The 2011 edition of the Future Watch kicks off with a look at the 2012 draft class, beginning with my Top 15 prospects.
Before we get started, best wishes go out to one draft eligible player in particular. On September 10, Bishop's defensive end Kevin Kwasny suffered a serious head injury during a game against Concordia and was rushed to hospital. The Winnipeg native underwent surgery for a brain hemorrhage and remains in critical but stable condition in an induced coma. With his family at his bedside in Quebec, a trust fund has been set up to help cover their expenses during this difficult time. Details are available here.
The Top 15
1. Tyrone Crawford, DE - Boise State: Combining size (6'4", 273 lbs.), strength (28 bench press reps with 225 lbs.), and ridiculous athleticism (4.75 seconds in 40-yard dash), Crawford is the total package. He is already a well regarded prospect for the 2012 NFL Draft, where he is currently projected to be a 3rd or 4th round pick.
You should know that...this Windsor, Ontario native tallied 13.5 tackles-for-loss and 7 sacks in 2010...and is on pace to surpass those numbers this season.
2. Ben Heenan, OG - Saskatchewan: Produced by the same program that has given the CFL such O-Linemen as Scott Flory and Gene Makowsky, Heenan's potential is best summed up by one CFL scout, who simply says, "I would've drafted him two years ago." He is expected to garner some NFL interest.
You should know that...this First Team All-Canadian in 2010 and four-year starter for the Huskies topped all offensive linemen by hoisting 28 reps on the bench press at the 2011 East West Bowl.
3. Fredric Plésius, LB – Laval: At a sculpted 6'1", 240 lbs., it should come as no surprise that Plésius hits like a truck. However, what makes him the most dominant defensive player in Canadian university football is the athleticism (9'8" broad jump, 4.31 20-yard shuttle at East West) that he displays at that size.
You should know that...in a single defensive series three weeks ago, Plésius knocked one Montreal Carabins quarterback out of the game and then intercepted his replacement and returned it for a touchdown.
4. Austin Pasztor, OG – Virginia: Having been a starting offensive lineman in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference since he was a seventeen-year old true freshman, Pasztor has one of the most impressive résumés in the entire class. Heading into the 2011 season, prestigious college football publications Phil Steele and Athlon's both named him to their preseason All-ACC teams (3rd team and 4th team respectively).
You should know that...The 6'7" native of Tillsonburg, Ontario has prepared for the transition to the pro ranks, dropping fifteen pounds to his current weight of 305.
5. Luke Willson, TE – Rice: Willson is the most unique prospect in the Class of 2012, with soft hands (he led the Owls with 425 receiving yards on 33 receptions in 2010) that belie his 6'5", 250 lbs. frame. What really separates this redshirt junior from his peers though, is that he is not only viewed as a CFL and potential NFL prospect...he is also a former member of Canada's national junior baseball team, who recently signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and is expected to play minor league baseball next summer before returning to Rice for his senior year.
You should know that...Willson, who four years ago turned down a six-figure signing bonus from the Cincinnati Reds, is on the watch list for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the NCAA's top tight end.
6. Shamawd Chambers, WR – Wilfrid Laurier: Until about a year ago, the knock on Chambers had always been that his focus didn't always match his incredible natural talent. However, that has all changed and the Golden Hawks star has the results to prove it. The East West Bowl represented his unofficial coming out party as he turned heads by clocking a 4.37 forty in wet conditions and then went on to lead all receivers in the game with five receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.
You should know that...Chambers played for Team Canada at the IFAF World Football Championships in Austria this summer and was named to the tournament's First All-Star Team.
7. Hassan Hazime, DE – Akron: The 6'5", 270 lbs. Hazime is in his third year as a starter and is coming off a season in which he finished second on the team in both sacks and tackles-for-loss. He plays end at Akron but possesses sufficient size to move inside as a pro.
You should know that...Hazime recorded more tackles for the Zips last season than American defensive linemates Shawn Lemon and Almondo Sewell, both of whom have seen CFL action this season.
8. Kirby Fabien, OT – Calgary: The Dinos had three offensive linemen chosen in the 2011 CFL Draft yet Fabien drew much of the attention from CFL scouts as they watched film. Blessed with great size (6'6", 295 lbs.) and solid technique, the Draft Day stock of this 2009 All-Canadian will depend largely on his training, as he must improve his strength and quickness in order to close the gap on Heenan.
You should know that...Fabien was rated by many as the top recruit in Western Canada coming out of high school but didn't play a down as a CIS freshman, as he made the transition from defensive line to the offensive side of the ball.
