This weekend in Toronto, many of the top prospects for the 2009 Canadian Draft will have an opportunity to strut their stuff under the watchful eyes of CFL coaches, general managers, and scouts. Here's a brief position by position introduction to some of the young men who may be coming soon to a stadium near you. They're presented in the following categories:
Get To Know: The players who are generally viewed as the top prospects at their position.
Don't Overlook: Slightly less heralded players with a chance to climb this weekend.
Missing In Action: Top prospects who won't be participating at the combine. This category includes redshirt juniors (players at U.S. colleges who have a year of eligibility remaining), as attending the E-Camp would cost them any remaining eligibility.
OFFENSIVE LINE - O Canada!
The thing that stood out about the 2008 draft class was the number of quality O-Line prospects, particularly those from NCAA Division 1 programs. In contrast, the top rated hogs in the Class of '09 are all from CIS schools.
Get To Know: All-Canadian tackle and U.S. Shrine Game participant Simeon Rottier (Alberta) enters the combine as the league's top ranked CIS prospect. He aims to live up to his billing as a potential ratio changer at the left tackle spot. Matt Morencie (Windsor) is a four year starter whose athletic ability allowed him to line up as a 280 pound slotback as a sophomore. He primarily played tackle for the Lancers but, this weekend, he'll have to demonstrate that he can play guard or centre at the next level. Steve Myddelton (St. Francis Xavier) has seen his stock rapidly rise over the course of the 2008 CIS season. He may well be the strongest player in this draft.
Don't Overlook: While Dylan Steenbergen (Calgary) has received less attention than the three aforementioned O-Linemen leading up to the E-Camp, he may actually have the biggest upside of the group.
Missing In Action: Injuries forced Louis David Gagné (Laval) and Adam Bestard (Wilfrid Laurier) to decline their invitations, while Zac Carlson (Weber State) and Bill McGrath (Indiana State) are redshirt juniors. Carlson's situation is further complicated by the fact that he is still in the process of applying to the CFL to obtain his non-import status. Carlson was born in Winnipeg and lived there for almost eight years before moving to California.
DEFENSIVE LINE - What A Rush!
The one on one period should present a stiff challenge for the O-Linemen, as last season's top six CIS sack producers are all part of the D-Line unit at the E-Camp.
Get To Know: Étienne Légaré (Laval) is surprisingly athletic for a 260 pound man. He joined Rottier as the only two CIS players invited to play in the U.S. Shrine Game in January. There's little doubt that he has a future in the CFL. The question that many scouts will attempt to answer this weekend is whether he will be best suited to play tackle or end. Osie Ukwuoma (Queen's) was one of the anchors of a dominant Golden Gael defence and looks to cement his status as an early pick.
Don't Overlook: Over the last three seasons, no CIS player has posted more sacks than Scott McQuaig's (British Columbia) 25.5. Stan van Sichem (Regina) is perhaps the most athletic player in this group and could ultimately line up at linebacker.
Missing In Action: Postseason ACL surgery will prevent Martin Gagné (Montreal) from participating in workouts this weekend. Chris Parris (Charleston Southern) is a redshirt junior.
RUNNING BACKS - What's In A Name?
The scouts should be forgiven if they seem a little bit confused when the running backs are working out, as the two most talked about RB prospects entering the E-Camp have the same last name. Making matters worse, in the one on one session, another top back, James Green (St. Francis Xavier), will be going head to head with a linebacker named James Green (Calgary).
Get To Know: Jamall Lee's (Bishop's) father, Orville, was the first overall pick in the 1988 CFL Draft and remains the last Canadian to win the league's rushing title. As a ball carrier, Jamall has rewritten the QUFL record book but, before he can follow in his dad's footsteps, the scouts will want to see if Orville's lateral quickness is hereditary. Eric Lee (Weber State) is the fastest man on the Wildcats roster but, at 230 pounds, many scouts project him as a fullback. In other words, his stock will skyrocket if he shows that he can block as well as he runs.
Don't Overlook: Peter Quinney (Wilfrid Laurier) is a versatile fullback who could shine during receiving drills.
Missing In Action: Marek Seta (Simon Fraser) declined his invitation due to injury.
LINEBACKERS - Long And Winding Road
The road to the CFL has been anything but straight for some of the top linebacker prospects in the Class of 2009.
Get To Know: Tristan Black (Wayne State) went from high school in Toronto to CEGEP in Montreal before ending up at Division 2 Wayne State in Michigan, where he became an all-star and team captain. With a strong E-Camp performance, he'll climb yet another rung on the football ladder, this time to the CFL. Tang Bacheyie (Kansas) originally signed with the Jayhawks as a running back, and then moved to safety as a sophomore. Despite battling injuries throughout his collegiate career, Bacheyie earned a reputation as a physical player, which has most scouts projecting him as a linebacker in the CFL. He gets his first taste of his new position this weekend. Despite being capable of starring anywhere else in the country, Mike Cornell (Ottawa) bided his time as a role player in a deep Gee Gees linebacking corps. Finally given the opportunity to shine, he led the OUA in tackles in '08.
Don't Overlook: 6'4", 235 pound James Yurichuk (Bishop's) has all the physical tools to be successful.
Missing In Action: Thaine Carter (Queen's), the CIS Defensive Player of the Year in '08, will attend the combine but will skip most of the testing and workouts due to a calf injury suffered last weekend.
RECEIVERS - Size Matters
The CFL's overall trend towards big targets will be apparent this weekend, as seven of the eight receivers at the E-Camp are listed at 6'2" or taller..
Get To Know: Matt Carter (Acadia) and Matt Lambros (Liberty) possess the kind of athletic ability that should allow them to excel in a combine setting. Scott McHenry (Saskatchewan) has been one of the most consistent receivers in the CIS for the last four years.
But Don't Overlook: 6'5" Simon Blaszczak (Manitoba) saw his stock drop during an injury plagued season but this is a young man who nearly made the Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster as a CJFL player before joining the Bison. Martin Bedard (Connecticut) played tight end for the Huskies but his versatility could be his ticket to the CFL. Bedard is an excellent long snapper and will also work out as a fullback at the E-Camp.
Missing In Action: Former CJFL Player of the Year, Cassidy Doneff (Washburn), and converted quarterback Caleb Clark (Western Michigan) will both bypass the camp to maintain their remaining NCAA eligibility. Spencer Armstrong (Air Force) is as athletic as any receiver in the draft but was denied an invitation, presumably because he has a two year military commitment upon graduating from the Air Force Academy this spring.
DEFENSIVE BACKS - Border Wars
The Evaluation Camp presents an opportunity for the top non-import prospects from Canadian schools to make an impression in the absence of a pair of highly regarded Canadians who play at U.S. colleges.
Get To Know: Tamon George (Regina) is a physical specimen who has emerged as one of the best cover men in Canada West. Anthony Lukca (McGill) is not your typical defensive back, having finished second in the nation in tackles despite weighing just 190 pounds. He's also one of the best long snappers available, should teams be willing to overlook his size.
Don't Overlook: After beginning his university career south of the border at Colgate, then transferring to D2 Saginaw Valley State, Matt Morris (Toronto) returned home for his senior year and played a significant role in turning around the Varsity Blues program. He should rank near the top of the group in most of the testing.
Missing In Action: Safety Eric Fraser (Central Michigan) and cornerback Ryan Hinds (New Hampshire) are two of the most impressive prospects in the Class of '09 but both players are redshirt juniors. Fraser's situation is further complicated by a late season leg injury.
Anthony Deslauriers (Simon Fraser) is out with an injury.