Three full days of practice are in the books at the USports East-West Bowl.
All that’s left is a final walk-through practice then it’s game time, which will be shown live Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET on the Laval Rouge et Or YouTube page with yours truly on the call.
Takeaways from Thursday…
1) Big men up front
(Photo credit: Mathieu Belanger)
Two towering offensive linemen jump out based on sheer size: Laval’s Samuel Thomassin (six-foot-six, 341 pounds) and Concordia’s Maurice Simba (six-foot-seven-and-a-half, 335 pounds).
Thomassin moves well and clearly plays with a polish to his game. Rouge et Or offensive line coach Carl Brennan is known for developing elite prospects and Thomassin fits that bill.
Simba has ultra long arms – 36 inches – and managed to pump out 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. Long and strong would be the best way to describe the Congo native.
Stingers teammate Matt Halbgewachs looks the part as does Rouge et Or blocker Pierre-Karl Lanctot.
Over on the West side, Guelph’s Eric Starczala has intriguing traits.
2) Pocket pushers and edge rushers
Laval defensive end Mathieu Betts is the guy that draws eyeballs everytime scouts watched his group. He can get after the quarterback from either end spot and kick inside to create a disruption as well. Pro talent evaluators and coaches were raving about how quickly Betts bursts off the football at the snap. There was some – very early – discussion Betts could be a No. 1 overall pick a year from now but lots still has to play out – and it’s entirely possible Betts gets an NFL chance.
(Photo credit: Mathieu Belanger)
Laurier’s Robbie Smith can pressure the opposing quarterback in his own way. Last season, he tied Kene Onyeka from Carleton, who was drafted by the Ottawa Redblacks, for the USports lead with 10.5 sacks. Smith is long, 34-inch arms, and brings an explosiveness off the edge. Kwaku Boateng is slated to start for the Edmonton Eskimos in his sophomore season after an impressive rookie campaign in the CFL and Smith is said to be more athletic, high praise from personnel men.
Among interior defenders, UBC Thunderbird Connor Griffiths, a 2017 All-Canadian, has been highlighted a number of times by CFL talent evaluators. He wreaks havoc on the inside against the run and when quarterbacks drop back to pass.
Laval’s Vincent Desjardins and Western’s Jimmy Hawley are two more defensive tackle types with pro potential.
3) Stampeders defensive coaches
Calgary boasted the No. 1 ranked CFL defence in many categories last season and two of their coaches shared knowledge throughout the week: defensive line coach Corey Mace and linebacker coach Brent Monson.
Mace played three seasons with the Buffalo Bills and six for the Stampeders then became a coach. Watching Mace focus on hand position was a free seminar for anyone paying attention – the players certainly took notes and put the teachings into action.
Monson has been a below the radar factor in Alex Singleton’s rise to CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player status. The McMaster University graduate brings an energy to the field.
The CFL providing pro coaching resources to the East-West Bowl is a great initiative by the league which gives invaluable tutoring for the prospects.