Mounties looking to recruit blue-chip players

Wallie Sears
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Kelly Jeffrey

With as many as 60 players with at least one year of university football experience due to report to training camp in August it isn’t as vital for Mountie coaches to recruit quantity as it was in years gone by. So, led by coaches Scott Brady, Gaetan Richard and Kelly Jeffrey, the team will be keying in on blue chip type student-athletes as they scout high school and junior teams across Canada as well in parts of the US.

For many years – even up to the time the Mounties finally made it to a higher level in the 1980s and ’90s and then again during the current century - coaches were forced to come up with numbers merely to remain in the game. Part of this was due to a lack of resources and a fairly high turnover rate because of academic problems plus the fact few people outside the Maritimes had ever heard of Mount Allison University.

But with two appearances in the Vanier Cup and an outstanding effort in the Uteck Bowl last year when they appeared on national television, the Mounties are recognized and respected. It appears as though the program has been placed on a new plateau with a bright future in store. But this can only happen when coaches no longer are forced to attempt to find several kids from high schools to step into starting roles, especially in key positions.

It is also noted that until more recent times players would often arrive in camp prepared to get into shape for the season. That no longer happens – year-round training schedules are required and those who are not in shape no longer cut it. They must be fit and simply here to learn specific routines in order to give their team scoreboard successes.

But Jeffrey – the head coach for the past six years – was quick to point out during a recent team assessment that the team failed to “blow anybody out of the water” last season and will be faced with having bullseyes on their backs this time out after rallying from a dismal 1-4 beginning to end 4-4 and then march to the conference title – the first time since 1998. Actually, it took a late drive that netted 10 points to defeat St. Mary’s Huskies 20-17 for the crown. Thus, it is obvious some quality players must be harvested, not necessarily to move into starting positions this season but to ensure a strong future.  It is traditional that teams recruit with year two in mind but it certainly helps to find “studs” like Jordan Botel, Gary Ross or Kelly Hughes who can step on the field and immediately make a major impact.

With the entire 12-man defensive starting unit due to return, the point is driven home that coaches have the luxury of looking at least a season ahead as they surround themselves with talent that can be shaped during the first year or two they are in Sackville.

But of the 11 recruits already signed no fewer five are for the defensive side of the ball and promise to bring depth and to challenge some of the starters for a uniform number game number.

The offense came into its own during the latter half of the ‘13 campaign but face the loss of a pair of key performers. Running back Jordan Botel provided the ground game for the Mounties for two seasons but is no longer eligible, and fifth year offensive lineman 300 pound Alex Healy will be the key missing pieces. To this point the recruiters have penned four big offensive linemen – all in the 300 pound range – along with a running back and a receiver. But Jeffrey says his people are zeroing in on a pair of seasoned a tough running backs Emmanuel Musangu may be available to shoulder much of the load.

“It would seem that our offensive line could be even bigger this year,” says Jeffrey, “with so many 300 pounders on our list. And we will have most of those from last season with that much more experience.”

To show the range geographically it is necessary to hunt down talent of the 11 signed to date four are from Ontario, two each from Alberta and Nova Scotia and one each from Pennsylvania, B. C. and New Brunswick.

But this is just the beginning and upwards of 30-35 rookies are expected to make Sackville their home for the coming four to five years with some, no doubt, becoming household names. It is interesting that the Mounties have met with outstanding success in the Halifax area, right under the noses of St. Mary’s, Acadia and St. FX and featured an entire defensive line from there last season. This time they have two more from there and are working on others.

Following the Uteck Bowl game Jeffrey, in a state of emotion and elation, predicted many good things would come here as a result of the team’s valiant efforts. He suggested greater alumni resources with perhaps improved facilities. But he says his team, to a man, has come to believe in the natural grass field and believe it is a distinct advantage so it may not come into being although Mount Allison is one of the few major players in the country still relying on the weather to offer up good playing conditions.

The latest signings include defensive backs – TJ Cairns of Calgary, Dean Ciampanelli of St. Albert, Alta., Zach Leger of Upper Tantallon , Avery Maloney of Ottawa and Daniel Mills of Abbotsford, B.C. These four bring a degree of speed and range from 170 to 185 pounds.

The offensive linemen expected to see action consist of Seamus Hickey, a 6’4”, 300 pounder from Allentown, Pa., Liam Hickey, 6’4”, 285 pounder from Bedford, Brandon Savage, 6’5”, 265 pounder from Hampton, N.B., and Ryan Thompsons, a 6’5”, 295 pounder from Oakville.

Idahose Yorke, listed as a receiver from Bowmanville, is descripted as dynamic and explosive and a player who become the tailback unless the team is unsuccessful in recruiting one or both of the backs they are currently courting. The other running back is Mickey Valcius, a 6’1”, 185-pounder from Bowmanville.

Recruiting is a year-round business and something the Mounties have become more efficient at in recent years – they just now hope that their choices will be a tad better than those picked by the opposition.

 

Organizations: Mount Allison University, B. C

Geographic location: Canada, US, Sackville Bowmanville Ontario Alberta Nova Scotia Pennsylvania New Brunswick Halifax Acadia Calgary Albert Ottawa Abbotsford Allentown, Pa. Hampton Oakville

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