2014 CIS Football Team Preview: Western Mustangs

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Source: Ton von Richter, Western SportsInfo

2013 Regular Season Record: 8-0
2013 Regular Season Standing: 1st in OUA
2013 Playoff Record: 2-1
2013 Playoff Finish: Lost 44-3 to Calgary inMitchell Bowl

After a 2013 season that saw them break multiple CIS and OUArecords en route to capturing the 30th Yates Cup in school history,the Western Mustangs return to the field in 2014 looking to buildoff of last season’s successes.

The majority of last year’s offence that established a newOUA regular season scoring record with 458 points is back for 2014and will once again be led by third-year quarterback Will Finch.The 2013 OUA MVP emerged as one of the country’s top pivotslast season, setting new OUA milestones with 3,047 yards passingand a 69.7 completion percentage while also tossing 21 touchdownsand adding another five on the ground.

Joining Finch in the backfield will be the trio of GarretSanvido, Yannick Harou, and Adam Sinclair. All three running backshave already experienced success in their CIS careers as Sanvidoled the country in rushing in 2012 and Harou was named theOUA’s top rookie in the same season, while Sinclair appearedpoised for a breakout year in 2013 before injuries cut his seasonshort in late September. Despite injuries hampering all three backslast season, the trio combined for over 1,000 yards rushing and 18touchdowns.

Leading the receiving corps in 2014 will be returningall-Canadians George Johnson and Brian Marshall. Both receiversplaced among the top 10 in most statistical categories last seasonand provided plenty of headaches for opposing defensivecoordinators. Dynamic receiver and returner Matt Uren will also bea frequent target for Finch this season as will Justin Sanvido whoreturns for his third campaign.

While the majority of the offence is back from last season therewill be a few new faces on the defensive side of the ball asdefensive end Dylan Ainsworth and linebackers Pawel Kruba and BeauLandry have all made the jump to the CFL.

Despite a few changes, the Mustangs defence should be a strongpoint again this season and will be anchored by two-timeall-Canadian Daryl Waud. Considered to be one of the top prospectsfor the 2015 CFL Draft, Waud leads a deep Mustangs defensive linethat also features 2013 OUA all-star Ricky Osei-Kusi along withtackles Rory Connop and Rupert Butcher.

The strong defensive line will compliment a new-look linebackercorps led by Preston Huggins and Bishop’s Gaiters transferPhil N’Djore. Both veterans are coming off of strong seasonsthat saw Huggins record 27 tackles while N’Djore contributed28.5 stops to help the Gaiters host their first playoff game in 20seasons. Joining Huggins and N’Djore will be the duo ofPhilippe Dion and Jean-Gabriel Poulin, who come to the Mustangsfrom La Belle Province. Dion and Poulin were both listed on CanadaFootball Chat’s Top 100 recruits list and bring all-star andchampionship credentials to the purple and white defence.

Western’s last line of defence will have a similar lookthis season with OUA all-Rookie Jesse McNair and the rest of thedefensive backfield all with another year of experience under theirbelts, while London natives Mackenzie Ferguson and CraigHinschberger should compliment their veteran teammates in theirdebut season.

Special teams will see perhaps the biggest change as CISall-time leading scorer Lirim Hajrullahu moved on to the WinnipegBlue Bombers which leaves the kicking and punting duties to formerMontreal Carabin Zach Medeiros. Medeiros spent the 2013 campaignwith the London Beefeaters of the Canadian Junior Football Leagueand was recently drafted by the Toronto Argonauts in the 2014 CFLCanadian Draft.

Quote from head coach
“I think we’ve got a good team with a greatgroup of core players,” said Mustangs head coach GregMarshall when asked about this year’s squad.“We’ve got an experienced offence with depth at nearlyall positions, and we’re strong along the defensive line withall-stars at a couple of different positions. We’re young atlinebacker and defensive back, but we’ve got good qualityplayers who have already shown they can succeed at thislevel.”
“We’re excited, we’ve got a good team. GenerallyI’m pretty optimistic anyways at the start of the season butwe had a good season last year and we can build off of that to becompetitive again this season.”

Head Coach: Greg Marshall
– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including2014): 8
– Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2014): 15
– Career regular season record with team: 44-12
– Career regular season record in CIS: 86-24-2
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffsonly): 54-15
– Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only):113-37-2

OFFENCE

Number of returning starters: 11

Key Returning Players

Will Finch (QB) –
QB Will Finch returns for his third season with the Mustangs aimingfor another strong year after a highly successful 2013-14 in whichhe was named OUA Most Valuable Player. Finch led the Mustangsoffence last year completing 191 of 274 passes, throwing for 21touchdowns and running for an additional five scores in the regularseason. He set new OUA milestones for completion percentage with a69.7% completion rate, as well as for passing yards with 3047yards; a record-breaking performance that earned him a spot as anOUA First Team All-Star and a nomination for the CIS Hec CrightonTrophy.

