The Canadian university football season is kicking off soon and Out of Left Field is providing a look at all 27 CIS teams, from west to east. Presenting: the Simon Fraser Clan.
In '06: 0-8, missed playoffs
Players to watch: QB Jason Marshall, RB Jaiden Smith, K-WR Chris Passaglia, OL John Reeves, DB Stuart Milton
Head coach: Dave Johnson (1st season)
Co-ordinators: Johnson (offensive), Lou DesLauriers (defensive), Jamie Clayton (special teams)
Last league title: 2003
Big ones: Aug. 31 vs. Calgary, Sept. 4 at UBC, Oct. 6 vs. UBC
On the web: sfu.ca/athletics
Strengths: There's a fair bit of football knowledge among the new coaching staff, plus the opportunity for quick advancement has netted some decent recruits. There is some skill position talent such as Marshall, Smith and fullback Josh Havey in the backfield that should help keep SFU in some games.
Mountains to climb, rivers to cross... It will take time for the Clan to become competitive again. A short three-day turnaround between the first two games (Aug. 31 vs. Calgary and and Sept. 4 at UBC), followed by a trip to Saskatoon to play the Huskies, adds to the task at hand.
Marshall, a fifth-year senior, probably won't find himself being SFU's leading rusher by default again. The Clan brought in Smith, who rushed for close to 5,500 yards in his junior football career. It also gets back tailback Owen Geier (who missed all of '06 with a knee injury). John Reeves, another former junior standout, joins an O-line that already has Brian Thiessen, who played in last spring's CIS East-West Bowl.
Receivers Chris Passaglia (son of the legendary Lui Passaglia) and Aaron Hargreaves should each see a lot of passes, especially on a team which might have play more catch-up than a guy who just registered for Facebook.
Former UBC head coach Lou DesLauriers, the new defensive co-ordinator, might want to clean house. Milton, linebacker Dan Chabot and versatile linebacker/defensive back Thomas Pearce are the main holdovers from last season's defence. For the most part, SFU is starting from scratch after a defensive nightmare last season, but it does have a minimum of four games vs. teams who have new starting quarterbacks.
Like his famous father did in his days at SFU, Chris Passaglia adds kicking and punting to his duties as a wide receiver.
The school on the hill has been in the valley of indecision -- play Canadian schools, or play U.S. schools since its football program left the NAIA for the CIS in 2002? That, among other things, contributed to the bottoming-out over the past few seasons. The upshot is that the athletic administration at Simon Fraser is trying to build ties with ex-players from the program's bygone glory of the 1970s and '80s, when it was an assembly line to the CFL, and restore the program. On Sunday, the program is holding an alumni scrimmage -- a little bonding exercise Gary Barnett instituted when he pulled Northwestern up from Big Ten doormat to a Rose Bowl appearance in the mid-'90s.
Simon Fraser's best chance to break an 18-game losing skid might come in the opener since Calgary has a first-time starting quarterback, Casey Brown.
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