It’s back-to-school time and universities across the country opened up the semester last week with a full online slate of classes.
That means no U Sports football this year and the discerning three-down football fan will have to look south of the border to see the future Canadian stars of the CFL and NFL.
In the spirit of online learning, I’ve created a class of my own. Welcome to Intro to Canadian Studies, your weekly education on how every Canadian performed on an NCAA field the prior weekend.
You’ll get the pure statistical breakdown in the “Class Attendance” segment but, like any good professor, I’ll also provide opinions and analysis with my facts. Every week, I’ll pick the “Top of the Class” and highlight the top three performances by Canadians that Saturday.
I’ll give props to a young up-and-comer in my “Frosh of the Week” segment. Finally, I’ll talk about a Canadian who faced a setback that week and ask them to “Re-Submit Assignment” for a better grade.
Follow along each week and you’ll be in tune with all the top Canucks come draft day, ready to be the smartest Canadian fan in the Zoom meeting.
Just like regular classes, Week 1 of the NCAA season was a light workload with just one Canadian in action: Texas State’s Samuel Obiang. Intro to Canadian Studies is now able to get into full swing with a full Week 2 slate of Canadian content to breakdown.
Top of the Class
1. FS Alonzo Addae, SR, West Virginia Mountaineers (Pickering, Ont.)
Alonzo Addae’s performance against an over-matched Eastern Kentucky team is positive proof that we won’t be scraping the bottom of the barrel to find candidates for our weekly Top of the Class award. According to data analytics firm Pro Football Focus — a company that grades every pro and college player’s performance on every snap of every game — Addae recorded a game grade of 93.2, which qualifies as “elite” by their standards. By that metric, only six players in all of college football had a better performance than Addae in Week 2, and one of those was Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. I wonder if that guy is any good?
Even if you are a hardcore anti-analytics truther, there is no denying that Addae had a stellar game by every conceivable metric. In a blowout win by West Virginia, the Pickering, Ont. native was second on his team with seven tackles and completely shutdown the deep half of the field by allowing just a single catch and making a key third down pass breakup. Twice he came downhill to make the tackle himself on a kickoff as well, once sending the returner cartwheeling through the air with a hellacious blow.
That was all part of a complete performance, and Addae made the highlight reel as well. With just over three minutes remaining in the first half, Addae came from the middle of the field to pick off an Eastern Kentucky pass along the sideline. The diving interception, which saw Addae flying parallel to the ground, was a mind-blowing feat of athleticism and got plenty of attention on social media. Every kid dreams of making the SportsCenter Top Ten and the Canadian made it a reality, sliding in at number four on ESPN’s countdown of the top plays in college football.
Addae’s ascent has been a long-time coming. He showed promise during three seasons at FCS school New Hampshire before rolling the dice and transferring up a level of competition in 2019. He joined his cousin Jahmile Addae, a West Virginia assistant coach, in Morgantown, and hoped he could find a path to the NFL like his other cousin Jahleel Addae, a long-time safety with the San Diego Chargers. Because he had not yet graduated, that gamble meant that Addae had to sit-out his entire junior year and hope he could shine in a single season of FBS play. Clearly, he’s off to a pretty good start.
Addae’s a perfect first honouree for the inaugural “Top of the Class” because in many ways this week was his unveiling as well. Obscure because of his missed season, he wasn’t even on the initial list of 2021 CFL Draft eligible prospects compiled by the league. We did not forget him at 3DownNation, placing him a tentative No. 11 on our September draft prospect rankings, but he now seems sure to rise in prominence. For fans of Canadian football, Addae might be a household name sooner rather than later.
2. SS Enock Makonzo, JR, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (LaChine, Que.)
Another unknown name on the rise, Enock Makonzo deserves his place on this list for playing an integral role in Coastal Carolina’s sound defeat of Kansas. Like Addae, Makonzo was under the radar in 2019 after a season-ending injury in his second career game that took him out of the starting rotation, but the JUCO (junior college) product from Canadian talent factory New Mexico Military Institute picked up right where he left off.
Playing as a box safety and slot cover man, the former member of Team Canada took full advantage in his return to NCAA action. Makonzo racked up seven tackles, six of them unassisted, against the same school where he was injured last year. Twice he came around the edge to record impactful tackles for loss and was attributed a stellar 84.7 PFF grade against the run. Mackonzo was also able to recover a key fumble, which set up one of the Chanticleers’ touchdowns.
