Wednesday, August 27, 2008

CIS Countdown #5: Western Mustangs

Fast facts: After a lacklustre regular season, and horrific for Western Mustang standards, UWO became the Cinderella story of the playoffs winning the Yates Cup from the No. 6 playoff seed position. After losing the Mitchell Bowl to the eventual Vanier Cup champion Manitoba Bisons, Western returns after a successful recruiting season looking to repeat the Yates Cup victory however with a more successful regular season campaign.

Coach: Greg Marshall, second season.

Record as Head Coach with Western: 7-5 (4-4 regular season, 3-1 postseason)
Overall record as CIS Head Coach: 60-23-2 (46-16-2 regular season, 14-7 postseason)
The highly renowned Greg Marshall, adored in some circles scorned in others. Marshall has an impressive resume that includes both University as well as Professional Head Coaching in Canada – something very uncommon for Coaches born and schooled North of the border.

Co-ordinators: Offensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, defensive co-ordinator Paul Gleason

Enrolment: 29,500 undergraduate students, 4600 graduate students at UWO and affiliated colleges.

Alumni in the CFL: Western ties for third among CIS schools with 8 former players currently in the CFL as per Duane’s July list: WR Andy Fantuz, OL Tim Bakker, DB Leron Mitchell, OL Mike Abou-Mechrek, DB Nick Kordic, WR Tyler Scott, G Jude St. John, DT Jeff Keeping

Famous non-football alumni: UWO has an impressive list of alumni, just as many other institutions. To name a few: Actors Alan Thicke and Kelly Rowan, Sports Commentators Scott Russell, Elliot Friedman, Duane Forde, Holly Horton and Jennifer Hedger; Politicians Audrey McLaughlin (NDP Leader), Frank de Jong (Green Party Ontario Founder/Leader), and Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister, Liberal).

Three-year record: 20-11-1

2007 unit rankings: Western ranked 3 rd in the OUA on Offence placing them 5 th in the CIS overall, to give an idea about the Offensive firepower of this conference last season. While they were 5 th in Rushing in the conference they made up for it by claiming 2 nd fin Passing to Ottawa. On Defense Western was the top unit in the OUA and 3 rd across the CIS. They were 3 rd in yards allowed on the ground per game and the top spot for passing yards allowed.

Key losses: RB Randy McCauley, WR Dave Clayton, WR Anthony Adderley, WR Tyler Scott, LB Nick Kordic, DL Tom Dolezel, K/P Derek Schiavone

Returning starters:
QB Michael Faulds: Entering his fourth year with Western in 2008, Faulds comes off his best season after being hampered by injuries in 2005 and 2006. He led Western to its 27th Yates Cup in team history, being named player of the game going 23 of 41 for 390 yards. He finished the regular season with a career-high 3,250 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. He also ran for 233 yards (2nd on team) and three touchdowns.

LT Richard Zulys: An imposing figure on the offensive line, Zulys is once again a strong contender to earn a spot on the OUA All-Star team after enjoying strong seasons in 2005, 2006 and 2007. He was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in April and has been a five-year starter with the Mustangs.

DB and REC Matt Carapella: Mr. Everything, Matt Carapella was a vital part of Western's Yates Cup run. Injured in the home opener against Queen's in 2007, Western lost four straight with Carapella out of the lineup. Upon his return at Homecoming, Western won seven straight games. In five games, Carapella had 11.5 tackles, 4 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery.

REC Jesse Bellamy: The native of Guelph, ON led the Mustangs in receiving yards and receptions in 2007 with 575 yards on 35 catches, including one touchdown. He will be the only starting receiver to return in 2008 and will likely be the No. 1 target of Michael Faulds.

DE Vaughn Martin: Martin quickly earned the respect of opposing teams in his 2007 rookie campaign, finishing third on the team in tackles with 33.5 along with two sack and one fumble recovery. Martin (6-foot-4, 295 lbs.) attended Milford Academy in New York State where he was heavily recruited by NCAA schools, and he even committed to Michigan State before its coaching staff was fired. Prior to playing at Western, Martin played for the Marshall-coached Canada team that competed at the Global Junior Championships along with Mustang sophomore linebacker John Surla.

LB John Surla: Named Western's top rookie in 2007, Surla finished second on the team in tackles with 40 and added a forced fumble and an interception. In the dying seconds of the OUA semifinal game at Ottawa, the middle linebacker fell on the ball in the end zone following an Ottawa fumble to score the final six points and secure a 23-16 win. Through the season, he was a special-teams force recording key tackles on kick returns and acting as one of the team's long-snappers.

DB Corey McNair: McNair led the Mustangs in tackles in 2007 finishing with 44.5 along with 1 interception. He represented Western at the 2007 CIS East West Bowl at Laval.

DB Andrew Bain: Finishing 7th on the team in total tackles with 14, Bain also recorded a breakup and pulled in one fumble recovery, stepping up as a leader in the absence of Matt Carapella.

Players to watch: Transfer players are the big story for UWO this coming season. After trying to break it into the CFL two new additions have been added to Western football: Safety John Hood transfers from St. F.X. after a camp with the Edmonton Eskimos, and Darryl Wheeler from Utah State after spending time at training camp with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Both will fill important vacancies and will be important to the success of the Mustangs. As well OT Ahamad Jaradat was NC State bound down south but has returned to play for Western, which is another huge pick-up for this squad.

And of course you can’t mention this Western team without speaking about their jack-of-all-trades player, DB and WR Matt Carapella. When he went down with injury Western lost, when he was healthy they won, plain and simple. He will continue to be an important impact player for the Mustangs.

For future reference: A young crew may take over the OL for the Mustangs however it’s an impressive unit, with Ahamad Jaradat, Mike Van Praet and Matt Norman potentially suiting up. Ben Roberts will be looking to these players for as much help as possible as he is targeted to take over the backfield duties from one of the greatest Western RB’s of all time, Randy McCauley.

Sept. 1 Ottawa, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 @ Laurier, 7 p.m. (The Score University Rush)
Sept. 13 Waterloo, 1 p.m.
Sept. 20 @ York, 1 p.m.
Sept. 27 @ Queen's, 1 p.m. (The Score University Rush)
Oct. 4 Windsor, 2 p.m. (Homecoming)
Oct. 9 @ U of T, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 Guelph, 1 p.m.
(Western misses out on playing McMaster)

Prediction: 6-2 or 7-1

Final analysis: Western had surprise success last season, as if Greg Marshall needed anything else beyond his name to help with recruiting. The Mustangs have had a very strong class this year and return one of the top QBs in the nation in Michael Faulds. It is hard to say that Western will be far from the top, the Ottawa game will be a battle (especially after the game they had last season), but after that it appears there are only a couple teams that could give Western too much trouble. UWO may finish with only a loss or 2 on the season coming into the playoffs should the blue chip prospects and transfers they acquired in the offseason pan out the way they are being predicted.

(Contributors: Rob Pettapiece, Duane Rollins.)

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