In football, no game is as important as the next and there is no time to reflect or fear the future when the present is all that matters.
For the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s football team which is standing on the edge of the 2012 season, there’s a sense of calm that the new team taking the field after the off season’s many departures and acquisitions can be competitive in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East.
The Blues ended last year’s campaign with a 3–5 record, seeded seventh in the OUA. In his first season as head coach, Greg Gary led his team to their first triumph over the Guelph Gryphons since 1995, as well as victories over York and Waterloo.
This season marks a key change in the Blues’ on-field leadership: Andrew Gillis, last season’s fifth-year quarterback who became the sixth Blues quarterback to surpass 4,000 career passing yards, graduated, ushering in the era of Richard Quittenton.
Quittenton saw action in four games last year. While game experience is an important asset, what may prove most useful to the sophomore quarterback’s training and growth as offensive leader is the time he spent in the Toronto Argonauts’ training camp this offseason.
“Working with guys like Ricky Ray was so helpful because not only did they offer specific advice about things like reads and footwork, they also allowed me to see what kind of people they are,” he said. “Ricky Ray is definitely a quiet leader, and I think of myself in the same way.”
Leadership, outside of footwork, arm strength, and accuracy, is one of the most important characteristics that a quarterback must possess as the figurehead of the offense.
“In my mind it’s important to balance being confident with being humble; I find that too many people confuse humility with complacency,” Quittenton explains.
While guidance and talent is key, the unspoken connection between a receiver and his quarterback is the linchpin of a team’s success. From Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, to Dan Marino and Mark Clayton, every team rides on the strength of the relationship between the quarterback and his receivers.
Receiver Alex Pierzchalski enters training camp as the 2011 team leader in receptions with 37 for 443 yards. Coming off of a stellar sophmore season where he was ranked among the top 15 receivers in the OUA, he’ll be called upon to immediately establish firm chemistry with Quittenton.
“[Pierzchalski is] coming off a great year but we’re expecting even more from him in 2012,” Gary told varsityblues.ca. “If he transfers everything he’s done in training and preparation to the field, he’ll be hard to cover.”
Pierzchalski will be complemented by Paul de Pass, who ranked first in yardage in the OUA last season with an average of 21.2 yards per catch.
Every team develops unity in a different manner, but for Quittenton and his offense, the key to success is time.
“We’ve been doing it the old fashion way, working out during our free time. I think it’s important to practice for the practice, and that’s something that Pierzchalski, de Pass and I have been doing every chance we get,” Quittenton says. “I think as an offense we are going to have plenty of weapons this year.
“Guys like Pierzchalski and de Pass are versatile players and so they allow the coach to attack a defense in numerous ways, which makes my job a whole lot easier.”
Toronto’s defense proved last season that they could compete with the OUA’s elite, and the Blues are hopeful that it will only continue to improve. The loss of OUA All-Star linebacker Wilkerson DeSouza to the Calgary Stampeders through the 2012 CFL draft will be a challenge to overcome. Even so, strong players including Kevin Kinahan, Jaidan McBride, and Everton Williams will be called upon to fill DeSouza’s place, as well as those of fellow graduates Willie Sharpe, and Dorian Munroe.
A team’s success is not dictated by the records of its past or those of the years to come. A team must live in the present.
The Blues are not looking at the strides made last season or the players that lead that team. Instead, they are ruthlessly preparing for this year and creating an identity for this season’s team.
“We’re going to win. I guarantee it,” promises Quittenton.