Sunday, August 29, 2010

U of R Rams Season Preview


REGINA -- It was a fittingly strange ending to a wild Canada West season last year for the University of Regina Rams. The Rams thought they had suffered a season-ending loss to Saskatchewan in the final week of the regular season, but an eligibility ruling against Manitoba pushed Regina into the playoffs for a rematch against the Huskies in the conference semifinals.

Saskatchewan prevailed by a 53-23 score in the postseason, but the Rams return several key players on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and hope that some recruits will be able to make immediate contributions as the team prepares for the 2010 campaign.

The team’s top returner on offence is quarterback Marc Mueller, who led Canada West in both passing yards and completions last season. On defence, look for middle linebacker Bruce Anderson to step up in his final season of CIS eligibility to provide leadership both on and off the field.

As for the recruits, look no further than defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. Standing 6’6” and weighing in at 305 lbs., Hicks, who will wear No. 99 with the Rams, comes to the U of R after stellar seasons in both 2007 and 2008 with Sacramento City College and is expected to be an impact player after adjusting to the nuances of the Canadian game.

For the second consecutive season, the Rams will kick off the year at Mosaic Stadium against the Manitoba Bisons. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 3.

“One thing I’ve recognized through the first couple of days of training camp is that the guys have trained hard and come into camp extremely fit and very strong,” said head coach Frank McCrystal.

“We’re going to be able to challenge in this conference this year. We are big, athletic, and have a good deal of experience. I think that we’ve addressed our defensive deficiencies through recruiting, and we’re confident that we’ll be much better in that aspect this year.”

2009 review:

2009 regular season record: 3-5
2009 regular season standings: 4th, Canada West
2009 playoff record: 0-1
2009 playoff finish: Lost 53-23 to Saskatchewan in Canada West semifinals

Head Coach - Frank McCrystal

- Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2010): 12
- Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2010): 12
- Career regular season record with team: 39-48-1
- Career regular season record in CIS: 39-48-1
- Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs only): 45-56-1
- Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only): 45-56-1


Key returning players:

QB Marc Mueller enters his fourth year of eligibility and his second as the Rams’ starting quarterback. Mueller controlled Regina’s pass-heavy offence last season, leading Canada West in passing yards (2308) and completions (176) and finishing second in the conference with nine touchdown passes.

SB Brenden Owens With slotback Jordan Sisco not expected to return, look for the fourth-year receiver to play an even bigger role in the team’s offence. Five of Mueller’s nine touchdown passes last season were caught by Owens, who finished second on the Rams in receiving yards (472) and third on the team with 28 receptions.

WR Mark McConkey had another solid season in 2009 as a second-year player. McConkey finished second on the Rams and sixth in Canada West with 36 receptions and third on the team in receiving yards (464).

OL John Hashem has started at right tackle for the Rams in each of the last three seasons. Hashem, who was selected by the Calgary Stampeders in the third round of the 2009 CFL Draft, is just a few classes shy of his degree in software systems engineering and will return this season for his final year of CIS eligibility. He is expected to again be a cornerstone of the team’s offensive line.

Key recruits (newcomers or transfers):

SB Jared Janotta redshirted last season but is expected to develop into one of Mueller’s targets this season. Janotta, who checks in at 6’3” and 195 lbs., graduated from Regina’s Michael A. Riffel HS in 2009 and is also a member of the U of R’s men’s basketball team.

RB Adrian Charles - With running back Graham Mosiondz not returning, expect Charles to have a large number of rushes this season. Charles hasn’t played since the 2008 season, when he had a record-setting year with the Saskatoon Hilltops, but he’s expected to play a significant role in offensive coordinator Bernie Schmidt’s offence this season.

Key losses:

SB Jordan Sisco is not expected to return for his final season of eligibility after attending training camp with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and then being signed to the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster. Sisco was named a Canada West all-star last season after leading the conference with 52 receptions. He ends his four seasons with the Rams ranked second on the school’s all-time list with 141 career pass receptions and third in career receiving yards with 2051.

K/P Perri Scarcelli exhausted his CIS eligibility after completing his fifth season with the Rams in 2009. Scarcelli earned first-team All-Canadian honours after a spectacular season in which he was successful in 20 of his 23 field goal attempts, including hitting a 36-yard field goal into an icy wind to give the Rams a win over Simon Fraser on Oct. 9. Scarcelli ends his career ranked third on Canada West’s all-time list with 56 field goals made.

RB Graham Mosiondz, who led the team in rushing last season, will not return for his fifth season with the Rams. Mosiondz missed the entire 2008 season due to injury, but returned last year to record 404 rushing yards on 77 carries. He ends his career ranked second on the U of R’s all-time list in both rushes (371) and rushing yards (1927).

FB Sheldon Tillotson, always a key part of the offensive game plan as a pass-catching fullback, graduated last year after playing 40 consecutive conference games from 2005 to 2009. Tillotson established himself as one of Canada West’s top receiving fullbacks, ending his five-season career with 91 catches for 822 yards.


Key returning players:

LB Bruce Anderson returns for his final season of eligibility with the Rams after transferring from Butte College following the 2007 season. Anderson had 46½ tackles last season to go along with two sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick.

CB Jamir Walker - though only in his second year of eligibility last season Walker continued to develop into one of the conference’s top cornerbacks. He tied for fourth in Canada West with four interceptions and also had seven pass breakups and 24 total tackles.

S Kirby Kezama like Walker will enter his third season of eligibililty in 2010. After seeing plenty of playing time as a first-year player in 2008, Kezama was strong for the Rams again last season. He was fourth on the team with 32 tackles and had an interception, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery.

Key recruits (newcomers or transfers):

DL Akiem Hicks is expected to make an immediate and significant impact on the line for the Rams. Hicks, listed at 6-6 and 301 lbs., was ranked as the No. 4 defensive tackle in the 2009 junior college recruiting class by after two stellar seasons with the Sacramento City College Panthers.

DL Stefan Charles comes to the U of R after helping the Big Kahuna Rams to a second-place finish in the BCFC last season and an appearance in the league final. Charles ended up with 14 tackles, three sacks, and a fumble recovery for the Rams in 2009.

DL Jas Dhillon a teammate of Charles with the Big Kahuna Rams, had 13 tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery last season. Dhillon will have four seasons of CIS eligibility, as he accumulated 32 tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, and a blocked kick over his three-season career with Big Kahuna.

Key losses:

DT Bjorn Person will be missed on the interior line after finishing up his five-season Rams career. He was named a Canada West all-star at defensive tackle last year after registering 10 solo tackles, 11 assisted tackles, 3½ tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass breakup.

LB Brandon Ganne was a mainstay for the Rams throughout his five seasons with the team. Ganne had his best statistical season in 2008 with a conference-leading 58 tackles and followed that up with a 48-tackle performance last season. Ganne also forced two fumbles and had 2½ tackles for loss.

LB Thomas Irving, who came to the Rams in 2008 after five seasons of junior football with the Saskatoon Hilltops, finished up his CIS eligibility last season. He was third on the team with 39 total tackles (24 solo, 30 assisted) and had two tackles for loss.

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