Dunk: A look at the defensive players coming to the CFL Combine

The next wave of potential Canadian stars in the CFL will be on display in Winnipeg jockeying for the highest draft spots possible at the national combine.

With the in mind, here’s a coles notes version of what you need to know about every single defensive prospect that scouts will be assessing in the Manitoba capital. Check out the offensive players.

Defensive lineman

Bo Banner, Central Washington

Banner was just added to the class in January after getting his Canadian citizenship (mom was born in Canada). He was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year finishing his senior season the 2017 season with 30 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. Best pass rushing prospect in the draft.

Mathieu Breton, Bishop’s

Standing over six-foot-seven Breton has movement skills for his size. He needs to fill out more for the pro game but the athletic traits are there.

Rashari Henry, Laurier

Henry played the opposite defensive end spot to Eskimos most outstanding rookie Kwaku Boateng in 2016. An underrated player who has some quicks.

Julien Laurent, Georgia State

Suited up in 33 games for the Panthers making 63 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He went to Georgia State after one season at New Mexico Military Institute junior college. Enters the combine as the top-ranked interior defensive line prospect in the draft.

Norvell McGlaun, Indiana State

Low centre of gravity helps McGlaun get leverage, but scouts would like to see him make his more slim and trim. He’s played 36 games making 75 tackles, 7.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks for the Sycamores.

Kene Onyeka, Carleton

Onyeka has bloodlines in the CFL with cousin Nakas a linebacker for the Argos. Brother Godfrey is a top defensive back prospect. Onyeka put up 46 tackles, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two knockdowns which earned him the OUA’s J.P Metras Trophy as the conference’s lineman of the year and first-team All-Canadian honours. Expect Onyeka to challenge Banner for the best sack artist in the class.

Brett Wade, Calgary

Strong might be the best word to describe the Regina native, he racked up 24 bench press reps of 225 pounds at the 2017 USports East-West Bowl, most among the defensive lineman there. Best pro spot might be on the interior.


Mickael Cote, Concordia

Physically Cote looks like a CFL linebacker. He was a 2017 USports All-Canadian making an RSEQ-best 7.2 tackles per game and 50.5 overall. Concordia has produced some excellent linebackers (Greenwood, Cory) and Cote could join that group.

Sean Harrington, Michigan State

The Spartans walk-on played 13 games as a senior after rupturing his Achilles in 2016. Harrington was a core special teams player for Michigan State and his size projects to the pro level.

Paul Kozachuk, Toronto

Above average athletic attributes and productive player for the Varsity Blues. Kozachuk could help on special teams.

Nelkas Kwemo, Queen’s

Smooth athlete that appears comfortable in space. Kwemo played at Kents Hill School in Maine and then went to Queen’s. Heads into the combine as the favourite to be the highest drafted linebacker.

Khadim M’Baye, Ottawa

A larger linebacker who would be served to cut down some weight and improve quickness and speed even more than the numbers he posted at the Montreal regional combine.

Eric Mezzalira, McMaster

Captain and heart and soul of a tough McMaster defence. Mezzalira led the Marauders with 43 tackles and plays better than he tests.

Jean-Gabriel Poulin, Western

Fierce on the field, Poulin arrives with a purpose and finishes tackles full force. If Poulin can improve on his test scores from the 2017 USports East-West Bowl that will boost his stock.

Boston Rowe, Calgary

Understands the game, smart and agile on the field. Rowe stuffed the stat sheet for the Dinos in 2017: 40 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two breakups, two forced fumbles, one sack and one fumble recovery. Very active defender.

Micah Teitz, Calgary

The second of the Dinos’ dynamic duo on defence, Teitz led the team in tackles with 48.5. A rangy linebacker who can cover ground for his size.

Defensive backs

Jordan Beaulieu, Western

Beaulieu boasts a chiselled frame with speed to compliment it. He’s physical and was a reliable defender for the Mustangs.

Jackson Bennett, Ottawa

Bennett played multiple positions for the Gee-Gees defence while excelling no matter where he lined up in the linebacking core or secondary. He returned kicks, including a clutch 99-yard touchdown return with less than two minutes left to lift Ottawa over Queen’s last season, and even saw time on offence.

Jacob Firlotte, Queen’s

Firlotte brings a large and thick figure to the table. He’s cerebral on the backend. Similar to Bombers all-star safety Taylor Loffler, hair included.

Isaiah Guzylak-Messam, Laurier

Messam was overshadowed to some with all the attention his secondary mate Godfrey Onyeka has gotten, but the broad and physical defensive back intrigues teams. He goes about his business in a quiet way letting his play do the talking. Current Ticats defensive back Jay Langa is one comparison scouts have made.

Justin Howell, Carleton

Howell lined up all over the secondary for the Ravens and packs a punch when he arrives at the catch point or making a tackle. His work as a gunner on special teams will get him noticed by CFL scouts.

Brandon Jennings, Acadia

Along with quarterbacking defence Jennings was the primary punter for the Axemen and even kick a field goal and some extra points. Added value like those tools enhances the draft value.


Dagogo Maxwell, UBC

Maxwell led UBC in tackles last season, returned kicks, one 96 yards for a touchdown. Seeks out contact and can make plays on the ball in the air, five breakups and one interception.

Royce Metchie, Guelph

Metchie is an intriguing defensive prospect. Coverage skills that could translate to the pro level and physical enough to play in the box. Special teams standout on cover and return units.

Godfrey Onyeka, Laurier

Three-time first-team All-Canadian defensive back is long and rangy. Onyeka has cover ability and ball skills to play in a CFL secondary and physicality to be used in different packages where he’s in the box.