Saskatoon, SK (ISN) – Led by a stingy, veteran defence, the University of Saskatchewan Huskie football team will once again be tough to score on in 2012.
The Huskies, who finished 5-3 and second in the Canada West standings in 2011, return eight starters on defence including speedy defensive backs Bryce McCall, Seamus Neary, Mitch Friesen and Luke Thiel, as well as the tough and sturdy defensive line anchored by veterans David Rybinski, Joel Seutter, Zach Hart and Levi Steinhauer.
In 2011, the tough Huskie defence allowed opponents just 152 points in eight games, had a passdefence efficiency of 110.5 and snared 13 interceptions – the best in the Canada West in all three categories.
Rookie Drew Burkotakes over at quarterback for Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren. Burko, who spent a year with the Huskies on show teams, had a successful high school career with Saskatoon’s Aden Bowman Bears winning the provincial championship, as well as quarterbacking the province to the Football Canada Cup Championship in 2010. The speedy Gilbert-Knorren moves to receiver joining veteran receivers Braeden George, Garrett Burgess and Jeff Moore. Dexter Janke will take over tailback duties.
Flanking the offensive line will be 2011 Canada West Rookie of the Year Jordan Arkko, aswell as Cam Redl, who missed the 2011 season with an injury.
Huskies Head Coach Brian Towriss, whi is entering his 29th year at the helm is confident about his team for 2012. “The Huskies will contend for the Hardy Cup again in 2012. With good returning players we are counting on our defence to carry us early in the year. Offensively, we face the challenge of playing with a rookie quarterback. However, our quarterbacks will be surrounded by a solid group of skilled players at running back and receiver. We will be fast, tough and athletic and are looking forward to the challenge of the 2012 season.”
Key returning players:
Canada West Rookie of the Year in 2011, Jordan Arkko will be looked to as a leader on the offensive line. Arkko started in all nine Huskie games last year, becoming just the fourth rookie to do so on the offensive line in Huskie history.
Dexter Janke will take over the starting position at tailback for the Huskies after a year of studying under fifth-year Ben Coakwell. Janke made an impact recording 307 rushing yards and four touchdowns while sharing playing time.
Quarterback turned receiver Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren will look to use his speed to help create offence for the Huskies. In two appearances in international football games, Gilbert-Knorren has two touchdowns as a receiver.
Veteran receivers Braeden George, Jeff Moore and Garrett Burgess will all be looked at to collect the ball from the Huskies’ rookie quarterback. The three combined for 688 yards on 52 receptions with four touchdowns in 2011.
Key recruits (or newcomers; transfers):
Although not new to the Huskies, Drew Burko will make his CIS debut at quarterback. Burko, a second generation Huskie and a Saskatoon high school star, spent one season on theSaskatchewan show teams learning about the CIS game. In high school, the 6-2 pivot captured provincial and Football Canada Cup championships.
Lane Bryska a 6-2, 260 pound offensive lineman won the CJFL Championship with the Hilltops last year and was named a PFC All-Star.
Drew Digout a 6-3, 290 pound offensive lineman comes to the Huskies after playing for the Okanagan Sun. In 2010, Digout was named a CJFL All Canadian, and a BCFC All-Star. Before joining the Sun in 2010, Digout was a three-time city champion and a two-time provincial champion with Aden Bowman Collegiate in Saskatoon.
Two-time All-Canadian Ben Heenan is a bigloss for the Huskies on the offensive line and in the leadership department. Heenan was selected first overall by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 2012 CFL Canadian Draft.
Receiver Rory Kohlert was the top target for Huskie quarterbacks in 2011 tallying a team high 506 yards on 28 catches. Kohlert is now a member of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Running back Ben Coakwell closed out his CIS football career in 2011. Providing big offence for the Huskies, Coakwell carried the ball 76 times tallying 420 yards recording a team-high seven touchdowns.
Key returning players:
The Huskies’ leader on defence Bryce McCall continues to attract attention at safety. McCall, who was named a conference all-star and a CIS All-Canadian in 2010, sits one interception away from breaking the CIS record of 21.
For the second straight season, defensive end Zach Hart was named a conference all-star in 2011. He finished the season with 32.5 tackles and three sacks.
Adding to the experience and toughness of the Huskies’ defensive line is David Rybinski, Joel Seutter and Levi Steinhauer. In 2011, the three combined for 41 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Key recruits (or newcomers: transfers):
Joining the Huskies after winning back-to-back Canadian Junior Football Championships with the Saskatoon Hilltops is defensive back Braxton Lawrence. The 6-0 Saskatoon native, recorded 28 tackles, four fumble recoveries, and two interceptions in the 2011 campaign with the Hilltops. He was a CJFL All-Canadian, a Prairie Football Conference All-Star team, and was twice named PFC player of the week in the 2011 season.
Middle linebacker Peter Thiel left the Huskies after finding himself on the roster of the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos. Thiel was a conference all-star in 2010 and recorded 35 tackles last season for the Huskies.
Defensive captain Tony Michalchuk led the Huskies in tackles last season with 49 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions in his fifth-year of eligibility.
Although injured for the 2011 CIS season, defensive back Keenan MacDougall made a strong impression at the CFL Combine in March and cracked the Calgary Stampeders roster.
Key returning players:
Punt returner/defensive back Luke Thiel gives the Huskies good field position every time he returns the ball. The 2010 conference all-star averaged 12 yards on his 16 returns last season scoring one touchdown. He also added nine tackles and one interception on defence.
Kickers Denton Kolodzinski and Cole Samson shared kicking duties in 2011 and will continue in the roles in 2012.