The 2022 CFL Draft has just ended, but teams are already hard at work evaluating next year’s class of talent.
That is quite literally the case Saturday, when the top U Sports players eligible for selection in the 2023 CFL Draft will take the field at McMaster University for the East-West Bowl. The all-star showcase has returned after a two-year COVID hiatus and is easily the most important event on the league’s scouting calendar, save for the National Combine.
Players have already participated in athletic testing and a week of practice, but Saturday is their chance to show the ability to compete against the best when the live bullets are flying. Kick-off is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. EST and the game can be watched live on YouTube, essential viewing for the hardcore CFL fan.
To get you primed for the big game, here are twelve prospects you should have your eye on.
Siriman Harrison Bagayogo, DB, Guelph Gryphons (Team West)
Guelph’s lockdown All-Canadian cornerback doesn’t have eye-popping stats — with just 14.5 tackles to his credit last season — until you realize he allowed just five catches in the entire 2021 campaign. At six-foot-one and 197 pounds, Bagayogo is fast, fluid and explosive in a way so few U Sports defensive backs are.
Clark Barnes, REC, Guelph Gryphons (Team West)
Some players are just built different and Barnes is one of them. The six-foot-one, 195-pound receiver was a dominant return man from the second he stepped foot on campus as a freshman and racked up 406 receiving yards and five touchdowns in just five games last season. He clocked a 4.63-second forty on a slippery East-West Bowl track and has a pair of sticky hands that should catch everything thrown his way Saturday.
Elliot Beamer, OL, Western Mustangs (Team West)
Frankly, we don’t talk about elite centres enough and the kid from Bowen Island certainly counts. Beamer was the beating heart of Western’s potent rushing attack last season, so much so that he was named MVP of the Mitchell Bowl. Teams will likely ask him to add weight after he checked in at six-foot-two and 278-pounds, but his 4.50-second short shuttle shows elite lateral quickness for a big man.
Jacob Biggs, LB, Calgary Dinos (Team West)
It might be quicker to list the plays that Biggs doesn’t make for the Dinos’ defence than the ones he does, because the high-character hybrid linebacker is simply everywhere on the field. At five-foot-ten and 178 pounds, he racked up 31 tackles and nine pass breakups last season, proving to be a disruptive force thanks to his intelligence and impressive first-step quickness.
Josh Ewanchyna, RB, Saskatchewan Huskies (Team West)
In a backfield that had U Sports legend Adam Machart, the five-foot-nine, 194-pound Ewanchyna still managed to get touches and had two hundred-yard rushing performances of his own. Expect 2022 to be a break-out campaign and that will start with a strong showing at McMaster.
Jake Kelly, DB, Bishop’s Gaiters (Team East)
At five-foot-eleven and 171 pounds, Kelly has neither the size or the notoriety of other prospects on this list. What he does have is the fastest forty time of any player in the game, clocking a blazing 4.53-second run on a slick East-West track, as well as the highest vertical at 39-inches. If he manages to get the ball in his hands via interception or punt return, look out.
Giovanni Manu, OL, UBC Thunderbirds (Team West)
There will be far more technically refined offensive linemen on the field in Hamilton, but none will have the jaw-dropping size of UBC’s left tackle. Manu is over six-foot-seven and 357 pounds with nearly 35-inch arms and he reportedly leapt 32.5-inches in the vertical jump. That is a realm of explosiveness typically reserved for first-round NFL draft picks.
Reece Martin, DT, Mount Allison Mounties (Team East)
The East-West Bowl is an especially important stage for Atlantic University Sport stars to prove themselves worthy against tougher competition, but Martin may not even need the extra acclaim. The All-Canadian defensive tackle has a dream frame at six-foot-three and 294 pounds, wields his nearly 35-inch arms like weapons, and has a wicked get-off as demonstrated by his 1.69-second ten-yard split.
Jeremy Murphy, REC, Concordia Stingers (Team East)
The 2019 U Sports rookie of the year only got to play in three games in his follow-up campaign due to injury, but he still posted 23 receptions for 307 yards and four touchdowns. The six-foot, 183-pound pass catcher basically plays with baseball mitts for gloves thanks to his over 10-inch hands and ran a 4.78-second forty in poor conditions.
James Peter, LB, Ottawa Gee-Gees (Team East)
The Gee-Gees have become a hotbed for developmental CFL athletes the last few years and Peter was their most improved player last season. The five-foot-ten, 230-pound linebacker packs a real physical punch and still ran a 4.77 forty at that size.
Charlie Ringland, DB, Saskatchewan Huskies (Team West)
Ringland has been a key contributor on the Huskie defence since 2018 and has length you just can’t teach. He’s a six-foot, 203-pound corner with 33-inch arms who pops off the screen and impressed with a 37-inch vertical on testing day.
Jake Taylor, DB, Alberta Golden Bears (Team West)
You’ll be forgiven if Taylor wasn’t on your radar, given that he was overshadowed by CFL draft picks Josiah Schakel and Jayden Dalke on Alberta’s defence. Every metric suggests he’ll be a household name come draft time next year after he blew up the East-West Bowl testing. On a slow track, the six-foot-one, 210-pound defender blazed a 4.67 forty, 4.12 short shuttle and 6.88 three-cone, while posting jumps of 38-inches in the vertical and ten-foot, eight-inches in the broad.