Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CIS Countdown: #22 Waterloo Warriors

Fast facts: Can be counted on to beat York, Toronto, and maybe someone else: have finished 3-5 or 2-6 every year since 2004 ... Last year, were 3-0 for the first time since 1998, but lost the next five to miss the playoffs ... New football stadium this year -- on their own campus! (see below) ... Lots of recruits this year; coach is excited ... Third-year and part-time QB Luke Balch was 22nd out of 26 qualifying quarterbacks in adjusted net yards per pass attempt last year ... Three participants in the 2008 East-West Game: receivers Sean Cowie and Joshua Svec; defensive back Patrick McGarry ... On the web: www.athletics.uwaterloo.ca, waterloowarriorfootball.com ...

Coach: Dennis McPhee (2nd season, 4th in CIS). McPhee's a longtime Hamilton Tiger-Cats assistant (linebacker coach during the 1999 Grey Cup win). In his two years at St. FX, he was named AUS Coach of the Year once and made the playoffs twice.

Co-ordinators: Joe Paopao (offence), Rob McMurren (defence), Hank Ilesic (special teams). Yes, that Hank Ilesic.

Enrolment: 22,368

Alumni in the CFL: OL Chris Best (Saskatchewan), who also played three years with Duke.

Famous non-football alumni: Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, co-CEOs of BlackBerry-producing Research In Motion; comedians Rick Green and Steve Smith of The Red Green Show and other projects. Ten points if you can pronounce "Balsillie" correctly.

Three-year record: 8-16, 8th out of 10 in Ontario

2007 units ranking: 24th on offence, 19th on defence

Key losses: LB Stephen Campbell, LB Shane Everest, DE Darren Kisinger. All have used up their five years of eligibility. Campbell, Everest, and Kisinger recorded the first-, fifth-, and seventh-most tackles on the team last year, and combined for five sacks and three turnovers. That may not sound like much, but when you lose 45-0, every bit helps.

Returning starters: QB Luke Balch, QB Evan Martin, RB Tanner Forsyth, RB Will Oud, WR Sean Cowie, WR Joshua Svec, WR Ray Nattress, LB Mitch Nicholson, DE Andrew Heeley, DB Patrick McGarry, DB John Boonstra

Players to watch: WR Sean Cowie, DB Patrick McGarry, RB Tanner Forsyth, WR Joshua Svec, QB Evan Martin

For future reference: The massive number of recruits (52, apparently) precludes listing even half of them. They include QB Jon Roney, which is good for Waterloo, given that neither of their quarterbacks set the league on fire last year. Roney's from North Vancouver and you can find YouTube highlights set to Wolfmother here. There are also a couple of local incoming defensive linemen in Djordje Gavrilovic out of Sir John A. in the middle of nowhere northwest Waterloo and Dan Wickens from St. David. Seriously, 52 recruits?

Home field advantage?: This year, Waterloo will play at Warrior Field, located on the north part of campus. Thousands of students live in residence just across the street, so you'd figure some of them would be more likely to attend this year. Having not been in Waterloo since April, I haven't seen the changes in person, but this field will likely be the very definition of "temporary." Today in The Record, we learn that the bleachers and press box haven't been installed. In any case, and at the very least, this means the Warriors will be playing at Laurier's field one time instead of five.

Radio coverage: Reports of its death were greatly exaggerated. Home games will be on 100.3 Sound FM, but good luck picking up that radio signal within Waterloo, he said from experience. Listen online at ckmsfm.ca, and if you want to hear road games, try the other team's broadcast.

Schedule (swing games in bold):
Sept. 1 @ U of T
Sept 6 McMaster
Sept. 13 @ Western
Sept. 20 @ Ottawa
Sept. 27 Laurier
Oct. 4 Guelph
Oct. 11 @ Windsor
Oct. 18 Queen's

The Warriors will miss York in the OUA's schedule rotation.

Final analysis: York and Toronto were usually the automatic wins for the Warriors. Without the Lions on the schedule, it will be tough for Waterloo to make a difference in the OUA. Even last year's 3-0 start, schedule-assisted as it was, didn't make them into contenders: they were utterly blown away in four of their five remaining games, and lost the other one by 16.

Their offence was at the bottom of the league and they're a pretty inexperienced bunch. A cynic would say they'll beat the Blues and nobody else, but let's give them the Windsor game. Make it 2-6, out of the playoffs.

(Contributors to this preview: Duane Rollins, and Christine Rivet from The Record.)

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