What a class…
Only a couple days into preparation for the 2018 U SPORTS Valero East-West Bowl, it is already clear the differences between last week’s 2018 Canadian Football League (CFL) draft class and the group of young men competing in Quebec City this week who will comprise the 2019 CFL draft.
According to one CFL scout, the players at this game alone have more talent than the entire 2018 draft and it’s hard to disagree after watching practice. From long athletic linemen, to quick burst receivers to talented backs, passers and everything in between, this year’s East-West Bowl is the clearest preview in recent memory of surefire CFL talent.
This upward swing in talent comes on the heels of a CFL draft that saw 81.2 per cent of CFL drafted players come from U SPORTS schools - a record high since 2003 that appears ready to be broken in 2019.
Next great northern hope?
Michael O’Connor has really set the tone for this week. The UBC pivot and 2015 Vanier Cup champion approaches practice with a precision and attention to detail rare even at this level.
His arm strength, smooth pocket movement and accuracy have propelled an already extremely talented receiver group on Team West to even greater levels and I expect more of the same come kickoff Saturday.
In a week where Calgary Dinos alum and former Hec Crighton winner Andrew Buckley retired from the Calgary Stampeders and the CFL to pursue medical school, it would seem like a natural passing of the Canada West Canadian quarterback baton to O’Connor. The Thunderbirds’ QB could ignite high-level interest and hope for UBC fans everywhere this fall under new offensive coordinator and former McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek, with a good performance against a tough Team East defence Saturday.
Here we go again...with a twist
Last week saw seven of the first nine CFL draft selections come from the deep pool of offensive linemen available. While the 2018 East-West Bowl participants are talented at various positions, there is no doubting the heightened respect pass blockers get in the draft process and this group looks ready to challenge the new high watermark of seven linemen taken in the first round.
Here is the twist though: several of them have offensive tackle-type bodies.
Laval’s Samuel Thomassin is 6-foot-6, 341 pounds while Concordia’s Maurice Simba is nearly 6-foot-8, 335 pounds with 36-inch long arms. Simba is joined by his Stingers linemate Matt Halbgewachs, who measured in at the East-West Bowl combine earlier this week at nearly 6-foot-5, 311 pounds with 34.5-inch long arms.
The best - and most important part - is all these guys can play and they’re all on Team East this Saturday. If you like offensive line play, the showcase this weekend should be spectacular.
Rarely does a Canadian get a chance to jump from U SPORTS tackle to CFL tackle, with most tackle types converting to the interior offensive line. But the size and talent of this group makes you wonder if they’ll earn that chance to succeed at their natural position.
Follow Marshall Ferguson at the 2018 East-West Bowl as he takes over the U SPORTS Football @USPORTS_FB accounts!