2014 CIS Football Team Preview: Toronto Varsity Blues

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Source: Jill Clark, Toronto SportsInfo

2013 regular season record: 4-4
2013 regular season standings: 7th in OUA
2013 playoff record: n/a

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues went 4-4 in 2013, theirbest record since the 1993 Yates and Vanier Cup championshipseason. U of T defeated the Laurier Golden Hawks, York Lions,Carleton Ravens and Waterloo Warriors and just missed the playoffsafter tiebreaking procedures.

Three Blues were named OUA all-stars and two earned CISall-Canadian status, including returner Kevin Bradfield. Bradfieldled all players in the country with 734 yards on 59 punt returnsand one touchdown in 2013. He etched his named into U of T’s recordbook, passing Glenn McCausland’s (1990-94) career punt returnyardage record of 1,135 yards and also set new U of T records forthe most punt returns (59) and punt return yardage (734) in asingle season.

Entering his fourth season as head coach, Greg Gary welcomes newoffensive and defensive coordinators in 2014. Luigi Costanzo, whohelped the Ottawa Gee-Gees to the second best offence in totalyards last season, steers Toronto’s offence this season,while U of T’s defensive corps is under the leadership ofthree-time CFL all-star Kevin Eiben.

In 2014, the focus shifts to fourth-year veteran quarterbackSimon Nassar, who is expected to make the start in the Blues seasonopener on Labour Day after throwing for 1549 yards in four startslast season. His back up is third-year pivot Chris Jugovic, whoalso had a stellar 2013 campaign, posting 909 passing yards beforesuccumbing to injury.

Receivers Llevi Noel, Boris Isakov and Michael Kanopolous areback in the starting line-up, while Alex Malone and Lucas Gavacwill battle for the starting running back position. CFL drafteeAaron Wheaton is set to lead Toronto’s offensive line, whichalso returns 2014 OUA all-rookie Danny Sprukulis.

Toronto’s defensive front line is an all-veteran group,including Everton Williams, Aaron Jervis and Zack Lukings, as wellas veteran linebackers Dylan Gordon and David Green. The Bluessecondary will be highlighted by free safety John Connors, whoreturns from injury after missing the majority of 2013, as well ascorners Jaiden McBride and Jimmy Ro, and half Trevor Harvey.

Quote from head coach:

“Although we are coming off one of our strongest finishesin several years, there is still a lot of work to be done.We’ve got a great group of veterans back with us and a largerecruiting class coming in so I’m excited for this year toget started. We’re going to build on our successes, learnfrom our mistakes and take this season one game at atime.”

Head Coach:

– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2014):4
– Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2014): 4
– Career regular season record with team: 9-15
– Career regular season record in CIS: 9-15
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffsonly): 9-15
– Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only):9-15

OFFENCE

Key returning players:

QB Simon Nassar (Toronto) returns for his fourth season in theBlue and White. Nassar threw for 1549 yards and 13 touchdowns infour starts last season.

WR Llevi Noel (Toronto) is coming off an impressive rookieseason. Noel ranked third on the team with 502 receiving yards andtwo touchdowns in 2013.

R Boris Isakov (Toronto) will step into a starting role thisseason. The 2013 Queen’s Gaels transfer made nine catches for118 yards last season.

OL Aaron Wheaton (Ajax, Ont.) is a fifth-year veteran who hasbeen an integral member of the Blues offensive line since 2010. Hewas taken 28th overall by the Ottawa REDBLACKS in the 2014 CFLdraft.

OL Danny Sprukulis (Oakville, Ont.) was recognized as a 2013 OUAall-rookie last season and also earned 2013-14 U of T male rookieof the year honours.

Key recruits or transfers:

RB Divante Smith (Brampton, Ont.) was named the 2013 St.Marcellinus most valuable player and was named to their 10-yearall-star team.

OL Ryan Searle (Toronto) is a 6-foot-5, 285-pound transfer fromthe Guelph Gryphons.

R Rahul Madan (Toronto) was a two-time overall male athlete ofthe year at Sir John A MacDonald C.I.

Key losses:
WR Paul de Pass
WR Alex Pierzchalski
RB Aaron Milton

DEFENCE

Key returning players:

LB Dylan Gordon (Cambridge, Ont.) led the team and rankedsixth in the OUA with 47 tackles. He recorded a season-high ninetackles at Queen’s on Oct. 20.
DL Aaron Jervis (Oakville, Ont.) led Toronto’s defensive linewith 23 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one blockedpunt in 2013.
DB John Connors (Barrie, Ont.) ranked second on the team with 29solo tackles in 2012.
DB Trevor Harvey (Toronto, Ont.) recorded 34.5 tackles, 3.5 sacks,three break ups and one interception for an 88-yard touchdown lastseason.
DB Jaiden McBride (Whitby, Ont.) posted 21.5 tackles, one break upand two forced fumbles last year.

Key recruits or transfers:

LB Robert Welch (Vancouver, B.C.) represented Canada at the 2014under-19 Commonwealth Games.

DL Gurjant Singh (Mississauga, Ont.) is a 6-foot-2, 240-pounddefensive lineman, who was named to the Canadian FootballChat’s Top 100 Class of 2014.

DL Javin Haughton (Brampton, Ont.) helped the St. Roch Ravens toan undefeated season in 2013.

Key losses:
DL Abbey Olusoga
LB Harrison Beeforth
LB Chris Johnson
S Kevin Kinahan

SPECIALTEAMS

Key returning players:

PR/KR Kevin Bradfield (Toronto, Ont.). The 2013 CIS all-Canadianled the CIS with 734 yards on 59 punt returns. Broke U of T’ssingle season and career punt return yardage records last year.
K Eric Hewitson (Cambridge, Ont.) returns for his second season asToronto’s place kicker. Made 11-fo-16 attempted field goals,with a season-long 41-yard strike versus both Guelph andCarleton.
P Marcus Hobbs (Mississauga, Ont.) averaged 34.1 yards per punt in2013. Also went 11-for-15 for 121 yards and rushed 14 times for 34yards and four TD’s.

Key recruits or transfers:

K/P Anthony Iafrate (Toronto) was named to the CISAA 2013football all-star team as a member of the St. Michael’sCollege Kerry Blues.

Key losses:
Harrison Beeforth
Alex Pierzchalski (Holder)

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