9. Ismael Bamba, WR – Sherbrooke: With his blazing speed and eye-popping leaping ability, Bamba's name will be mentioned with the likes of Crawford, Plésius, and Chambers when it comes to discussing the most explosive athletes available in this draft. He joined the Vert et Or program this season after spending the first two years of his college career at North Dakota, where he led the Fighting Sioux in receiving (52 receptions, 859 yards, 4 TDs) as a sophomore in 2009.
You should know that...Bamba was named to the Canadian Junior Football League's All-Canadian team in 2007 as a kick returner.
10. Courtney Stephen, DB – Northern Illinois: After achieving CIS All-Canadian status as a Wilfrid Laurier sophomore in 2009, Stephen made the decision to try the NCAA ranks. He sat out last season as a transfer but made an immediate impact this fall, returning a blocked punt for a touchdown 77 seconds into his first game as a Huskie.
You should know that...Stephen, a redshirt junior, earned a full scholarship this year after walking on at NIU in 2010.
11. Christo Bilukidi, DL – Georgia State: The fact that he had never played a down of football prior to his senior year of high school hasn't prevented Bilukidi from making an impact at the college level. Last year, he joined the fledgling Panthers program as a junior college transfer. He went on to lead the team in sacks with five and this fall was named one of the program's first permanent captains.
You should know that...the 6'5", 290 lbs. Bilukidi was recruited heavily by Louisville out of high school but transcript issues forced him to take the junior college route.
12. Simon Charbonneau-Campeau, WR – Sherbrooke: Charbonneau-Campeau was the Quebec nominee for the Hec Crighton Award a year ago, finishing the season with 1121 receiving yards...361 more yards than anyone else in the country. His size (6'4", 195 lbs.), productivity, and style have earned him comparisons to a young Andy Fantuz.
You should know that...Charbonneau-Campeau is averaging 140.2 yards per game in 2011, tops among all CIS receivers.
13. Hervé Tonye-Tonye, LB – Northern Colorado: Tonye spent the first three years of his college career at Alcorn State, where he led the team in tackles in 2010. The chiseled 6'1", 225 lbs. native of Montreal, is also an outstanding student and should become eligible to play for the Bears later this season, upon receipt of his electro-mechanical engineering degree from Alcorn State.
You should know that...Tonye's college teammate and brother, Raymond, is a running back and is also eligible for the 2012 CFL Draft.
14. Arnaud Gascon-Nadon, DE – Laval: In his first year of CIS competition, Gascon-Nadon wreaked havoc on opposing offences en route to winning the Metras Trophy as the nation's top lineman. In seven games as part of the Rouge et Or's defensive end rotation, he racked up eight sacks and 17 tackles-for-loss, and demonstrated a combination of athleticism and technique that separates him from most CIS pass rushers.
You should know that...Gascon-Nadon spent the 2008 season at Rice University in Texas and played extensively, earning a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshman team. He underwent knee surgery in '09 and sat out that season before officially joining the Rouge et Or last year.
15. Carson Rockhill, OL – Calgary: The fact that Rockhill is a first year starter for the Dinos is a testament to the program's O-Line depth rather than a suggestion that he wasn't ready to play before now. His lean frame (6'6", 275 lbs.) and the impressive athleticism shown at the East West Bowl suggest a huge upside for this Parksville, B.C. native.
You should know that...Rockhill was a member of Canada's entry at the 2009 IFAF World Junior Football Championships and was named to the tournament all-star team.
Also In The Mix
Below is a position-by-position look at a handful of other prospects who should already figure prominently on the radars of the eight CFL clubs, with many more to join them as the season progresses.
Three offensive line prospects stand out for very different reasons. As a two-time All-Canadian, a First Team All-Star at the IFAF World Championships and a key to the nation's top rushing attack, Matt Norman (Western Ontario) is a proven performer with an impeccable résumé. Jason Medeiros (McMaster) doesn't have such a lengthy list of accolades but he's a tough customer who also happens to be one of the most athletic O-Linemen in the country, as evidenced by his testing at the East West Bowl. Big (6'7", 330 lbs.) Tyson Pencer (Okanagan Sun, CJFL) is sure to turn the heads of CFL scouts based, in part, on his three years of NCAA FBS experience, including a handful of starts, at Washington State.
