Top-ranked UBC offensive linemen opt out of 2023 CFL Draft

Photo courtesy: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics ***MANDATORY CREDIT***

Top-ranked offensive linemen Theo Benedet and Giovanni Manu from the University of British Columbia have opted out of the 2023 CFL Draft, per source. As such, their draft years have been deferred to 2024.

The pair were both named Canada West all-stars this past season, helping the Thunderbirds reach the Hardy Cup against the Saskatchewan Huskies. Benedet was named a first-team All-Canadian at offensive tackle, while Manu was named a second-team All-Canadian after moving from offensive tackle to guard.

Benedet was also awarded the J. P. Metras Trophy, given annually to the top lineman in U Sports football. Previous winners of the award include New Orleans Saints’ defensive tackle David Onyemata, New York Jets’ offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and B.C. Lions’ defensive end Mathieu Betts.

The six-foot-seven, 305-pound blocker turned 21 in December, which will make him 22 when he enters the professional ranks. Manu will turn 22 later this month, which will make him 23 when he’s eligible for the 2024 CFL Draft.

The CFL released its first scouting bureau top 20 rankings for the 2023 CFL Draft in September of last year with both blockers making the list. Benedet was the eight-ranked prospect and third offensive lineman behind Fresno State’s Dontae Bull and Eastern Michigan’s Sidy Sow. Manu was the fifteenth-ranked prospect and sixth-ranked offensive lineman.

Benedet and Manu were the only two U Sports players in the fall scouting bureau rankings to defer their draft years. UBC defensive lineman Lake Korte-Moore, a teammate of Benedet and Manu, chose to remain a member of the 2023 CFL Draft class.

The Thunderbirds finished sixth in the country last season with an average of 180.5 rushing yards per game. Isaiah Knight finished as the seventh-leading rusher in all of U Sports, recording 110 carries for 754 yards and three touchdowns over eight regular season games.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.