George Johnson (REC)
George Johnson enters his third year with the Western Mustangs,looking to build on a career year in 2013. Last season Johnson ledthe OUA with 982 receiving yards and snagged 60 receptions and fivetouchdowns while placing among the nation’s leaders in mostreceiving categories. For his efforts last season he was named anOUA first team all-star and a CIS First Team All-Canadian.

Yannick Harou (RB)
Running back Yannick Harou is back for his third season as aMustang, aiming for another strong season as running back. The2013-14 season saw him post 80 rushes for 475 rushing yards, aswell as scoring eight touchdowns for the Mustangs. In playoffaction, Harou added another 210 rushing yards and fourtouchdowns.

Brian Marshall (REC)
Receiver Brian Marshall will be gearing up for his fifth and finalseason at Western. Marshall had yet another successful campaignlast year, catching 34 passes for 753 receiving yards and ninetouchdowns, as well as being named an OUA First Team All-Star. Thewide receiver was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in the 2014 CFLdraft, although will be returning to the Mustangs for the 2014-15season to complete his intercollegiate football career.

Key Recruits or Transfers:

Greg Bouchard (OL) – Hailing from Chicoutimi, Que., offensivelineman Greg Bouchard will make his debut with the Western Mustangsthis fall. At 6’2” and 300 lbs., Bouchard will bringboth size and experience to the Mustangs’ offence. He joinsthe Mustangs after playing for the Vanier Cheetahs, with whom hehelped lead to a 2012 Bol D’Or Championship; also earningDivision 1 CEGEP All-Star honours in the same year. Prior tojoining the Cheetahs, Bouchard played for the Chicoutimi Mustangs.In 2011 he played for Team Quebec at the Football Canada Cup andwas named a Tournament All-Star for his efforts. Most recently hewas named to the 2014 CFC Top 100 list.

Zach Marcus (REC) – Zach Marcus is another player joining theMustangs after appearing on the CFC Top 100 List. A London, Ont.,native, Marcus will be making the change to purple and white afterdonning red and white for the St. Andrews College Saints. The6’0 receiver also brings experience from closer to home,having suited up for the Jr. Mustangs squad. In addition to beingnamed to the Class of 2013 CFC Top 100 list, Marcus also earned aspot on Team Ontario West for the 2012 Football Canada Cup, andserved as captain of the team at the tournament.

Aarmin Purewal (OL) – Aarmin Purewal joins the Mustangs fromMount Douglas Secondary School in Victoria, B.C. A 6’5”offensive lineman, Purewal won three consecutive AAA ProvincialChampionships with Mount Douglas from 2011-13, and was named aProvincial All-Star in his last season with Mount Douglas. He was amember of the 2013 U-18 Team B.C. squad, and has also found himselflisted as a CFC Top 100 player. He will look to continue on hissuccess with the Mustangs this fall.

Mitchell Smiley (RB) – Sarnia, Ont., native Mitchell Smiley willsuit up in purple and white for the first time this season afterjoining the team from Northern Collegiate Institute. The6’1” running back also brings experience playing forthe Jr. Mustangs. He was selected to play for Team Ontario at the2013 Football Canada Cup, where he claimed a bronze medal, and wasalso named to the Team Ontario Selects roster to play against TeamUSA at the International Bowl this past February. Smiley is also atalented track athlete, and will look to use his speed to make amark on the field.

Alex Taylor (RB) – Alex Taylor is a 5’10” runningback who joins the Mustangs from St. Paul’s High School inWinnipeg. In his time at St. Paul’s he helped lead the teamto three consecutive Winnipeg High School League AAA provincialchampionships, ending his high school career with an undefeatedseason and the title of the Potter Division Elite PerformanceCentre Player of the Year. Taylor earned a spot on the CFC Top 100list, and was also a member of the U-18 Team Manitoba squad at the2012 Football Canada Cup.

Key Losses:

Eric Armitage (OL)
Offensive lineman Eric Armitage finished his intercollegiatefootball career last season after spending five seasons as aMustang.

DEFENCE

Number of returning starters: 9

Key Returning Players

Daryl Waud (DL)
Daryl Waud is back for a fourth season with the Mustangs, lookingto build on last year’s performance. In 2013-14 regularseason action Waud recorded 21 tackles, 18 assists, and 2.5 sacksfor Western, earning him a place as an OUA First Team All-Star aswell as CIS Second Team All-Canadian honours.

Ricky Osei-Kusi (DL)
Ricky Osei-Kusi returns for a fourth season after a strong 2013season which saw him earn the first all-star nod of his career. AnOUA Second Team Defensive All-Star last season, Osei-Kusi recorded15 solo tackles and four sacks for the Mustangs.

Rory Connop (DL)
Rory Connop will be gearing up for his fourth year of eligibility,returning to Western for the 2014-15 season. The Edmonton, Alb.native transferred from Boise State in 2012, and recorded 21.5tackles and three sacks for the Mustangs during last year’sregular season.

Jesse McNair (DB)
Jesse McNair is back for a second season with the Mustangs, lookingto continue on the success of his 2013-14 freshman season. Lastyear McNair was named to the OUA All-Rookie List after a strongdebut campaign which saw him rack up 22 tackles, 18 solo, and oneinterception in regular season action.

