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Three things learned on day two of the East-West Bowl

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Day two at the 2018 USports East-West Bowl featured an old-fashioned two-a-day set of practices.

Both were crossover sessions where each team faced the opposing squad in one-on-ones. That ratcheted up the competition level and even after a jam-packed day one, energy was high.

(Photo credit: Mathieu Belanger)

What was learned:

1) Dynamic receivers

St. Francis Xavier’s Kaion Julien-Grant displayed his pure speed running a 4.37 in testing on Tuesday and he’s just one of an athletic bunch of pass catchers. Ottawa Gee-Gee Kalem Beaver has a burst and can be a home run hitter with his wheels. Queen’s Gael Chris Osei-Kusi runs well and becomes dangerous after the catch. Saint Mary’s Huskie Josh Henry brings the size element. Malikue Richards appears to have all the tools as a threat while Laval tight end Alexandre Savard appears comfortable split out. The East squad possesses a fun combination of targets.

Over on the West, Laurier Golden Hawk Kurliegh Gittens Jr. appears to be the best route runner in the group, according to a CFL scout. Gittens Jr. routinely creates separation even against the best cover men in the country. UBC Thunderbird Trivel Pinto has a wiggle and burst which left some defensive backs ankles in pain. Manitoba Bison Shai Ross can go up and high point the football effortlessly – a 39.5-inch vertical certainly helps. York Lion Colton Hunchak is deft at getting open and plucking pass with his hands. Fellow York product Nikola Kalinic provides a big target – six-foot-four, 256 pounds – for any quarterback, plus he moves well and likes to be physical. He was rallying to the football if it was caught by a teammate and blocking in passing drills.

Scouts raved about the overall speed of the receivers.

2) Long cover men

Locking down those pass catchers seems like a stiff test but there are some capable defensive backs here this week. Ottawa Gee-Gee Jamie Harry stands out as the most fluid and smooth and he’s already had a number of knockdowns. Teammate Cody Cranston is nearly as long as his brother Ty who was a Montreal Alouettes draft pick in 2017.

UBC Thunderbird Malcolm Lee has long arms – over 33 inches – and at more than 6-foot-1, the frame screams pro body though scouts just want to see Lee increase his physicality. Another Thunderbird Stavros Katsantonis flies around the field and anticipation and quickness are two traits that jump out for the Bakersfield, California native. Windsor Lancer Evan Martin also has 33-inch arms despite being just 5-foot-11 and he attacks ball carriers with a physical demeanour.

3) Ticats offensive line coach Dennis McKnight shares wisdom

Usually, long-time B.C. Lions offensive line coach Dan Dorazio coaches the offensive linemen who get the invite to the East-West Bowl hard, Dorazio has a well-earned reputation passed down through the years by participants of working his players insanely hard, but he’s not in Quebec City this year. Instead, it’s McKnight, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, helping to fill the void. He was making sure the West blockers were aware of balance in various blocking positions. USports coaches commented how it was a live clinic, listening and watching McKnight share his knowledge. Players were focused in when McKnight spoke, a sign of immediate respect that he commands through his knowledge and passion for the position group.

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Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk is the pre-eminent CFL insider and unabashed supporter of Canadian quarterbacks. He is one of the founders of the new 3DownNation.

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