Enock is the brother of Montreal Carabins’ safety Ethan Makonzo and, with the RSEQ’s plan still unclear, he may have to play well enough for the both of them. The brothers will likely both have their names called over the course of the next two CFL drafts and, if Saturday is any indication, might well be the next great pair of CFL brothers.
3. MLB Geoff Cantin-Arku, SO, Syracuse Orange (Levis, Que.)
It’s hard to call anything that occurred in Syracuse’s loss to North Carolina a success but Geoff Cantin-Arku was indisputably one of the most productive Canadians of the week. In his first career start, the sophomore battled steep odds to keep the Orange competitive through three quarters of action against the newly-minted twelfth ranked team in the country.
In an admittedly mixed performance, Cantin-Arku recorded eight tackles and a savvy pass break up before his team succumbed to a fourth quarter offensive onslaught. While he was part of an exhausted group that got exposed for three touchdowns up the middle, the Levis native showed spurts of impressive hustle and athleticism to make a few shoe-string tackles on All-ACC dual-threat back Michael Carter as he raced down the sidelines.
Still early in his young career, Cantin-Arku showed enough promise in a certain defeat to round out the weekly podium. Still, fans hope the best is yet to come for both him and Syracuse.
Frosh of the Week
DE Akheem Mesidor, FR, West Virginia Mountaineers (Ottawa, Ont.)
Don’t expect Akheem Mesidor to be limited to the “Frosh of the Week” segment of these analysis pieces for very long.
While Addae dazzled from start to finish to earn his spot at the top of the class, his Mountaineers took advantage of their domination to give the younger players some seasoning. Among them was the true freshman Mesidor, the highly-touted Canadian who chose West Virginia over 16 other Division I offers following a season at Clearwater Academy International in Florida.
Mesidor saw exactly 12 snaps of action against Eastern Kentucky and made each one count. The 26th ranked strong side defensive end in the 2020 recruiting class got involved with two tackles and recorded his first career sack, posting a very impressive PFF grade of 78.5. While the limited play time and poor quality of his opponent kept him just outside the list of top performers, Mesidor proved that he could perform if given a bigger role. He is certainly a player to watch going forward.
CB Patrice Rene, SR, North Carolina Tar Heels (Ottawa, Ont.)
The most disappointing Canadian performance of the week goes to veteran corner Patrice Rene and at little fault of his own. Canadian football fans were excited to see the star from Ottawa back in the lineup after a devastating torn ACL in 2019 and, although his role was to initially be rotational, many hoped he would be the undisputed starter again before long. Unfortunately, it seems that may take more time than anticipated.
Rene did see the promised rotational action and played real football for the first time in a full year, but it was immediately apparent that the reason he wasn’t the starter was because he hasn’t fully returned to form. In just 15 snaps of action, Rene didn’t look like himself. He seemed a step slower and, while he only allowed one catch, got soundly beat on a long route down the sideline that would have been a sure-fire Syracuse touchdown had it not been overthrown.
As a junior in 2018, Rene had a season-long PFF grade of 72.9 and entered his senior season as the returning ACC corner with the lowest percentage of catches allowed. In his return from injury, Rene graded out at just 44.0, his lowest rating since a game in his freshman year where he played only a single snap.
None of this is Rene’s fault and he remains a marvelous player. It simply means that fans should temper their expectations for the Ottawa native going forward. ACL injuries take time to recover from and a quarantined off-season followed by shortened camps and COVID-19 training stoppages is not an ideal scenario to get healthy in.
In a few weeks, Rene may well return to the form that we are used to seeing, but this week provided a glimpse into the adversity he still has to overcome. CFL scouts will be watching closely, if he is unable to find a consistent role in the talented Tar Heels’ secondary Rene may actually rise up their draft boards due to lack of NFL interest.
RT Matthew Bergeron, SO, Syracuse: 74 offensive snaps, four hurries allowed
RG Patrick Davis, SR, Syracuse: 10 offensive snaps
DB Ben Labrosse, FR, Syracuse: Four defensive snaps, two tackles
NT Samuel Obiang, SO, Texas State: 23 defensive snaps, one tackle, one QB hurry
REC Ajou Ajou, FR, Clemson: 12 offensive snaps, one catch, six yards
OL Edouard Paradis, JR, Houston Baptist: Dressed but did not play
Rostered but not dressed: REC Damien Alford, FR, Syracuse / OLB Tyrell Richards, JR, Syracuse / REC Jared Wayne, SO, Pittsburgh / OL Liam Dick, FR, Pittsburgh / DE Wilt Gabe II, SO, Coastal Carolina