Success in recruiting top quality student athletes is the lifeblood of any sports program but teams take a variety of routes in accomplishing their goals. Some university coaches in the Maritimes rely heavier on seeking talent from south of the border, others concentrate on luring fine athletes from the west while the Mount Allison Mounties have slowly but steadily reached a new level of accomplishment by taking a wholly balanced approach.
Head coach Kelly Jeffrey set his team‚Äôs goal of attracting 45 percent of recruits from the Maritimes, an equal number from Ontario and the remaining 10 percent from other regions. And after signing 35 young men for the 2014 class the breakdown is almost on the mark ‚Äď 43 percent from each of the Maritimes and Ontario and 14 percent from other jurisdictions.
He says the Mountie recognition factor took a huge leap forward with their appearance in last fall‚Äôs Uteck Bowl here in Sackville and that the final total of rookies could surpass 40. However, there is one enigma in the scenario ‚Äď the picking this year in New Brunswick is slim with only four in the loop. Jeffrey says at least two others decided to go elsewhere in spite of attempts to have them attend the top undergraduate university in Canada.
‚ÄúIt does seem a little strange,‚ÄĚ he commented during a recent discussion, ‚Äúsince Mount Allison is the only university in New Brunswick with a football team in the Atlantic University Conference.‚ÄĚ
However, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) continues to be a hotbed of talent and no fewer than 11 rookies will join the Mounties in August for the training camp. According to the coach, two of these athletes will be among the elite having been standouts in under-18 and under-19 Canadian championships. Another 15 will call Ontario home while two will be from Alberta and one each from Manitoba, British Columbia and Pennsylvania.
For many years Mountie recruiters simply hit the trail to find football players who had decent marks as they usually were faced with rebuilding lineups from beginning to end. They have now reached the point where they go after only the top players at each school and often target certain positions. This time the coach says they left the door open in seeking to find the best players at any position as they looked ahead to the future. Many of the current Mounties will be entering their third or fourth campaigns and a rebuilding task awaits the coaches after another year or two.
An example of this comes when it is realized every starting defensive player from 2013 will be returning ‚Äď recruiters have signed now fewer than 14 for this side of the ball. The figure includes nine defensive backs, three big linemen and a pair of linebackers. On the other side, they have added nine offensive linemen, five running backs, six receivers and a kicker.
It will be noted not a single quarterback is included in the list and Jeffrey says he wanted to find a good one as All-Conference Brendon Leyh has only two more years of eligibility as does backup Alex Field. He acknowledges it is vital to have a new signal caller developed and ready to take over in the 2016 season and adds that he and his staff are still searching for both a quarterback and a couple of other position players. He feels confident that as many as six athletes will be signed before the opening of camp, which will mean a roster of 100 or more ‚Äď the largest in the 60-year history of the program.
Asked to provide the names of some of his prize recruits and the head coach quickly listed the names of Shaun Robinson and Nate Rostek. Robinson is 230-pound defensive lineman from Citadel High in Halifax who was the MVP for Team Atlantic in national playdowns. Rostek is a 200-pound defensive back who played with Sir John A MacDonald and who went on to gain fame in the under 19 playdowns. He termed Sawyer King, a 275-pound lineman from Saint John as a ‚Äúblue collar‚ÄĚ type who can play the game.
The updated list includes runningbacks Kiel Ambursley (180), Toronto, Donovan Blue (225), Timberlea, N.S., Hayden Clarke (175), Hubley, N.S., Marc Kirourac (235), Winnipeg, and Mickey Valcius(185), Brampton; offensive linemen O‚ÄôNeill Barton (290) Halifax, JR deLara (270), Brampton, Angel Farias (270), Woodbridge, Ont., Liam Hickey (280), Bedford, Seamus Hickey (300), Allentown, Pennsylvania, Sawyer King (275), Saint John, Blake Lawrence (350), Pickering, Brandon Savage (260), Hampton, and Ryan Thompson (290), Oakville. And the new receiving corps will feature Austin Benn, Pickering, Matthew Crocker, Toronto, Pat Gillespie, Dieppe, Morgan Humes, Ajax, Ont. and Idahosa Yorke, Bowmanville. Defensive backs will be TJ Cairns, Calgary, Dean Ciampanelli, St. Albert, Alberta, Brayden Culligan, Halifax, Giovanni Holmes, Bedford, Avery Maloney, Ottawa, Daniel Mills, Abbotsford, B. C., Kylke Powell, Brampton, Nate Rostek, Stillwater Lake, N. S., Geoffrey Zed, Halifax and Mitch McCoy, Oromocto.
The linebacking crew will see the addition of Damian Halstead of Mississauga and Zack Leger of UJpper Tantallon while Ryan Lambert of Grimbsy will take on the kicking duties.
It‚Äôs still undetermined who will don the mantle worn by Jordan Botel, but Jeffrey feels the offense will be in good shape, especially with an upheld appeal that will permit veteran Emmanuel Musangu, a CEGEP graduate, in the fold.