Forde: Observations from Day One of the CFL's E-Camp

Duane Forde
3/6/2011 9:46:26 AM
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TSN analyst Duane Forde shares his observations from Day One of the CFL's E-Camp:

-Conspicuous By Their Absence: DT Vaughn Martin (Western Ontario), who has already spent two years in the NFL and is still under contract to the San Diego Chargers; OL Orlando Franklin (Miami), who hasn't bothered to complete the paperwork necessary to prove he is a non-import because he is destined for the NFL; WR Kito Poblah (Central Michigan), who, despite meeting the non-import qualifications, has had his status denied because he lacks the documentation to prove it.

-Michael Knill's 47 rep performance in the bench press was a highlight but not a surprise for anyone who knows his background. An interesting background story on Knill is that he actually should have been in the 2007 draft class but slid through the cracks for several years because he had spent most of his high school years in the U.S.. Nobody clued in to his Canadian status until he transferred to Wilfrid Laurier to do grad work in '09. He then should have been placed in the 2010 Draft but wasn't because the league required him to submit paperwork proving his non-import status (do you sense a disturbing trend here?). Knill wanted to return to school in 2010 so he waited a year to submit the necessary documents. Getting back to his 47 reps...that total was one more than the second and third best O-Line bench presses combined.

-CCES, the organization responsible for drug testing Canadian athletes has had an almost overbearing presence this weekend. Reports had them actually testing some players multiple times since their Friday arrivals.

-It was a rare treat for me to see Wally Buono and Larry Haylor on the same day. The winningest coaches in CFL and CIS history, respectively, also happen to be the two most influential coaches on my career. Haylor, the long time Western coach, is on hand scouting for Team Canada, which will play in the first ever senior level (over 19) World Football Championships in July.

-I have often referred to slotback Anthony Parker (Calgary) as the most explosive player in CIS football. With his 10'7" broad jump and 43" vertical jump, he demonstrated on Saturday that he is also the most explosive athlete in this draft.

-Many view OT Scott Mitchell as the early favourite to go first overall, largely because he was a four-year starter at Rice, an NCAA Division I school in Texas. In that regard, his resume compares to that of recent rookie O-Line starter Dmitri Tsoumpas of the Stampeders. However, I'm not yet convinced that Mitchell is as physically prepared to step in as Tsoumpas. That's not a knock on Mitchell, by any means, as I'm not sure any rookie O-Lineman has ever been as prepared as Tsoumpas was to step into a CFL lineup. Mitchell did 18 reps on the bench while Tsoumpas did over 30 at the 2008 E-Camp.

-Fresh off the heels of, nothing in free agency to improve a team that finished last in the league in 2010, Winnipeg GM Joe Mack needs to hit a home run with the number one overall pick.

-There were a few "wow" moments on Saturday. Aside from Knill, they included a three way broad jump battle between OUA DBs Andre Clarke (York), Shane Herbert (Laurier), and Hugo Lopez (Toronto/Waterloo). Their athleticism should make Sunday's one-on-one's against the receivers very interesting. By the way, Clarke topped all E-Camp participants with a 10'9.5" broad jump.

-With a strong showing Saturday and the likelihood that he'll run well Sunday, WR Marco Iannuzzi (Harvard) looks poised to challenge Parker as the top receiver available. It's nice to see a Canadian Harvard product indicate his interest in a CFL career, after Clifton Dawson (2006 draft class) and Matt Lagace (2008) both chose to pursue other career opportunities.

-Perhaps the most intriguing prospect at E-Camp is DL Chris Hodgson (Saint Mary's). The former minor pro hockey player is an athletic freak... but has only one year of football experience at any level. The athleticism suggests a great upside but Hodgson is already 26 so the clock is ticking. What he shows on Day Two will be important, as scouts have little game film to help with their evaluations of him.

-Agents aren't permitted in the testing areas so they were all sitting in the hotel lobby like expectant fathers in a 1960's hospital waiting room. The CFL agent business has become highly competitive in recent years, making it interesting to watch all these guys pretty much ignore each other all day.

-I was interviewed for a feature on Western LB John Surla, whom I first met when he was a freshman at my alma mater. I can't say enough good things about this great kid with a tremendous work ethic.

-QB Brad Sinopoli (Ottawa) has been impressive in testing and my prediction is that he will be drafted as a quarterback...maybe even within the first three rounds.

-Kicker Chris Milo (Laval) provided some comic relief when he stumbled backwards about 15 feet into a set of curtains after failing to stick the landing on his broad jump.

-I'm impressed by the group of defensive tackles on hand. It can sometimes be tough to find Canadians to play the interior D-Line spots. Mo Forbes of Concordia, a late invitee, is a sleeper. I'm shocked that he wasn't on the original invitation list. He only got in when someone else got hurt.

-I was told that another late invitee, OL Reed Alexander (Calgary) was an outstanding interview. I love that the CFL has added the player interview process to the E-Camp experience. For many players, it's the most stressful part of the weekend. They can prepare for the physical testing far more easily than the grilling from this group of potential employers.

-Henoc Muamba (St. Francis Xavier) has cemented himself as the top linebacker available and a potential first rounder. He showed up in great shape and tested very well. He's also a great interview in either of Canada's official languages.

-It's very cool to see QB Marc Mueller (Regina) here. The grandson of the late Ron Lancaster was a fixture in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats locker room during his summer vacations in the last couple of years of my career. It's hard to believe that the little guy who used to play cards with the likes of Danny McManus and Darren Flutie is now old enough to be drafted.

-The Day One testing has helped the stock of OL Brendan Dunn (Western). 24 bench press reps and a 32" vertical jump on a 6'6" frame all combine to scream "potential".

-I'm quietly pulling for WR Youssy Pierre (Montreal) and OL Donnie McKenzie (Wilfrid Laurier) to do well. They were the two players who earned last minute E-Camp invitations with strong performances at Friday's National Invitational Combine, which I hosted along with my good friend and combine guru Mike Gough.

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