Realistically the Mount Allison Mounties should be set for a second consecutive successful campaign, especially with the announcement of two recent additions to the lineup, which should add zip to the offense while shoring up an already solid defense.
The first big news was that big and tough Quinn Everett will be returning for his fifth season with the Sackville squad that marched to the national semi-finals in 2013. Everett was drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers following last year’s comeback run. A key factor on defense, teaming with Jacob LeBlanc at tackle to present a major hurdle for the opposition, the Blue Bombers decided to turn him into an offensive lineman and he remained on the practice squad until a week ago when he received notice he would be returned to the Mounties for further seasoning.
When asked if the CFL team required Everett to play offense with the Mounties, head coach Kelly Jeffrey said “no, but they suggested that might be the preferred position.”
Jeffrey has indicated he might spot Everett on both lines when the occasion arises. On defense he would complete the entire lineup from last year as the remaining 11 starters will be in camp leading up the official launch of the workouts on Aug. 23.
Meanwhile, another positive announcement is that Emmanuel (Congo) Musangu has been declared eligible to play his final season with the Mounties. The quick but small former CEGEP player was the key man in the Mounties’ 23-21 victory over St. Mary’s in Moncton in 2010 but has seen limited action behind All-Canadian Jordan Botel during the past two campaigns. He will bring experience and quickness to the tailback spot.
And Jeffrey said the team has finally landed another running back – one they have been recruiting for the past two seasons – and he is expected to battle it out with sophomore Quinn LeBlanc of Dartmouth for one of the backfield positions.
With Botel setting an all-time record of more than 300 carried without a fumble and providing outstanding blocking for the quarterback it is expected several new schemes will be introduced to accommodate the new lineup. But with Musangu and LeBlanc, along with a newcomer lugging the ball, it’s expected the ground game will be used judiciously to set up the aerial game.
Brendon Leyh, back for his third season, should be even improved over his all-star 2013 campaign. He attended the training camp of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Jeffrey is confident he will feel more comfortable working from the pocket.
But even with such bonuses and with one of the largest recruiting classes in recent times – in the 40 range – the Mounties will be hard pressed to repeat as Atlantic Conference champions. Each of the other three teams – St. Mary’s, St. F. X. and Acadia will be going with fresh signal callers – a sore point for each last season – when Leyh was head and shoulders above the rest. There is no doubt the Mounties, after receiving no breaks early in the season, were the recipient of many over the final five games to reach the Uteck Bowl.
They will have targets on their backs, as do all defending champs. One week after training camp opens the locals will host the St. F. X. X-Men in an exhibition contest and even though players will stream in and out of the game some indication of the quality will be recognized.
It will be a battle for rookies to crack the defensive starting lineup. With Jordan Redding, Jack LeBlanc, Quinn Everett and Christian Plante eager to continue having fun in the line, the linebacking crew will see Te Nguyen, James Holobow and Jake DeWolfe back to defend while the secondary features such brilliant defenders as Donovan Saunders and Devante Sampson at the corners, Kwame Adjei at safety and Michael Bohan, Mark Sampson and Dylan Cossar at the halves.
There will be some changes on offense but Leyh will lead the attack with outstanding receivers Josh Blanchard, Rodreke Joseph, Troy Trentham, Kyle McLean, Matt Rose to be complimented by a fairly strong ground game. And the team has an experienced backup signal caller in Alex Field who has stepped into the breach before and performed well.
All in all, this shapes up as another exciting campaign with solid players at every position but fans should not become overly smug as none of the other teams, especially the Acadia Axemen, are standing still. But after years of struggling the Mounties should prove to be competitive in every game.