2014 CIS Football Team Preview: Calgary Dinos

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Source: Ben Matchett, Calgary Sports Info / Photocredit David Moll

2013 regular season record: 8-0
2013 regular season standings: 1st, CanadaWest
2013 playoff record: 3-1
2013 playoff finish: Lost 25-14 to Laval in VanierCup

For six years, they’ve topped Canada West and been crownedHardy Cup champions for an entire CIS Bowl game cycle.

And with ayouthful team holding that much more experience and just onestarter gone from the 2013 squad that went 8-0, the University ofCalgary Dinos are hungrier than ever to claim the school’sfifth Vanier Cup – that elusive championship they’vebeen chasing since 1995.

A year ago, the second-youngest team in the nation defied allexpectations and waltzed to an unblemished 8-0 record, knocked offpowerhouse No. 1 Western in the Mitchell Bowl, and held the leadlate in the third quarter of the Vanier Cup before falling tohometown Laval. In 2014, Blake Nill returns 23 of 24 starters and,coupled with a solid recruiting class, the Dinos look to becontenders for the conference and national titles yet again.

Conference action for the Dinos gets underway Friday, Sept. 5when they host the Alberta Golden Bears at McMahon Stadium.

Quote from head coach:

“We are looking forward to another big year. On theoffence, you think back to 2009 with Anthony Woodson, Matt Walter,Steven Lumbala, Anthony Parker, Nate Coehoorn, the big O-line, andErik Glavic…I don’t know if this group has receivedquite that much recognition as those guys, but they’ve proventhey can play. And we bring back just about everybody –obviously we need to find replacements for Cuong Thai Lieu andChris Dobko, but on paper this is a really impressive group.

Defensively, this could be the best that I’ve had inCalgary. At this point last year, the starting group had 20 gamesof CIS experience, and most of that was Tom Spoletini. With theexperience they gained and their speed and athleticism, thecompetition in the secondary and at linebacker will be as stiff aswe’ve ever had. There will be great football players whowon’t be on the field.”

Head Coach: BLAKE NILL

– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2014):9
– Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2014): 16
– Career regular season record with team: 47-17
– Career regular season record in CIS: 96-32
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffsonly): 62-24
– Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only):123-44

OFFENCE

Number of returning starters: 11

Key returning players:

RB MERCER TIMMIS is the reigning national rushing leader andCanada West’s Hec Crighton nominee from 2013. He setconference single-season records in rushing (18) and all-purposetouchdowns (19) last year while leading CIS with 1,157 yards on theground. Heading into just his third year of eligibility, look forTimmis to have another impact year for the Dinos.

OL SEAN McEWEN & SUKH CHUNGH are the Dinos’ tworeturning All-Canadians along the offensive line. Both are enteringtheir fourth year of eligibility and will be eligible for the CFLDraft next spring – and they’ll anchor an offensiveline that has long been the foundation of the Dinos’success.

QB ANDREW BUCKLEY stepped in and won all eight conference gamesfor the Dinos last year, earning a share of the conference’sall-star pivot position. But the man he replaced, 2012 Canada WestMVP ERIC DZWILEWSKI, is also back, giving Calgary outstanding depthat quarterback.

Key recruits or transfers:

R WILL MAXWELL (St. Francis HS / Calgary, Alta.)

R GIANCARLO SPOLETINI (Rundle College / Calgary, Alta.)

QB DEONDRE TOWNSEND (Johnson C. Smith Univ. / Lawrence CentralHS / Indianapolis, Ind.)

Key losses:

R CHRIS DOBKO, the Dinos’ all-time leader in receptions,graduates after a stellar five-year career at the University ofCalgary, opening up a spot on the inside that will be filled bythird-year slotback BRETT BLASZKO, the 2012 conference rookie ofthe year.

RB CUONG THAI LIEU backed up Timmis at tailback and brought adifferent look to the offence, in addition to his veteran presencein the locker room.

DEFENCE

Number of returning starters: 12

Key returning players:

LB DOCTOR CASSAMA is the reigning Canada West defensive MVP andreturns for another season after testing the waters with the NFL,where he tried out for several teams. He was the Dinos’leading tackler in 2013 and will anchor the strong defensiveunit.

LB THOMAS SPOLETINI was drafted in 2013 by Saskatchewan andattended the Riders’ camp last year, then the B.C.Lions’ camp this past spring. The lone fifth-year player onthe roster, Spoletini is a returning Canada West all-star.

DB CYRIL IWANEGBE was an all-Canadian at halfback last season,finishing the year with 33.5 tackles.

DL TYLER LANGLAIS returns after sustaining an injury early inthe Vanier Cup. Another returning conference all-star, the veteranwill resume his position on the defensive end in Calgary’s3-4 defence.

Key recruits or transfers:

LB ADAM KONAR (Vancouver College / UBC / Langley Rams;Vancouver, B.C.) will make his long-awaited debut in a Dinos jerseyafter battling through a knee injury that sidelined him for all of2013. A difference-maker on the defence, Konar turned heads in 2011at UBC and earned All-Canadian status at the junior level in2012.

DL JAMES BRADLEY (Eastlake HS; Victoria, B.C.) also joins theactive roster after a year off due to injury – look for himto take his spot on the nose of the Calgary defensive line.

DB BOSTON ROWE (St. Francis HS; Calgary, Alta.) switches sidesof the ball after redshirting as a quarterback in 2013.

Key losses:

None

SPECIALTEAMS

Key returning players:

K/P JOHNNY MARK returns for another year after being drafted bythe Saskatchewan Roughriders in May. A first-team All-Canadian,Mark is second on both the Dinos’ all-time points and fieldgoals lists.

RET RASHAUN SIMONISE was the 2013 Canada West rookie of the yearfor his prowess at receiver and kick returner. He had a memorable80-yard punt return TD against Western in the Mitchell Bowl and

Key recruits or transfers:

K/P ALEC CURTIS joins the Dinos after spending some time atNorth Texas and plans to battle Mark for the starting kickerposition.

Key losses:
None.

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