway through his sophomore campaign. He sat out his junior year with injuries. Over his collegiate career, he has completed 81 of 153 attempts (52.9%) for 844 yards, one touchdown and seven interceptions. He has also rushed 37 times for 163 yards, a 4.4 average and one TD.
He will be challenged by Houle, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound all-star pivot from CEGEP Div. 3, where he was named twice as the league's most outstanding offensive player while playing for College de Valleyfield. Waiting in the wings to step in is sophomore Pierre-Luc Moquin who starred with College Edouard-Montpetit.
Pacing the attack at running back is the aforementioned Guimont-Mota, a shifty, 5-foot-8, 182-pound junior, who led the conference in rushing with 824 yards on 147 carries, a 5.6 average and four TDs. One sophomore expected to see significant work is 5-foot-11, 185-pound speedster Pelle Jorgen (21 carries, 149 yds, 7.1 avg, one TD).
Leading the receivers will diminutive seniors Jean-Philippe Paquette (5'5", 160) and Yannick Langelier-Vanasse (5'8, 185), both of whom possess explosive speed and also pose a double-threat as return specialists.
Paquette was voted team MVP last year after snaring 38 receptions for 546 yards, a 14.4 avg., and two TDs. He also led the team in all-purpose yards, averaging 129 per game on 78 touches.
Langelier-Vanasse caught 19 catches for 210 yards and one TD as a sophomore and led the Redmen in all-purpose yards during his freshman year, averaging 117.4 yards per game on a combined 70 touches.
Other key receivers include three sophomores Casey Cook – who led the team last fall with 42 receptions for 696 yards, a 16.6 average and a pair of TDs – Damian Massey-Hirt (28 rec., 266 yds., 9.5 avg., 1 TD) and Pascal Tshilambo (21 rec., 324 yds., 15.4 avg., 2 TDs). One freshman to watch for is Simon Gingras-Gagnon, a six-foot, 204-pound tight-end from College Garneau in Quebec City.
The overall kicking game is a bit of an unknown factor with the loss of veteran place-kicker Samy Rassy (Punting: 77 times for a 36.1 avg., Field-Goals: 15/20, Longest: 37). Battling to start are Nils Jonkmans, a senior from Deep River, Ont., and freshman Myke Daignault-Labarre out of College Edouard-Montpetit.
A rebuilt offensive line features left tackle Pierre-Olivier Daloze, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound senior, freshman left guard Cedric Vinet (6-4, 275), junior centre Terence Gamit (6-1, 265), freshman right guard Brock Mould (6-1, 326) and senior right tackle Frederic Methot (6-2, 275). Waiting in the wings are three highly-touted sophomores in Qadr Spooner (6-5, 295), Tim Mitchell (6-5, 285) and Nicolas Bertrand (6-0, 300).
On defence, there will be some questions to answer for new defensive coordinator Ronald Hilaire in the wake of losing the five-leading tacklers from last year. Key losses include linebackers Alexandre Bernard (48.5 tackles, one TFL, 2 knockdowns), Zachary Lord (44 tackles, one INT), Chris O'Kill (43 tackles, 2 KD), Jesse Briggs (40 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 QB sacks, one INT, two KDs) and Stephan Osman (32 tackles, one INT).
A young defensive line features a talented group, led by sophomore defensive end Carl Laverdiere (6-0, 230) and junior DE Devon Stewart (5-11, 231) who played in the 2014 CIS East-West Bowl and has moved over from running back. At tackle is junior Kadeem Lewis (6-1, 285) and rookie Ousmane Guindo (5'11, 235). Another to see action will be senior Olivier Cain-Tremblay (6-3, 265). Among the freshmen expected to stand out are Jean-Michel Elie (6-0, 237) out of College du Vieux-Montreal and Edouard-Andrew Joseph (5-9, 215) of College Montmorency.
The youthful linebacking corps, will include sophomores Gabriel Poisson (5-10, 210; OLB) and Eric Gracioppo (6-1, 235; MLB) and sophomore Charles-William Tremblay (5-11, 205; OLB).
A rebuilt defensive backfield will feature junior Nicholas Gaudreault (5-10, 179), sophomores Alexandre Lefebvre-Tardif (1 INT) and David Polynice (6-3, 175), along with a pair of freshmen – Mack Dessources (5-8, 180) out of College Ahuntsic and Malundu Bukasa (5-9, 170) who played junior ball in St. Leonard.
Other expected to battle for playing time include senior Simon Lamontagne (5-11, 200) and junior Maxime Chaput-Dupuy (5-8, 180).
Photo credit Derek Drummond, McGill Athletics & Recreation