We're winding our way across the country... presenting: the Montréal Carabins.
In '06: 6-2, lost 23-3 to Concordia in conference semi-final
Players to watch: QB Marc-Olivier Brouillette, DL Martin Gagné, DB Jean-Philip Provencher, WR Frank Bruno, RB Hantz Boursiquot, RB Dominic Chamberland-Pinto
Head coach: Marc Santerre (2nd season)
Co-ordinators: Pat Gregory (offensive), Denis Touchette (defensive)
Big ones: Sept. 15 vs. Concordia, Sept. 22 at Saint Mary's, Oct. 6 vs. Laval
On the web: carabins.umontreal.ca
Strengths: Defence, defence and defence ... the Carabins were top-5 in the country in scoring defence, fewest yards allowed, and they were sixth vs. the run and seventh against the pass.
Mountains to climb, rivers to cross... the offensive line is new, the gamebreakers on offence (Joseph Mroué and Yves Bériault) have moved on, and discipline seems to be an issue after being the most penalized team in the CIS last season.
Brouillette seems to be what's known south of the border as a dual-threat quarterback -- a passer who's almost as effective as a running back when he carries the ball. He'll get to show that ability to take off since Les Bleus have lost four of five starting offensive linemen from last season. Very few teams can overcome that. Basically, it comes down to finding out how young players can adjust to the university game.
Rookie receiver Frank Bruno is supposed to be a deep threat. Third-year running back Hantz Boursiquot and second-year Dominic Chamberland-Pinto were projected to compete for carries. The Carabins could struggle to put up points.
There is good depth at each position group, although the mean age and amount of experience has probably dipped since the end of last season, especially with Maxime Gagnier no longer being the last line of defence at safety. Gagné lost two of his veteran linemates so he probably will get more double-team blocks, which could affect his numbers. So long as he's in the lineup, though, he will show that he's one of Canada's best at his position.
Jean-Luc Lamarche graduated, so it's up to rookie Pierre-Paul Gélinas to take over the placekicking. Niki Demers, the team's primary punt returner, completed his eligibility last season. If Bruno has the wheels he's reputed to, it would stand to reason that he could return some kicks. Montréal has been known to play a little Beamer Ball, putting an emphasis on blocking punts and breaking off big returns to kick-start the offence.
Montréal is likely going to take a step back in '07 after being a pre-season sleeper pick to go the Vanier Cup last fall. Santerre isn't the first coach who's had a less than seamless transition after taking over a program, and the Carabins do draw a lot of water when it comes to name value among the players in Quebec's CEGEP teams. They are still in the top half of what is a two-tiered league.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.