Mount Allison football head coach Kelly Jeffrey is counting on no fewer than 50 returnees and 40 rookies for an upcoming camp.
While the St. Mary's Huskies usually draw a large crowd to their games, this Saturday could see nearly as many players as people in the stands as they and the Mount Allison Mounties go at it in a pre-season exhibition game, with the final outcome really secondary to what the coaches can learn from watching their many rookies strive for a position.
Mountie coach Kelly Jeffrey said such early outings provide coaches with an ideal opportunity for measuring ability. And he added that since there is a major battle for starting berths in most positions, he hopes he and his staff will gain a good deal from the matchup.
Over the years, with the exception of the early days, the Huskies have had the Mounties "number", often trouncing them, especially on the Halifax gridiron with one forgettable whipping in 2001. But the local squad has shown a little more bounce in recent times. They upended the Huskies 23-21 in a regular season game in Moncton in 2010 and won last year's pre-season game by a 16-10 score, following that up with a 21-12 victory at home in mid-season.
So, exhibition games are usually up for grabs, with established veterans seeing little field time. But as the season progresses, look to see players like Jacob LeBlanc, Quinn Everett, Donovan Saunders, Michael Bohan and Richard Deschamps earning their keep on defense. On the other side it will no doubt be people like workhorse Jordan Botel doing it again as well as Brandon Leyh, Alex Healy and Stephen Armstrong.
Meanwhile Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) officials have sealed any loopholes in the eligibility regulations, which will prevent any person having reached the age of 25 from competing in any of the conferences under their control.
Previously the ruling stated that a player must complete his five years of eligibility within seven years of high school graduation. This left some room, especially for students who may, for any reason, failed to graduate at 18 and perhaps did not finish until they were 21.
According to a CIS report, the underlying rationale for the age cap remains unchanged with respect to player health and safety, providing realistic opportunities for first-time incoming students, and encouraging graduation within a reasonable time frame. It goes on to note that a recent survey of athletic directors indicated that 70 per cent of schools that responded are in favour of imposing an age limit in one or more sports, with half of these schools in favour of imposing one limit across all sports.
Some football schools have long recruited mature players, which will no longer be permitted. Such a ruling earlier would have prevented fans from watching the marvelous performances of people like Gary Ross and Kelly Hughes, for example.