On the defensive side of the ball, three more tackles will definitely attract significant attention. Michael Atkinson (Boise State) and Tyrone Crawford were teammates at Windsor, Ontario's Catholic Central High School before reuniting at Boise State. In fact, Broncos scouts had actually travelled to Windsor four years ago to evaluate Crawford when they were impressed by the surprising quickness of the 6'0", 312 lbs. Atkinson and offered him a scholarship. He has overcome some off-field issues (a DUI charge in '09 and a team suspension that sidelined him for much of 2010) to establish himself as a solid contributor to the Broncos D-Line rotation. In pursuing a pro career, Jabar Westerman (Eastern Michigan) hopes to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Jamaal (New York Jets linebacker). The 6'2", 285 lbs. Jabar is a rotation player and occasional starter for the Eagles. As an aside, while Jabar Westerman qualifies as a non-import by CFL standards, Jamaal currently doesn't (don't ask...it's a long story). Meanwhile, north of the border, Jake Thomas (Acadia) has excelled under the tutelage of former CFLer Jeff Cummins to become an AUS All-Star. The 6'2", 270 lbs. pit bull also impressed during his stint with Team Canada at the IFAF World Championships, where he took advantage of the opportunity to learn from veteran teammate Adriano Belli. At defensive end, Ameet Pall (Wofford) owns one of the most impressive résumés in this draft class. Last season, Pall posted 12.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles-for-loss en route to being voted the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and runner-up for the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in all of FCS (formerly called Division 1-AA), and was named to several FCS All-America teams. At 6'0", 245 lbs., Pall's size may be a limitation at the professional level but his talent and effort suggest that he should be able to contribute as a pro. Clouding the picture further, however, is the fact that Pall has been held to one tackle-for-loss and no sacks through Wofford's first three games of this season.
With elite prospect Fredric Plésius and his Laval teammate Sam Lavaud, and Sherbrooke's Filipe Fonseca da Silva and Kevin Regimbald-Gagné, it's a banner year for draft eligible linebackers in Quebec. One in particular to keep a close eye on is Jonathan Beaulieu-Richard (Montreal), as he has earned strong reviews so far this season and, next to Plésius, was clearly the most athletic LB at the East West Bowl in May.
Four games into the OUA season, running back Nathan Riva (Western Ontario) ranked 26th in the country in rushing, with four other draft eligible RBs and three of his Mustang teammates among those ahead of him. However, while carries are hard to come by in the overcrowded UWO backfield, Riva's athleticism and past production won't be overlooked by CFL scouts. At the fullback spot, the supply never seems to meet the demand, which may create an opportunity for 225 lbs. Brett Haenni (Acadia) to make the shift from the tailback position he fills with the Axemen.
Early indications are that a gap exists between the receivers in the Top 15 and those in the next tier but a pair of receivers from Quebec schools helped their stock at the East West Bowl. Sanchez Deschamps (Concordia) was the game's top receiver with 92 yards on four receptions, while Mathieu Bouvette (Laval) was among the top athletes based on testing results. Also keep an eye on Jahmeek Taylor (Saint Mary's), a versatile player, who was the AUS nominee for the Hec Crighton Award a year ago before being selected to play for Team Canada over the summer.
The picture among the defensive backs is best described as "wait and see". Cornerbacks Jamir Walker (Regina) and Dylan Hollohan (St. Francis Xavier), and free safety Bryce McCall (Saskatchewan) all possess All-Canadian credentials at the CIS level but will have to use E-Camp and other such opportunities between now and Draft Day to demonstrate that they'll be physically able to compete at their respective positions as professionals.
Bigger, Better, Stronger, Faster with the Class of 2012
Fastest Player: His Hall of Fame father, James, might have been "Quick" but Keynan Parker (CB, Oregon State) is just plain fast. All you really need to know is that he placed fifth in the 100 metres at the 2007 World Youth Track & Field Championships. For the record, the 4.37 posted by Shamawd Chambers (WR, Wilfrid Laurier) was the fastest forty time of East West week.
Strongest Players: Michael Atkinson (DT, Boise State) bench pressed 225 lbs. 32 times at Boise State's Pro Day in the spring, giving him this title just ahead of Mike van Praet (DT, Western Ontario), who topped the East West Bowl testing with 31 reps.
Best Vertical Jump: When the jumps are measured at E-Camp in March, look for Ismael Bamba (WR, Sherbrooke) to approach the 40" mark. If you doubt it, just Google the YouTube video that shows him jumping on to a 70" platform.
Best Quarterback: Kyle Quinlan (McMaster) threw in front of CFL scouts at the 2011 E-Camp and earned an invitation to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats training camp as an underclassman. His senior season has been derailed, at least temporarily, by a recent off-field issue but once the picture is cleared up, it shouldn't hurt the talented pivot's goal of landing a CFL shot.
Best Specialists: Two of the top kickers in the Class of 2012 are proof that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Punter Brett Cameron (North Dakota) is the son of Hall of Famer Bob Cameron, who has punted for more career yards than anyone in CFL history while placekicker Austin Anderson (McGill) is the son of the NFL's career scoring leader, Gary Anderson.