CFL (and NFL) prospects to watch in the Vanier Cup

The highly-anticipated rematch between Western and Laval goes down in Vanier Cup Saturday in Quebec City.

Each Canadian university football program is well known for nurturing players into pro-ready prospects. As the Mustangs and Rouge et Or put it all on the line in the national championship, pro scouts will be watching closely to see how the players perform on the stage.

Let’s take a look at some of the players who could soon be making the jump to the CFL,

Mathieu Betts, defensive lineman, Laval

Betts is an elite player on the edge. Before making the decision to play at Laval, Betts took official visits to NCAA Division I colleges Purdue and Temple. Betts is the first player to win the J.P. Metras Trophy as the outstanding down lineman three straight years. He led USports with nine sacks in 2018 and three NFL teams have come to Laval’s campus for a closer look at the do-it-all defensive lineman.

Alex Savard, tight end, Laval

Savard is the next Rouge et Or tight end with NFL potential. Antony Auclair made the first journey from Quebec City to the NFL, and is currently playing in his second season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Savard has the physical and athletic traits to succeed at the NFL level and three teams have checked out Savard live throughout 2018. He will have to prove, as Auclair did, that he can quickly assimilate to the pro speed and level of competition.

Samuel Thomassin, offensive lineman, Laval

Thomassin is a towering offensive lineman – six-foot-six, 330 pounds – who is yet another stout blocker developed by Carl Brennan, Laval’s fine O-line coach. The 2018 All-Canadian put forth a strong season in his draft year pushing his stock up the boards but the capper could be a sparkling performance in the title game.

Vincent Desjardins, defensive lineman, Laval

Desjardins is a smart, disruptive force, technically sound, quick and strong – flat out problem for offensive linemen. Even though Desjardins is undersized, he’s a playmaker in the middle making 21 tackles, 13 more for loss, 4.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in 2018.

Fraser Sopik, linebacker/defensive back, Western

Sopik is a versatile defender despite being undersized for the linebacker position at the USports level and he earned the Presidents’ Trophy as the stand-up defensive player of the year. Western’s defensive captain plays with natural instincts and finds the football. At the pro level Sopik projects as a defensive back – think Ticats’ Mike Daly – who can range to make plays at safety, but he’ll carve out a chance on special teams first.

Cedric Joseph, running back, Western

Joseph has been an ideal fit for Greg Marshall’s downhill running game, piling up the yards and touchdowns while leading USports with 12 rushing majors. Except for top-end speed, which can be improved, Joseph displays many of the other traits to succeed in the CFL: hard runner, physical blocker, catches the ball comfortably and could play special teams.

Chris Merchant, quarterback, Western

Merchant doesn’t need to put up gaudy numbers in Western’s balanced offence, but another Vanier Cup MVP display against Laval could cement the fact he should get a real CFL opportunity. The Calgary native has experience at two CFL training camps with the Stampeders in 2017 and the Ticats in 2018. There are CFL talent evaluators who believe if allowed the chance with the right team in a system that fits, Merchant could compete with current third-string quarterbacks in the three-down league.

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