2014 CIS Football Team Preview: Manitoba Bisons

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Source: Chris Zuk, Manitoba SportsInfo

2013 regular season record: 5-3
2013 regular season standings: 2nd in CanadaWest
2013 playoff record: 1-1
2013 playoff finish: Won 37-36 over Saskatchewanat home in Canada West Semi-Final ; Lost 43-28 at Calgary in CanadaWest Final

Is this the year? The Manitoba Bisons football team has creptcloser to a conference title during the last couple seasons.

Twoyears ago, the program played in a post-season game for the firsttime since the 2007 Vanier Cup Championship season. In 2013, theBisons won their first playoff game since that championship seasonand were a Canada West finalist.

On paper, the team brings back a veteran laden core with 10 ofthe 12 starters on offence and eight of 12 starters on defence fromlast season.

Head coach Brian Dobie, in his 19th season at the helm, isexcited for the team assembled but knows it will be a difficultroad in the highly competitive Canada West conference. Perennialpowerhouse Calgary looks to extend their record conference titlerun to seven seasons while UBC and Saskatchewan are better thanlast years’ playoff squads. In addition, Regina seeks astrong campaign in head coach Frank McCrystal’s final seasonas coach and Alberta has greatly improved during theoff-season.

Manitoba depth at starters on both sides of the ball and strongrecruiting season was necessary to stay in the mix for thisyear’s conference title to offset some losses of CISAll-Canadian RB/KR Anthony Coombs and LB Thomas Miles, who wereboth drafted by the Toronto Argonauts in 2014. Graduating starsdeparting included SB Andrew Smith and K Nick Boyd who both weredrafted by the Montreal Alouettes.

The Bisons start 2014 on the road at Saskatchewan, one of thetoughest place to play on the road in CIS, play Calgary twice andbegin the campaign with the first three of five regular seasongames on the road. The task of ending the drought of conferencetitles will not be easy. The advantage of the new era of BisonFootball has been in full effect with the first full off-season atthe new Investors Group Field. The players have trained, bonded andcommitted to a higher level to match the competitive nature ofCanada West and will now try to answer the question if indeed, thisis the year.

Quote from head coach – Brian Dobie:
“This year, like last year, is a continuum that weneed to be as productive as possible from key fourth and fifth yearplayers. The group gained valuable experience in the Canada Westplayoffs in 2013 and we need to accelerate moving forward thisseason. This is a very good group that competes in arguably thetoughest conference in the nation. The group needs to take the nextstep and excited to watch the squad builds to a point to be trulycompetitive in 2014. I can’t wait for the season tostarts!”

Head Coach – Brian Dobie:

– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2014):19th
– Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2014): 19th
– Career regular season record with team: 75-67-1
– Career regular season record in CIS: 75-67-1
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffsonly): 85-75-1
– Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only):85-75-1

OFFENCE

Number of returning starters: 10

Key returning players:
– QB Jordan Yantz returns for his second year withManitoba, fifth year eligibility, after a sterling year one at theuniversity level. He started and played all regular season andplayoff games at the pivot position. Yantz was a 2013 Canada WestAll-Star and led the nation with 25 passing TDs with only sixinterceptions, along with fourth in CIS with 2, 474 passingyards

– SB/KR Nic Demski is in his fourth season and make up the‘dynamic duo’ with Yantz. He is a three-time CISAll-Canadian and was 2013 First Team All-Cdn. After tenth in CISwith 640 receiving yards and sixth in CIS with seven receivingtouchdowns (tied for ninth in CIS with seven overall TDs). Plus,Demski was sixth in conference all-purpose yards at 1,030 whilestarting all eight conference regular season games.

– WR Dustin Pedersen and WR Matt Sawyer return as starters intheir second season at Manitoba. Pedersen improved throughout lastseason and had one TD with 52 receiving yards while Sawyer wasfifth on the Bisons in 2013 with 252 receiving yards with twoTDs.

– RB Kienan LaFrance and RB Alex Christie. LaFrance in hisfourth season and Christie in his second season will be in thebackfield and give two different looks as LaFrance is a between thetackles running while Christie is quick and open field running.Both have an opportunity with the loss of Coombs this season.

– OL Alex McKay returns for fourth year after being a 2013 CanadaWest All-Star at the tackle position. He was durable as he playedin all regular season and playoff games last season. In addition,the whole starting offensive line returns from last season withTyler Fabbri (C), Matt Hallock (G), Geoff Gray (G) and Rob Smith(T).

Key recruits or transfers:

– QB Ashton McKinnon and QB Theo Deezar. McKinnon was recruitedfor one of the top high school in the nation at Mount Douglas andlooks to a big future while Deezar comes back to the Bisons after ayear with the Okanagan Sun in the BC junior football league.

– WR/SB Danny Turek returns to Manitoba after a year absence. In2012, he was second on the team in receiving with 431 yards (21.5average) with one TD and played in all eight games.

– OL Christian Kruse is another highly sought recruit from MountDouglas HS.

Key losses:

– Former starting running back/kick returner Anthony Coombs

– Former starting slotback Andrew Smith

DEFENCE

Number of returning starters: 8

Key returning players:

– DT Evan Gill is back with the Bisons after being drafted inthe CFL first round by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He was also a CISrepresentative for the West at the 2014 East-West Shrine Bowl Game.Gill, was a 2013 Canada West All-Star as he was tied forsecond in Canada West with 7.5 tackles for losses and tied forseventh with 3.0 sacks in 2013. He also registered 28.5 tackles,which tied for fourth on the team, two break-ups, one forced fumbleand one block kick.

– DE Lauren Kroeker completes his fifth season at Manitobaand brings tons of skill and experience to the front four. He ledthe team with three sacks and fourth with 28.5 tackles whileplaying all reg. season and playoff games in 2013.

– DT David Oneymata looks to have a breakout year in his thirdseason with the Herd. He recorded 25.5 tackles and one sack whilenot missing a game in 2013.

– LB Mitchell Harrison is the lone linebacker returning thisseason as he converted over from the secondary and will continue toimprove on his ten tackle, one sack season in 2013.

– S Tyler Fong, HB Brett MacFarlane, CB Tremaine Apperley, CBCam Teschuk are the four returnees at the starting position in thesecondary. Fong and Apperley both played their first season atManitoba and made an immediate impact as Fong was third on teamwith 31 tackles and first with three interceptions while Apperleyhad 20.5 tackles and led team with six break-ups. MacFarlane, inhis fourth year, and Teschuk, third year, both racked up numberswith 26 and 27 tackles respectfully with two picks for Teschuk andone for MacFarlane.

Key recruits or transfers:

– DL Evan Foster from the Langley Rams. He set a CJFL singleseason quarterback sack record with 16 in a season and was a CJFLAll-Canadian and BCFC Outstanding Defensive lineman awardwinner.

– DB Eric Plett from Winnipeg Rifles was team rookie of the yearin 2012.

Key losses:

– Former starting linebacker Thomas Miles

SPECIALTEAMS

Key returning players:

– Nic Demski

– Kienan LaFrance

Key recruits or transfers:

– Five players battling for starting spots in the kickingdepartment

Key losses:

– Former starting kicker/place kicker Nick Boyd

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