Key Recruits or Transfers:

Phillipe Dion (LB) – Another player who brings RSEQ experiencewith him, Dion most recently played for the Champlain-LennoxvilleCougars in CEGEP Division I where he ranked fourth last season with62 tackles. He was listed on the 2014 CFC Top 100 list, and willlook to remain a physical presence on the gridiron during theupcoming season.

Mackenzie Ferguson (DB) – Mackenzie Ferguson is a defensive backwho will suit up for his hometown beginning this fall. Fergusonjoins the Mustangs from Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School,with whom he was named a Thames Valley Regional AthleticsAssociation (TVRAA) All-Star in 2013. He has also played for theJr. Mustangs and set the Ontario Varsity Football League (OVFL)record in 2013 for the most individual interceptions in one game,recording five in a game against the Pickering Dolphins. Inaddition, Ferguson has earned OVFL All-Star honours for the pasttwo seasons.

Craig Hinschberger (DB) – Another player gearing up for hishometown this season is Craig Hinschberger. A 6’1”defensive back, Hinschberger comes to the Mustangs from MotherTeresa Secondary School where he earned a 2013 TVRAA All-Star nod.He played for Team Ontario at the 2013 Football Canada Cup, wherehe was named a tournament all-star, and was also selected to playfor Team Ontario in the International Bowl against Team USA inFebruary, alongside fellow Mustang rookie Mitchell Smiley.

Phil N’Djore (LB) – Phil N’Djore joins the Mustangsfrom the RSEQ’s Bishop’s Gaiters for his fifth andfinal year of CIS eligibility. The 6’0”, 203 lbs.,N’Djore played for the Gaiters from 2010-13, and theGatineau, Que., native also brings CEGEP experience with him,having played for the Division I Champlain-Lennoxville Cougars from2007-09. A multi-year starter at Bishop’s, he will look touse his athleticism and experience to make an impact as alinebacker with the Mustangs in the OUA this season.

Jean-Gabriel Poulin (LB) – Another CFC Top 100 player joiningthe Mustangs this season is Jean-Gabriel Poulin. Hailing from St.Nicolas Que. and standing at 6’1” and 225 lbs, Poulinmost recently played with the CEGEP Division I Vanier Cheetahs,alongside fellow Mustangs’ new-comer Greg Bouchard. In 2012he claimed a Bol D’Or Championship with the Cheetahs and atthe 2013 IFAF U-19 Junior Championships, the linebacker helped TeamCanada to a gold medal, and saw himself named to Team World for the2013 international Bowl.

Key Losses:

Beau Landry (LB)
LB Beau Landry ended his CIS career on a high note, turning anoutstanding final season into a position in the CFL with theHamilton Tiger-Cats. Landry led the Mustangs last year with 46tackles, including 36 solo stops and two sacks, and was also nameda CIS First Team All-Canadian. He was picked 8th overall by theTiger-Cats in the first round of the 2014 CFL Draft.

Pawel Kruba (LB)
Pawel Kruba wrapped up his final season in purple and white byearning the title of CIS defensive player of the year. In his finalseason at Western, Kruba earned CIS First Team All-Canadian honoursafter a campaign in which he recorded 38 tackles, including 29 soloand three interceptions. After spending five years as a Mustang,the Windsor, Ont., native signed with the CFL’s HamiltonTiger-Cats in January of this year.

Dylan Ainsworth (DL)
Dylan Ainsworth was selected 11th overall by the SaskatchewanRoughriders in the second round of the 2014 CFL draft, making the2013 season the end of his university football career. In his finalcampaign with the Mustangs, Ainsworth recorded 16 tackles, foursacks, and seven tackles for loss, in addition to earning CISSecond Team All-Canadian honours for the 2013 season.

SPECIALTEAMS

Key Recruits or Transfers:

Zach Medeiros (K)
Kicker Zach Medeiros will be joining the Mustangs for theirupcoming 2014 campaign. A transfer from the Université deMontréal Carabins, Medeiros attended the CFL regionalcombine in Toronto in March of this year, and was one of only threekickers to make the CFL selection list. Medeiros also has CJFLexperience under his belt, notably hitting a 53-yard field goal in2012 with the London Beefeaters as a CJFL All-Canadian.

Key Losses:

Lirim Hajrullahu (K)
Lirim Harjullahu finished his intercollegiate football career instyle, putting up a final season performance that saw him becomethe CIS’ all-time leading scorer, with 422 points over hisfive years with the Mustangs. Harjullahu made the 2013 season onefor the books, setting a new OUA mark with 77 career field goalsand tying the OUA single-season record with 22 field goals in 2013.He also earned two spots as an OUA First Team All-Star as both apunter and a kicker, as well as CIS second team all-Canadianhonours as a kicker. Harjullahu now looks to start a successfulcareer in the CFL, having signed a contract with the Winnipeg BlueBombers in January of this year.

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